The trick to sleeping with a runny nose is finding a sleeping position that lets you breathe easily and keeps your nose from leaking all over your face and pillow.
You can also try taking medicine or making your bedroom more humid. In this post, we explain these and other tips on how to sleep with a runny nose.
What Causes a Runny Nose During Sleep?
Common cold is the usual cause of a runny nose for most people. The virus irritates the lining of your nose and throat, triggering your nose to produce a lot of mucus in an attempt to clear the virus.
The increased production leads to a runny and congested nose.
But you don’t always need to have a cold to get a runny nose. Here are some other likely causes.
Note: Knowing what’s causing the runny nose is important in determining how to deal with it.
- You might have the flu. It’s more serious than a cold and comes with more severe symptoms.
- In some people, a runny nose is one of the symptoms of Covid. Get tested if you suspect you are infected.
- You are cold. A cold bedroom can induce common cold-like symptoms including a runny nose. Some people get a runny nose when it’s cold more easily than others.
- You are having an allergic reaction to an allergen in your environment like dust, pollen, mould, or dust mites.
- The air is too dry. Low humidity can dry out your nose, causing irritation and triggering the production of more mucus. The risk of a runny nose is higher if it’s both dry and cold.
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy or puberty can cause your nose to produce more mucus than usual.
How to Sleep With a Runny Nose – 3 Tips That Can Help
1. Sleep On Your Back
Sleeping on your side will likely clear only one side of your nose, leaving the other one still clogged.
Sleeping on your stomach will put more pressure on the sinuses and cause more congestion. You’ll also mess up your pillow with mucus.
Sleeping on your back is the best position for sleeping with a runny nose. It allows the sinuses to drain down your throat by gravity, which makes your nose less clogged.
Make sure you prop your head up with a lofty pillow. You can also use two pillows to raise your head higher and improve mucus drainage.
2. Raise Your Upper Body
Raising your entire upper body, not just your head, can help improve breathing. It allows mucus to drain faster, reduces pressure on the sinuses, and opens up your airways.
If you get a runny nose often, we recommend buying a wedge pillow that elevates your upper body.
A more expensive solution is switching your current bed for an adjustable base that can raise different sections of your body.
You could also place several pillows under your back and head.
3. Take Medication
There are several types of over the counter medications that can help with a runny nose.
These include decongestants like nasal or saline spray, antihistamines, and anticholinergics. Talk to a pharmacist about your problem and they’ll recommend the best medication.
If you have a major health problem like high blood pressure or you are currently taking some other medication, talk to your doctor before taking any over the counter medicine.
Tip: If the runny nose and other cold or flu symptoms are making it hard to sleep, ask the pharmacist for medication that also causes drowsiness such as Night Nurse. It’ll help you sleep better, which quickens recovery.
How to Prevent a Runny Nose During Sleep
Preventing a runny nose in the first place is better than having to deal with it.
Depending on what’s causing the runny nose, you may not be able to fully prevent the congestion. If you have a cold or flu, you may only be able to reduce it.
- Take preventive medication before symptoms appear. Use decongestants, antihistamines and or some other appropriate medication before bedtime. By the time you go to bed, your nose will be clear and it’ll be easy to fall asleep.
- If you have a cold or flu, drink a lot of fluids. This keeps your nose membranes moist and prevents congestion. It also keeps the mucus thin, making it easy for it to drain when you sleep on your back.
- If you think allergies are causing your runny nose, reduce allergen exposure in your bedroom. Get hypoallergenic bedding, use a mattress protector to keep allergens from settling on your mattress, and get covers for your duvet and pillow. Wash these items often to prevent allergen buildup.
- Another solution for people with allergies is a portable air purifier. It’ll keep airborne allergens from accumulating in the air.
- If you think your runny nose is a result of the dry air, get a humidifier to moisten the bedroom air. It’ll make it easier to breathe and reduce mucus production. An essential oil diffuser also works great.
- Sleep warm if your nose gets stuffy and runny when it’s cold. Use a space heater or put on warm socks and clothes when going to bed.
Best Home Treatments for A Runny Nose
One of the best home treatments for a runny nose is a saline spray or rinse. Make it by mixing non-iodized salt and distilled or boiled water.
Here’s a helpful video on how to make and use a saline rinse.
You can also try steaming. Place your face over a container or sink with hot water and cover your head with a towel to trap the hot vapour. This will decongest and clear your nose.
Should I Blow My Nose When I Have a Runny Nose?
You’ll be tempted to blow your nose to clear the mucus, but that can cause pressure on sinuses, which will worsen your symptoms.
Use other methods for draining your nose like raising your head, using medication, or steaming.
If you have to blow your nose, do it gently and only one nose at a time.