How to get better sleep with a stuffy nose in 3 different ways

asiandelight/Getty ImagesSleeping on your back with an extra pillow is the best way to drain a stuffy nose at night.
  • To sleep with a stuffy nose, you should be propped up on your back with a pillow to help the mucus drain out.
  • You should avoid sleeping on your side, since it may make one or both nostrils even more congested.
  • You can also use a humidifier for moist air and consider taking medication, like a decongestant or antihistamine, to get better sleep with a stuffy nose.
  • This article was reviewed by Rod Oskouian, MD, at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

If you’re sick, sleep is an important part of recovery. But upper respiratory infections, like the flu, come with a slew of nasty symptoms – including a stuffy nose.

These symptoms can last from 7 to 10 days if you have the common cold, and as long as one to two weeks if you have the flu. No matter the cause of your sniffles, there’s no denying they make sleeping a challenge.

“Breathing through your nose comes naturally, and when you have to breathe through your mouth, especially while sleeping, it gets dry,” says Danh Ngo, an osteopathic doctor at the Medical Offices of Manhattan.

Here are some of the best ways to reduce that dryness and make sure you can still get sleep with a stuffy nose.

Why your nose is stuffy

Most often, your nose gets stuffy because the blood vessels within your nose swell up, which causes excess fluid to pool in your nasal tissues. “This engorgement of the tissues generally leads to nasal obstruction,” Ngo says, “which is why we get that stuffed up sensation.”

Typically, that nasal obstruction comes with other symptoms that can make it even harder to sleep. These commonly include sinus pressure, headaches, cough, and ear pain.

Stuffy noses generally occur from infections like the flu or common cold, but they are also a common result of allergies, and even a side effect of preganncy. Now, sleep alone won’t loosen up a clogged nose, but getting rest is important, especially if you’re dealing with an infection.

“Sleeping, staying hydrated, and eating nutritious food are all essential to getting over a cold and getting rid of a stuffy nose for good,” Ngo says.

How to sleep with a stuffy nose

There are a few different strategies you can use to get better sleep with a stuffy nose. Here are some of the best tips:

  • Position. Sleeping on your back is your best option when you’ve got the sniffles, says Lina Velikova, MD, at Disturb Me Not. “Lying on the side might make one or both nostrils completely congested.” The goal is to allow your mucus to run down and out overnight, instead of clogging up your airways and sinuses. You can help make this happen by adding an extra pillow to elevate your head, and then “gravity will do the rest,” Velikova says.
  • Moist air. Try running a humidifier in your bedroom while you sleep. “The moist air will make the mucus in your airways runnier and more comfortable to get out,” Velikova says. Taking a hot shower before bed or, once you’re in bed, resting a hot towel over your forehead and sinuses can help too. “The warmth will widen your pathways and help the mucus get loose a bit,” Velikova adds.
  • Medication. Ngo recommends an antihistamine or decongestant before bedtime or placing nasal strips on your nose to open the passageways for easy drainage and ease your symptoms. If you need fast relief, consider using a neti pot to flush out your sinuses.

Related stories about the flu and the common cold:

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