We’ve all been there: you think your sinus problems are getting better, but the minute you lay down, your nose gets stuffy, and you’re stuck staring at the ceiling. Ultimately, you find yourself wondering, “Why are my sinuses worse at night?”
The answer to this question — why are my sinuses worse at night? — isn’t always straightforward, and it can differ from person to person. What holds true for everyone, however, is that if your nose is blocked at night on one side or both, or if you are struggling with any other sinus-related issue, your sleep is going to suffer.
What follows is a list of common conditions or circumstances that might make your sinuses worse at night, along with some potential remedies.
Reasons for increased congestion and sinus problems at night
Why are my sinuses worse at night? The reasons are various and interrelated, but they are far from impossible to manage. A good place to start is to ask yourself which of the following sinus-related problems or household circumstances you experience.
Before you do, however, it’s worth mentioning that your sinus problems may worsen at night because you’re less distracted and paying more attention to how you feel (your problems aren’t actually worse).
While this idea may be true to some extent, paying attention doesn’t cause sinus symptoms, sinus problems cause sinus symptoms; it’s wiser to address the latter than worry about the former.
Problem #1: Your sleeping conditions
Imagine your bedroom and answer the following questions:
- Are your pets sleeping with you at night?
- Do you drink caffeine before bed?
- Do you drink alcohol before bed?
- How’s the air in your room — is it dry?
- Do you go to bed dehydrated?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might have discovered a factor that is affecting your sinuses (and probably your sleep in general).
Making proactive changes to your sleeping environment
Do you have a blocked nose at night only? If you do, making the following adjustments in your bedroom may help alleviate your congestion.
- Keep your pets out of your bedroom, especially if you are allergic to pet dander or dust.
- If the air in your house tends to be dry, purchase a humidifier. This suggestion is especially relevant during the winter months when the air is often drier.
- Avoid drinking alcohol (especially wine) and caffeine before bed. Both can make you dehydrated, which can aggravate your sinuses.
- On that same note, do what you can to stay hydrated. Hydration will help you feel better overall, but it can also work to alleviate some sinus pain.
Problem #2: Lying down, gravity, and blood pressure
Many patients who come in asking, “Why are my sinuses worse at night?” are surprised to discover what a strong role gravity and blood pressure play in worsening sinus issues.
While you’re sitting up and standing during the day, your blood circulates throughout your body, with blood pressure and the forces of gravity affecting how how easy it is for your blood to reach your head and sinuses. Additionally, while you’re vertical, gravity also helps your sinuses drain naturally down your esophagus and into your stomach.
When you lie down, however, your body doesn’t have to fight as hard to send blood to your head. Increased blood flow in the blood vessels of your sinuses can, in turn, cause sinus congestion, pressure, and pain. Furthermore, gravity is no longer helping your sinuses drain, which increases the likelihood of experiencing those same problems.
These nighttime sinus circumstances can affect people who exhibit little to no sinus symptoms during the day. If you’re also dealing with sinusitis, GERD, or allergies, these circumstances can worsen already inflamed blood vessels and exacerbate other related issues. (More on this in a minute.)
What is the best position to sleep in with a stuffy nose?
The best sleeping position for sinus drainage issues and other sinus problems is to sleep with your head propped up. Sleeping with your head propped up will help gravity naturally drain your sinuses and lower the likelihood of excessive blood flow that can create sinus congestion.
Problem #3: Sinus infection
Sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, will likely have you asking not only, “Why are my sinuses worse at night?” but also, “Why are my sinuses trying to kill me?” Your drainage issues and inflamed blood vessels may only worsen when you lay down.
Sinus surgery and balloon sinuplasty
For these reasons, propping up your head while sleeping might not be enough; you will likely also need to tackle the sinus infection itself. What is the fastest way to get rid of a sinus infection? Many sinus infections will go away with OTC medication and rest, but chronic sinus infections often demand further treatment.
If you have chronic sinus infections that disturb your sleep, you may need to meet with your doctor to discuss different types of sinus surgery. We especially encourage you to ask your doctor about balloon sinuplasty, a minimally-invasive, in-office procedure that takes less than 20 minutes and provides long-lasting sinus relief.
Problem #4: GERD
Another often surprising answer to the question, “Why are my sinuses worse at night?” is GERD, short for gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD occurs when acid from your stomach is able to re-enter your esophagus due to a damaged or impaired esophageal valve.
This phenomenon happens more often at night when you’re lying down. GERD typically affects the back of the throat, causing coughing, post-nasal drip, and even nausea. Since the throat is connected to your sinus passages, more and more doctors have started to credit GERD with creating sinus problems.
Remedies for GERD-related sinus problems
The most straightforward way to address GERD-related sinus problems is to reduce the amount of acid that irritates your throat. To do so, avoid eating right before bed and talk to your doctor about antacids and proton pump inhibitors. Weight loss also may help alleviate GERD.
Problem #5: Allergies
Patients with allergies often suspect that their nighttime sinus problems originate with allergies, but many are still left wondering, “Why does my nose get clogged at night?” As with sinus infections, allergies may exacerbate the sinus-related symptoms you experience due to the effects of gravity and blood pressure when laying down.
Alleviating nighttime allergies
Allergy-related nasal congestion at night may only occur because your bedroom is not primed to protect your body against allergens (pets may sleep there, the air filter or sheets may need to be changed, etc.). However, you might also simply need to take an antihistamine before bed to help reduce the inflammation caused by allergies from growing worse.
Catch some z’s with balloon sinuplasty
Answering the question, “Why are my sinuses worse at night?” isn’t always easy, and addressing your symptoms might take a multipronged approach. If you’ve lost more nights than you can count to sinus problems caused by sinusitis, allergies, sinusitis and sleep apnea, sinus problems and snoring, nasal polyps or even a deviated septum, it may be time to consider balloon sinuplasty.
As mentioned previously, balloon sinuplasty is a minimally invasive, in-office procedure that takes less than 20 minutes and provides long-lasting sinus relief. During the procedure, your doctor inserts tiny balloons into your sinus cavities via your nasal passages. When these balloons are expanded, healthy drainage is restored. (The balloon sinuplasty success rate is 95%!)
Dr. Napoleon G. Bequer of Sinus Solutions of South Florida, a leading Florida ENT, has performed balloon sinuplasty on thousands of Tampa and West Palm Beach-area patients. He’s given them the opportunity to take their life (and their sleep) back from chronic sinus problems.