How to Sleep With a Stuffy Nose: 30 Tips for Day, Evening, and Bedtime

August 12, 2021 | Casper Editorial Team
how to sleep with a stuffy nose how to sleep with a stuffy nose how to sleep with a stuffy nose

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice.

Has a stuffy nose ever kept you up at night? Whether it’s from allergies or the common cold, nasal congestion can make it tough to breathe properly in bed and get enough rest. However, before you prepare for an all-nighter, we’re here to help you learn how to sleep with a stuffy nose.

From acupressure to chicken noodle soup, check out these 30 surprising ways to soothe blocked sinuses so you can avoid sleep deprivation at night. Keep reading to learn how to stop losing sleep over a stuffy nose.

During the Day

daytime tips for sleeping with a stuffy nose

To get rid of a stuffy nose at night, taking steps early in the day can give you a head start. Try out these daytime remedies for nasal congestion:

1. Stay Hydrated

Helping with nasal congestion begins with proper hydration. According to Dr. Steven Olmos of the TMJ and Sleep Therapy Center, those suffering with stuffy noses should “drink plenty of water throughout the day to help you sleep throughout the night.”

Research shows that healthy people should be drinking 8 to 15 glasses of water per day. Especially when you’re sick, keeping a water bottle with you at all times can serve as a helpful reminder to get enough fluids.

2. Eat Spicy Foods

Ever feel your sinuses open up while eating spicy food? If so, you might want to consider adding more seasoning to your meals the next time you experience nasal congestion.

That’s because some experts believe spicy foods like wasabi and cayenne pepper can help clear the sinuses. If you’re in need of relief, check your kitchen or head to the grocery store to add garlic, horseradish, or peppers to your next meal.

3. Try Cough Drops

Cough drops are a popular go-to for sore throats, but did you know they can help with stuffy noses too? Although menthol lozenges may not relieve your nasal blockage completely, they have been associated with making people feel less congested.

In addition to temporary relief of nasal congestion, menthol lozenges can soothe other common cold symptoms like a cough or scratchy throat. If you use menthol cough drops, just make sure to take the right dosage for your needs.

4. Switch to Decaf in the Afternoon

A stuffy nose can prevent you from getting proper rest, so you might be tempted to pour an extra cup of joe to make up for it. 

While it may seem counterintuitive, upping your caffeine intake could actually make you more sleepy. That’s because coffee can remain in your system for around 10 hours, meaning your midday cup might just make things worse when you’re trying to get some shut-eye.

Especially if you’re struggling to fall asleep due to nasal congestion, you might want to switch to decaffeinated coffee during the afternoon. That way, you’ll feel tired when it’s finally time to crash.

5. Keep Pets Out of the Bed

dog sleeping in dog bed

Although you might love sleeping with your dog or other furry friend, it may not be the best idea when you have a stuffy nose. Pet dander carries allergens that can irritate nasal congestion, which may worsen if your bedding is covered in it. 

While you’re under the weather, you can give your pets some cozy dog beds so they take their daytime naps and nighttime rest elsewhere. With a bit of separation, both you and your pets can sleep soundly. Plus, you’ll still be able to observe your pooch’s adorable sleeping positions.

6. Try Acupressure

Acupressure, a type of massage targeting pressure points in the body, may also be a helpful sleep aid for those with a stuffy nose. In a study on patients with chronic congestion, acupressure significantly improved their sleep quality. 

For short-term colds and stuffy noses, this method could also help soothe your symptoms. To receive some guidance, look into which areas to concentrate your acupressure on sinus problems.

7. Test Out Saline Spray

Dr. Steven Olmos advises that saline nasal spray with xylitol is a “quick way to reduce inflammation and rehydrate the swollen nasal tissue.” When the spray contains the antimicrobial xylitol, it may be able to kill sinusitis-causing bacteria.

For immediate relief throughout the day, he recommends spritzing saline nasal spray in each nostril. Please follow the recommended dosing instructions on the packaging and do not use the product for longer than recommended. 

8. Take an OTC Pain Reliever

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen are commonly used to soothe inflammation. In addition to general pain relief, a study has shown that NSAIDs may relieve some discomfort caused by the common cold. 

Popular NSAIDs like Advil, Motrin, and Aleve are available over-the-counter, so seeking relief can be as easy as a trip to the drug store. However, before taking NSAIDs, you should be aware of potential side effects such as heartburn and stomach pain and speak with your doctor if you have concerns.

9. Keep Track of Household Humidity

When you have a stuffy nose, it’s important to monitor humidity levels. Dr. Olmos warns, “Your mucus can become thick and sticky due to very dry air indoors and outside.” To determine whether low humidity is worsening your stuffy nose, you should check the humidity in your area. 

Although you can’t control what goes on outdoors, there are ways to maintain consistent, healthy humidity levels inside your home. According to Torrance Memorial Medical Center otolaryngologist Dr. David Kim, you’ll want to keep humidity between 40% to 50%. If you don’t have a humidifier, using a diffuser or opening the bathroom door while you shower can provide a humidity boost.

10. Avoid Blowing Your Nose

When you’re sick with a cold, you might have the urge to blow your nose frequently. However, before you reach for the tissues, keep in mind that blowing your nose too hard can cause excess pressure. This strain may cause fluid from your nose to release into your sinuses.

If you do need to use a tissue, try to be as gentle as possible, and dab the area instead of blowing. If you decide to blow your nose, doing so lightly may help avoid any adverse effects.

In the Evening

evening tips for how to fall asleep with a stuffy nose

Once nighttime strikes, get ready to ramp up your stuffy nose remedies. From calming foods to helpful products, there are lots of ways to ease your congestion in the evening. When the sun starts to go down, give these methods a try:

11. Avoid Alcohol

Even though it might help you feel sleepy at first, alcohol could make it harder to get proper rest. For some, drinking alcoholic beverages may irritate allergies and cause or worsen blocked sinuses.

Even if you don’t experience respiratory problems from drinking, alcohol can make it more difficult to stay asleep. 

12. Try Chicken Noodle Soup

Ever heard that chicken noodle soup is good for colds? Well, according to a study, this age-old tradition might be more than a myth. Some of the ingredients in chicken noodle soup may have a mild anti-inflammatory effect. In addition, the hot steam from the broth could help soothe your congestion.

If you have a runny nose, try adding chicken noodle soup to your nighttime meal to help relieve those inflamed sinuses.

13. Eat Healthy Nighttime Snacks

When you’re having trouble sleeping, chances are you’ll get hungry at some point. Runny nose or not, going to bed with a rumbling stomach can make it difficult to fall asleep. To curb those cravings, try munching on some healthy late-night snacks.

Nutritious options like popcorn, bell peppers, dark chocolate, and cereal can satisfy your hunger while providing your body with the nourishment it needs to fight off illness. 

14. Drink Calming Tea

Herbal teas are one of the many drinks that may help you sleep. Due to their anxiety-reducing and sleep-inducing antioxidants, varieties like passionflower and chamomile tea are especially helpful for easing late-night stress and preparing your body for a restful sleep. Just be sure to avoid anything caffeinated.

To boost the benefits of tea even more, add a bit of honey to your cup. According to a study, honey may reduce the symptoms of a common cold — not to mention it adds a yummy dash of sweetness to each sip.

15. Use an Air Filter

Research shows that using an air filter can lessen the symptoms of those suffering from allergies and asthma. If you have a runny nose, trying out an air filter may help with your symptoms too.

If you already use an air filter, make sure it’s clean. Dirty filters might worsen the air quality in your space, which can be especially bothersome when you’re sick.

16. Run Your Humidifier

In addition to adjusting humidity levels during the day, you’ll especially want to avoid dry air in the evening. According to Dr. Mubashar Rehman, Assistant Professor at Quaid-i-Azam University, keeping your nasal passages and sinuses moist is a “key factor when treating a stuffy nose.” He recommends adding moisture to the air with a humidifier, which empties the fluids in your nose and lets you breathe smoothly. 

When using your humidifier, be sure to stay within the healthy humidity range of 40% to 50% and only add purified water to the humidifier. It’s also useful to note that people using an air filter might want to use a humidifier at the same time, since air filters have a tendency to dry out your space. 

17. Wash Your Bedding

If you haven’t done laundry lately, your bedding might just be worsening your stuffy nose. Over time, pet fur, dirt, and bugs find their home on dirty sheets and pillowcases. Knowing when and how to wash your bed sheets may help keep the dust mites and nasal congestion away.

In addition to washing your bedding, you might want to invest in hypoallergenic bed sheets. If you’re looking for some drool-worthy options, check out our Percale or Sateen sheets that are made of 100% organic cotton or our Hyperlite™ sheets that are designed for maximum breathability. 

18. Take a Hot Shower

According to Dr. Zachary Iyore Okhah, founder and chief surgeon of PH-1 Miami, “A warm shower before bed may help alleviate your nasal congestion.” How does it work? He explains that the steam loosens the mucus in the nose and allows it to drain. 

Once you take a steamy shower, Dr. Okhah says that your breathing may return to normal for some time, enabling you to sleep. When taking your nightly shower with a stuffy nose, you may want to turn up the heat.

19. Use a Neti Pot

A neti pot is a container designed to rinse out your nasal cavity. Research found that using a neti pot can help clear the sinuses of people with common colds, making it an effective remedy for those experiencing nasal congestion.

If you try out a neti pot, make sure you’re following the instructions properly. Some users may feel a minor burning sensation, and those who experience frequent nosebleeds should avoid using a neti pot.

At Bedtime

how to fall asleep with a stuffy nose at bedtime

Even if you’ve been trying out congestion remedies all day and night, you’ll want to keep that motivation going at bedtime for optimal comfort. Just before hopping under the covers, look into these over-the-counter medicines, natural methods, and other additional steps to soothe your stuffy nose:

20. Wear Nasal Strips

Nasal strips are made to increase airflow in the nasal pathways. In a study, people given nasal strips experienced significant improvement in nasal airflow, which suggests that they may be great remedies for a stuffy nose at night.

Nasal strips are available at most stores. In addition, since they’re a drug-free method, they come without the side effects common with other over-the-counter medicines.

21. Take Allergy Medicine

If you suffer from allergies, taking your allergy medication during the day can provide relief while it’s light out. However, when it’s time for bed, the medicine might’ve worn off a bit.

To achieve maximum comfort while trying to sleep, you might want to switch the time you take your allergy medication to right before bedtime. Since the medication will still be at its strongest as you’re dozing off, you may spend less time counting sheep.

22. Gargle with Salt Water

It might not taste great, but gargling with salt water may provide some relief for sore throats and nasal congestion. In a recent study, gargling salt water was proven to prevent upper respiratory infections. For a stuffy nose at night, the solution may be able to fight bacteria and break up mucus just in time for bed.

To make your own mixture, stir half a teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water. Then, take small sips and gargle them for several seconds before spitting out the solution. 

23. Take a Ginger Shot

According to a study, ginger may contain powerful anti-inflammatory properties. When you’re experiencing a stuffy nose, sore throat, or other cold symptoms, these properties could help soothe your sinuses. 

To experience the strongest effect, you might want to take it in the form of a ginger shot. You can either buy ginger shots at the grocery store or easily make one yourself by mixing lemon, honey, and ginger juice. 

Don’t feel like taking a shot? Try sipping on ginger tea instead.

24. Apply a Vapor Rub

Research shows that applying a vapor rub to the chest and neck can reduce cold symptoms and improve sleep quality. This method could provide immediate, temporary relief, making it the perfect remedy to try right before bedtime.

According to Dr. Rehman, you should rub the ointment on your chest and neck. Doing so may decongest your nose in just a few minutes, allowing you to get a nice night of sleep.

25. Use Essential Oils

If you’re interested in natural remedies, essential oils might be the way to go. More research is needed to confirm the link between essential oils and nasal congestion relief. However, various studies have suggested that chamomile oil, tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, and peppermint oil may contain medicinal properties that can help reduce cold symptoms.

When it comes to using the oils, there are lots of options. You can smell them, apply them directly to the skin (don’t forget to mix with a carrier oil first!), put them in a diffuser, add them to a pillow, or take a bath with them before bed.

26. Prop Yourself Up With Pillows

According to Dr. Leann Poston of Invigor Medical, “Elevating your head before bed can increase drainage and decrease congestion.” That’s why the best position to sleep with a stuffy nose is on your back with different types of pillows elevating your head and neck.

By choosing the pillow sizes that make you feel comfortable and lifted, you may be able to breathe better throughout the night. Just make sure to learn how to wash pillows to remove those pesky dust mites.

27. Heat Up a Towel

Steam can be a helpful aid for sleeping with a stuffy nose, but you’re not confined to sitting with your face over a bowl of hot water. One creative way to use it is by warming a towel and placing it over your nose to breathe in the soothing steam.

If you try this method, make sure your towel isn’t too hot — the steam should feel comfortably warm, not scorching. Lastly, remember to remove the towel from your face before you doze off.

28. Sleep in a Cool, Dark Room

When you’re sick, you may be more sensitive to light and changes in body temperature. If you’re looking for a more soothing night light option, a glow light can give your bedroom a soft glow that dims as you fall asleep.

In addition, be sure to check your thermostat before you hit the hay. The best temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, so you may want to keep your home in that range.

29. Supply Your Nightstand

There’s nothing worse than getting all cozy in bed only to realize that you need to get up for some reason. When your nose is stuffed up and you’re already struggling to sleep, the need to leave the sack is all the more irritating.

To prevent this inconvenience, supply your nightstand with all the necessities. Keeping tissues, water, lozenges, and other supplies at your bedside could mean fewer trips to the supply closet in the middle of the night. Instead, you can stay under the covers and have a better chance of catching some Z’s.

30. Take an OTC Decongestant

The last step to take before bed is trying an over-the-counter decongestant. According to a study, decongestants can help relieve congestion symptoms in adults. The temporary soothing effect may set you up for a better night’s rest.

You can find decongestants such as Sudafed and Vicks Sinex at most stores. Before taking the medicine, read instructions carefully and be aware of common side effects including nausea, dizziness, and headache.

Disclaimer: You should consult your doctor before taking any medications.

When to Visit a Medical Professional

Although most stuffy noses may be treated with at-home or over-the-counter methods, make sure you’re monitoring your symptoms in case something more serious develops. If your nasal congestion doesn’t improve within 10 days, you may need to schedule a doctor’s visit. 

Figuring out how to sleep with a stuffy nose may take some trial and error. However, once you find the right remedies for you, you can establish a unique bedtime routine and get your sleep schedule back on track.

Still unable to get some much-needed rest? You might want to invest in higher quality mattresses, sheets, and pillows. With the right bedding, you’ll be nodding off in no time.