A wise man once said:
You don’t appreciate breathing out of both nostrils until one is taken from you.
Isn’t that the truth?
Few things in life are more frustrating than trying to sleep with a plugged nose. There’s just no sleep number specific enough, nor pillow sufficiently soft to outweigh the discomfort of a stuffed-up schnoz.
Fortunately, when you’re congested, be it from the flu, allergies, or just the common cold, there are a number of tools at your disposal for restoring healthy respiratory function:
Don’t Blow it!
While you lay in bed, wheezing for air, your very first instinct will likely be to reach for the tissue box and blow your nose.
Don’t do it!
If your nose isn’t runny then blowing your nose can cause to further inflammation in your nasal passages, which will only make the problem worse.
Tackle it with Tea!
Mother nature has a great medicine cabinet, and she encourages us to borrow from it as needed. So before jumping to prescriptions, why not first try an holistic, herbal remedy in the form of a tea?
Here are three of the best before-bed brews for nasal health. Drink a cup of your choosing before bed to reduce midnight congestion.
A powerhouse of a spice, clove is credited with an array of healing properties ranging from aiding in digestion to preserving bone quality. Yet, it’s the bud’s use as an expectorant which make it so valuable to those suffering from congestion.
Clove loosens up mucous in the throat and sinuses, allowing them to drain properly into the esophagus where it can be coughed up.
It also smells really, really good.
Though ground clove can be made into its own tea, some prefer to mix it with black tea. However, it’s important to be wary of caffeine content in the tea when creating a clove mix, especially before bed.
For best results, use a ratio of 1 Tbsp of ground clove to 1 cup of water.
Steep time: 10 mins.
Chamomile is sort of a misnomer in that the name actually refers to a number of similar, yet distinct plants belonging to the Asteraceae family, the most common of which are German and Roman Chamomile.
As a whole, Chamomile is responsible for treating literally dozens of ailments ranging from skin irritation, to anxiety/insomnia, right down to-you guessed it- Congestion! In fact, many teas designed to help you sleep better feature chamomile as the main ingredient.
When given the choice between Roman and German Chamomile, German is the preferred type for those suffering from allergy and cold symptoms. Its effectiveness in treating inflammation makes it a wonder weapon against constricted blood vessels in the nasal passage. It’s also a sedative, making it the perfect choice for a healthy nightcap.Most store-bought chamomile tea brands contain German chamomile.
For best results, measure 2-3 tsp per 1 cup of water.
Steep time: 3-5 minutes.
Yep, the main ingredient of ginger ale can also be used to help beat down that blocked nose of yours.
Ginger is actually a flowering plant that can grow to 3 foot in length. While it may be pretty to look at, the congestion fighting part of the plant is found at the root.
Fresh Ginger contains gingerol, a natural anti-inflamatory that can provide relief to your swollen nasal membranes. gingerol is also responsible for decreasing mucus production which in turn helps remedy that stuffy head feeling.
Ginger tea is best made with fresh ginger, otherwise you will lose the decongestant benefits. Add 10 thin slices of ginger and add them to a pint of water. Boil and strain out the pieces. Enjoy your fresh ginger tea.
Sleep with your Head Propped
The simplest remedy for sleeping with a stuffy nose is to lie on your back with your head propped. By keeping the head elevated above the heart, blood is unable to pool in vessels lining the sinus cavity. It also allows mucus to drain properly.
By contrast, lying flat allows the mucus to flow back up into the sinuses and pool, where it hardens and disrupts breathing and sleep.
If sleeping on your back is uncomfortable for you, you may want to invest in a pillow designed for upright sleep, such as a wedge pillow.
Wedge pillows are exactly as they sound- triangular wedge-shaped pillows that look like big door stoppers. They are often recommended for people who have breathing problems such as sleep apnea or congestion as they keep the head propped above the heart, and their firm, foam construction maintains shape while under pressure.
Note: These pillows can be a bit pricey and range anywhere from $25 to upwards of $100 depending on where you shop, so you’ll definitely want to do your research.
Take a shower
A shower can provide temporary relief of your blocked nose, long enough for you to fall fast asleep.
it’s not the shower that soothes your stuffy nose but rather the steam. The moisture from the steam helps to loosen stubborn phlegm allowing you blow it out of your nose with a tissue.
If you don’t want to get wet you can simply cover your head with a towel and lean over a pot of hot water. A couple of drops of eucalyptus oil will add some natural unblocking power to the steam.
Humidify your Bedroom
When the air is too dry, mucus solidifies in the nostril and can’t drain through the sinuses. When enough of this hardened mixture accumulates, it can lead to sinusitis- a nasty infection brought on by a mass of germs trapped deep within the nose.
Humidifiers combat this by adding moisture to the air (and to the nose), thereby loosening up hardened mucus and allowing it to properly drain. They also help clear away bacteria and allergens such as dust and pet dander, making them a great choice for those suffering from seasonal allergies and/or pollen.
When paired with a hypoallergenic pillow, a humidifier can be the ultimate weapon in the fight against allergies.
Simply set up a humidifier in your bed room, turn it on and let it do all the work while you snooze away.
In the old days, humidifiers were basically nothing more than a steaming tea kettle. Nowadays, there are countless models in three distinct varieties:
1. Warm Mist Humidifiers
A modern take on its tea-kettle forefather, the warm mist humidifier works by heating water into a warm, steamy mist that flows out into the room. However, for safety’s sake, most models now cool the mist before it leaves the humidifier.
- Rids the air of pollens, irritants, and bacteria
- Great for treating congestion, colds, and the flu
- Cleaning can be a hassle
- Not recommended for children’s rooms
- Energy inefficient
2. Cool Mist Humidifiers
Cool mist humidifiers use an internal filter that acts as a wick to send evaporated water into the air from a stored reservoir within. Because the water is evaporated in the process, the resulting mist is devoid of impurities. However, this also means that the humidifier needs regular cleaning.
- Safe for use around children
- Energy efficient
- Low cost
- Require regular cleaning
- Prone to mineral build-up
Because these humidifiers use a metal plate that vibrates at an ultrasonic speed rather than a fan to create and disperse water vapor, these humidifiers are on the cutting-edge of water displacement technology.They’re also super low maintenance and completely silent.
- Completely Silent
- Safe around children
- Low maintenance/easy to clean
- Extremely energy efficient
- Susceptible to mineral and dust build-up as well as bacterial contamination
Whether your congestion is due to dry wintry air, seasonal allergies, or simply the common cold, the diverse, specialized nature of the humidifier makes owning one of these machines a great long-term asset to your bedroom.
Saline those Sinuses!
Nasal irrigation is often recommended by doctors for the fast-acting relief it provides. Though not a permanent solution to congestion, this method creates a symptom-free window of time in which you can use to your advantage by jumping into bed before your nose clogs back up.
And it’s super easy to do. Heck you can even make your own saltwater solution!
One of the most popular over-the-counter products for this is the Neti Pot- a nasal irrigation device that looks sort of like a genie lantern. At less than $20, it’s also a lot cheaper than its competitors, which hover around $80.
Simply insert the beak into your nostril, tilt your head at a 45 degree angle over the sink, and let the saline flush out any accumulated, hardened mucus.
Because the Neti Pot doesn’t contain any medication, you’re free to use it as much as you’d like. And if you run out of saline, just add a half teaspoon of salt to one cup of water and heat until it dissolves, and poof! Saline!
While the Neti Pot is safe for use on children, an eyedropper is recommended for babies under two.
Last Resort: Use Nasal Spray for Chronic Congestion
If the above listed just aren’t cutting it, you may want to look into a medicinal nasal spray. Like the Neti Pot, these sprays are applied directly into the nostril. However, unlike their all-purpose saline counterpart, nasal sprays are medicine-based and designed to remedy congestion brought on by a specific trigger.
There are three common types of medicinal nasal spray:
1. Antihistamine Nasal Sprays
These are great for allergies and can be used as a preventative measure before symptoms start. Antihistamines are generally used “as needed” and are non-addictive. Because these sprays are applied directly to the site, they work quickly and last up to twelve hours.
2. Corticosteroid Nasal Sprays
For moderate to severe allergy symptoms, or in response to a general sinus infection, your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid to reduce swelling and mucus in the nasal passageway. Unlike antihistamine sprays, these work best when used daily at specific intervals (provided by a healthcare professional.)
3. Decongestant Nasal Sprays
Decongestant sprays are designed for immediate relief and work by reducing the swelling of blood vessels in the sinuses, allowing for a more open nasal passageway.
Though these sprays are fast acting, they also wear off within a few hours, so it’s a good idea to use them right before bed.
Note: Decongestants should not be used for more than a few days. When overused, they can cause a condition called “rebound congestion” that leaves the sinuses worse than they were to begin with.
With so many remedies at your fingertips, there’s just simply no reason to go to bed tonight with stuffy sinuses.
Got a tip for opening up those airways at night? Leave them in the comments section below. I’d love to hear them!