How to Sleep With an Ear Infection: Sleeping Positions & More

November 27, 2023 | Casper Editorial Team

Fact checked by Jonathan Eilenberg, CPE

To sleep with an ear infection, elevate your head or sleep on your non-affected side. Elevating the affected ear makes it easier for the infection to drain.

Sleep makes a world of difference helping us recover from most of life’s ailments, aches, and afflictions. But what do you do when you can’t sleep due to the pain and discomfort of an ear infection? 

Leave it to the sleep experts at Casper to help you get the rest you deserve, even when dealing with pesky ear inflammation and inner ear infections. The following tips are designed with ear infection pain in mind to give you maximum comfort, even when it feels out of reach.

At bedtime, try sleeping on your unaffected side or in a position that elevates your back. A high-quality mattress and bed pillow can also keep you comfortable and relaxed, helping you sleep even when under the weather. 

For a full breakdown of the causes of inner ear infections, the implications of ear infections on sleep, and more helpful tips for how to sleep with an ear infection, read on.

Causes of Ear Infections

The most common type of ear infection is the middle ear infection — otherwise known as acute otitis media. This infection is usually identified by the swelling and inflammation of the middle ear.1

The middle ear is the air-filled space behind the eardrum that contains the small vibrating bones of the ear.1 Typically, an ear infection occurs when a bacterium or a virus infiltrates the middle ear due to another illness such as a cold, flu, or allergy — all of which can cause the nasal passages, throat, and eustachian tubes to congest and swell.1 

Although more common in children than adults, an ear infection can cause some considerable discomfort and keep you awake at night. Here are some of the ways your acute otitis media might impact your sleep, and affect your health at large. 

The Impact of Ear Infections on Sleep

When you have an ear infection, you enter a strange predicament when it comes to sleep. Your ear canal throbs and aches, leaving you awake for hours. But the reality is that sleep is a critical ingredient to healing that same ear infection. 

This cycle of sleep disruption, delayed healing, and prolonged infection can look something like this: 

  • Disruption of sleep patterns – Irritation from an ear infection can disrupt your sleep in several ways, from keeping you awake deep into the night to waking you up prematurely due to aches and pains. If your sleep stages are disrupted just once, this can cause a chain reaction of restless nights — waking up tired, feeling lethargic throughout the day, and not being able to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. Don’t let your irritation from an ear infection kick you off your well-established and healthy sleep ritual.
  • Setbacks to the body’s healing process – A doctor’s favorite advice for anyone dealing with a common ailment like an ear infection? “Get plenty of rest.” That’s because studies show that people with poor sleep quality are at higher risk of getting sick if exposed to a virus.2 
  • The vicious cycle of prolonged infection – Not only can lack of sleep cause new sickness, but it can also keep you sick longer. That’s because during sleep, our immune system goes to work increasing the production of certain proteins called cytokines that fight infection, inflammation, and stress.2 So the cycle can become vicious quickly: An ear infection disrupts your sleep, the lack of sleep prolongs the infection, and so on.

While all the effects an ear infection can have on your sleep may seem overwhelming, these recommended sleep positions from our experts at Casper will give you a fighting chance at catching those quality Zs. 

Best Sleeping Position for an Ear Infection

The key to the best sleeping positions with an ear infection is to let the infected air breathe. (Oxygen is good for more than just our lungs.) If you want to get rid of your ear infection, try these sleeping positions when it’s time to hit the hay to optimize your comfort and get the rest you need.

Elevated Back Sleeping

Elevation is the key to draining the fluid and infection out of your ear.3 If you’re a back sleeper, try adding an extra pillow behind your head or neck to elevate your affected ear — while taking care to maintain a comfortable and proper pillow position

For this sleep position, we recommend the Original Casper Pillow, a soft pillow which is great for all sleeping positions, or the Down Pillow: our fluffiest pillow yet, and perfect for back sleepers.

Side Sleeping On the Unaffected Side

The same logic of elevation applies to side sleepers. If you sleep on your side, make sure to sleep on the side of your uninfected ear. This will allow your infected ear to stay elevated and drain and heal, rather than trapping it against your pillow under the weight of your head. Airflow on your ear can help it stay dry, allowing faster healing.3

For you side sleepers, we always recommend the Original Casper Pillow, but if you want additional support, the low loft foam pillow is another well-fit option for you. If you need the Foam Pillow’s support but tend to sleep hot, the Foam Snow Pillow gives you an even cooler sleep.

Other Tips for Sleeping With an Ear Infection

Reduce the risk of lengthening your ear infection with a few more ear-friendly tips.

Improve Airflow

Keeping blankets and hair away from your ear helps improve the airflow around your ear, allowing your infection to heal better and faster.3This is especially useful if you have an outer ear infection — otitis externa, more commonly known as “swimmer’s ear.” Keeping your ear cool, dry, and elevated is the best course of action for the best quality sleep.4 

Invest in a Quality Mattress

Sleep better and boost your overall well-being by upgrading to a high-quality, technologically innovative mattress. If falling asleep is a challenge in your everyday life — even when you don’t have an ailment — this especially applies to you. 

A poor mattress can detract from your rest in countless ways. If your current mattress has lost its shape, is noisy, causes you aches and pains, causes your allergies to flare up, or doesn’t leave you feeling well-rested, it’s probably time for a new mattress.

High-end signature mattresses from Casper can take your sleep to the next level of comfort and serenity. The Original memory foam mattress is our most popular solution for better sleep, but if you have specialized concerns when it comes to bedtime, you may benefit from the Performance or Cooling mattress series selections.

How to Sleep With an Ear Infection FAQs

Here are some quick answers to common questions about sleeping with an ear infection:

  • What is the best way to sleep with an ear infection? – The best position is one that elevates your infected ear while remaining as comfortable as possible. It will depend on what’s the most comfortable for your sleep style, but we recommend either elevating your head or sleeping on your non-infected side.
  • How do you heal an ear infection? – When it comes to dealing with an ear infection at home, rest is best. Because most ear infections clear up without the need for special medicines or medical care, you may only want to visit your doctor if your symptoms last longer than a few days.3 But just like with any ailment, getting the proper rest and sleep is crucial to facilitate the healing process.
  • What are the most common symptoms of ear infections? – Symptoms can differ in adults and children. For adults, the most common symptoms are ear pain, drainage of fluid from the ear, and hearing impairment.2 In children, symptoms can include all of the above, plus the following additional symptoms: tugging or pulling at the ear, trouble sleeping, crying more than usual, loss of balance, fever, headache, and loss of appetite.2
  • How common are ear infections? – Ear infections are more common in children than in adults. In fact, 5 out of 6 children get an ear infection before their third birthday, and ear infections are the most common reason for parents to bring their children into the doctor’s office.5 However, ear infections still can occur in adulthood, so it’s important to keep your immune system at peak performance by routinely achieving quality sleep.

The Casper Commitment to Quality Sleep

Don’t sleep on improving your overall quality of health and life by upgrading your mattress, pillows, and accessories to our line of enhanced, rigorously tested products. No matter what ails you, at Casper, we believe a quality night’s sleep can make all the difference in the world.

For a mattress that offers you ergonomically sublime sleep, try the Wave Hybrid Mattress — our most supportive mattress for maximum relief. And to elevate your comfort even more, a Casper pillow like the Essential Pillow is just the right blend of soft and supportive to take you all the way to dreamland and back. And while you’re at it, refresh your bedding and accessories with our cooling, comfy, stylish products designed with sleep in mind.

If you’ve got specialized sleep needs or just need help deciding, our Sleep Specialists are available via phone or chat to help you find the mattress of your dreams. Or take one of our mattresses for a test nap at a showroom near you.


  1. Mayo Clinic. Ear infection (middle ear).
  2. Mayo Clinic. Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
  3. HealthPartners. Best ways to treat an ear infection: When to use home treatment and antibiotics.
  4. NHS Inform. Otitis externa.
  5. NIH. Ear Infections in Children.