It’s easy to take for granted the ability to breathe freely— at least until you get a congested and stuffy nose. Even just slight congestion may have you wishing for a quick return to the days when you could easily breathe, smell, sleep and even talk normally. We've all been there.
Unfortunately, each season affects how well you can breathe through your nose whether it’s cold and flu season, or allergy season.
Your symptoms of a runny nose, clogged sinuses, discomfort, and obstructed breathing affect how well you work, your energy throughout the day, and definitely prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Decongestants and decongestant sprays can be stimulating and keep you up at night, while other OTC or prescription medications can make you feel groggy and tired throughout the day.
Thankfully there are plenty of drug-free remedies for your congestion woes.
Let’s take a look at the what causes a stuffy nose and when you should see a doctor before listing the five best drug-free remedies. If you’re eager to get to the list, feel free to jump ahead.
What Causes a Stuffy Nose?
A stuffy nose— another term for nasal congestion— isn't just caused by hay fever or the common cold. Nasal congestion can be caused by numerous factors, including:
- Allergic rhinitis— also known as seasonal allergies
- Environmental irritants, such as smoke, dry air, pollen, or dust mites
- Overuse of decongestant nasal spray
- Nasal polyps— benign growths inside your nasal passages that can be removed with surgery
- Chronic nasal congestion— also known as chronic sinusitis
- Deviated septum
- Sinus infection
- Postnasal drip
- Hormonal changes and pregnancy
- Enlarged adenoid glands
- Acid reflux or GERD
- Nasal obstruction— such as a foreign object in your nasal passage
Familiar Symptoms of Nasal Congestion
Odds are, everyone has experienced these symptoms at some point in their lives. These familiar symptoms accompany nasal congestion, and may also be signs of other conditions like a cold or allergies. These include:
- Runny nose
- Ear pain or headache
- Reduced senses of smell or taste
- Sneezing or coughing
- Sore throat
- Itchy eyes, nose, or throat
When Should You See a Doctor?
Most causes of a stuffy nose will clear up on their own. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a week depending on what's causing the congestion. However, it's important to know when your nasal congestion may be a sign of something more serious.
If you have any of the following symptoms, it's important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible:
- Your congestion lasts longer than 10 days
- Green nasal discharge or mucus accompanied by fever and sinus pain
- Congestion accompanied by a fever lasting more than 3 days
- A weakened immune system
- Breathing difficulties such as asthma or emphysema
You don't typically need to consult with a doctor about temporary causes of nasal congestion like seasonal allergies, the common cold, or environmental irritants as long as they're kept under control or disappear after treatment.
However, if you suffer from chronic nasal congestion it can be a sign of potentially serious health issues. Some of these may include:
- Obstructive sleep apnea— or periodic pauses or stops in breathing while you sleep
- Vision problems— these can occur if your sinus infection spreads to your eyes
- Infections— including infections in your bones or skin, and meningitis
No matter the cause though, getting a restful night's sleep can be tricky if you're trying to breathe through a blocked nose. And if mouth breathing during the night doesn't sound particularly enticing, don't worry. There are plenty of ways to help relieve nasal stuffiness and get a good night's sleep naturally.
5 Drug-Free Ways to Relieve Nasal Congestion and Sleep Better
Many peoples' first instinct when they have a stuffy nose may be to reach for a nasal decongestant spray or oral medication. However, those aren't always the best options. Remember— overuse of nasal spray can actually cause congestion!
Here's how to sleep with a stuffy nose, without the use of prescription or over-the-counter treatments.
1. Use a SinuSonic Breathing Device
It’s miserable to lie awake unable to fall asleep or wake up in the middle of the night because you can breathe with a congested nose. The best way to sleep with a stuffy nose is to “unstuff” the nose!
SinuSonic's simple but revolutionary sinus therapy device can help relieve your nasal congestion— all without drugs, sprays, or irrigation devices. It uses acoustic vibrations and gentle pressure to open your nasal passages naturally, and increase ventilation through the nose.
A few minutes of “flutter breathing” with your SinuSonic clears your nasal passages quickly and helps you fall back asleep without overstimulation.
You can even do it from the comfort of your bed, and unlike nasal irrigation, it doesn’t require a lot of activity which can leave you wide awake despite breathing easier.
All it takes is two to three minutes daily for congestion relief. It’s also a great compliment to the other nasal congestion methods listed below.
Clinical Study Highlight
A study conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina and published in the International Forum of Allergy and Rhinology (IFAR) journal found SinuSonic users experienced statistically significant improvements with chronic nasal congestion.
After a single three minute session, PNIF scores, “Peak Nasal Inspiratory Flow,” improved by 15%. PNIF is the measure of how much air you can breathe in through your nose.
The improvement is similar to what you might experience by using a decongestant spray, but without all of the problems that these sprays cause with chronic use.
The study indicated that after two weeks, SinuSonicing twice a day led to a 30% increase of nasal airflow in people chronically congested, who are often the most difficult to treat.
The study also found dramatic and significant improvements in facial pressure and nasal drainage, two other factors that can keep people awake at night.
2. Use a Humidifier or an Air Purifier
Dry air can wreak havoc on your sinuses, creating discomfort, congestion, and even pain or inflammation. This is especially true if you live in a very dry climate with a lot of very hot or cold weather.
Using a humidifier is an excellent way to decongest and keep your sinuses comfortable, even in the most uncomfortable weather. Adding extra moisture into the air can keep your airways moist and comfortable, allowing you to breathe more freely. Be sure to use distilled water in your humidifier of choice.
To make this even more effective, you can use an air purifier as well. An air purifier won't add humidity to the air, but it will help filter out any allergens or irritants that may be contributing to your congestion.
3. Stay Hydrated
It's important to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated and healthy. It's just as important for your nasal passages as it is for the rest of the body. Proper hydration can keep your sinuses clear, healthy, and unobstructed.
And did we mention that mouth breathing accelerates water loss? Just one more reason to breathe through your nose - reducing dehydration while you sleep.
According to the Mayo Clinic, men need about 15.5 cups of fluids per day, while women need about 11.5 cups of fluids daily. This can come from any water or beverages you consume, as well as food.
Water is best for keeping yourself hydrated, but tea can help too.
You can also consume plenty of water-rich fruits and vegetables to keep hydrated.
A few of these include:
- Melon— including watermelon and cantaloupe
Be careful not to drink too much before bed though. That may cause you to get up during the night to use the bathroom.
You should also avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages before bed. Caffeine's stimulant effect can keep you awake, and alcohol can actually worsen your congestion and cause snoring.
4. Use a Saline Spray or a Neti Pot
Saline spray is made out of a simple saltwater solution, sometimes with preservatives to give it a longer shelf-life. It’s an effective treatment for allergy symptoms, dry nasal passages, and nosebleeds.
Unlike a prescription or over-the-counter nasal spray though, saline spray can be used as often as needed without any potential health effects. However, you may need multiple doses throughout the day for lasting relief.
Another way to relieve dry and congested nasal passages is to use a neti pot. These special containers look a lot like a teapot, but they're not used to brew tea.
Neti pots are used to gently rinse mucus or debris from your nasal cavity with a gentle saltwater solution.
Nasal Irrigation devices are widely available at most pharmacies. Although they’re fairly easy to use, they can be uncomfortable and messy, so read the instructions carefully to prevent any issues.
- Add a saltwater solution to your neti pot. Many neti pots are packaged with their recommended solution.
- With your head over the sink, tilt your head sideways while placing the neti pot's spout into your upper nostril. While breathing through your mouth, gently pour the solution into your upper nostril. The liquid from the neti pot should drain out through the lower nostril.
- Repeat with the opposite nostril.
- Be sure to thoroughly rinse your neti pot after each use, and allow it to air dry.
5. Sleep with Your Head Elevated
Keeping your head elevated while you sleep will decrease blood flow to the nose and allow gravity to gently decongest your sinuses. You can prop your head up either by stacking a few pillows, or using a specialty pillow intended to keep your head elevated.
Be careful not to overdo it though— for best results, you want to make sure your head is above your heart, but not to a degree that causes neck pain.
Nose Breathing for Better Sleep (and Better Health)
There are a lot of factors that can cause nasal congestion and all the discomfort that comes with it. Dust, seasonal allergies, mucus causing pro-inflammatory foods, a cold, the list goes on.
Even simply laying down to sleep at night can create congestion because of the blood rushing to your head which increases blood flow in your sinus blood vessels.
Keeping your sinuses clear is important not only for your sleep, but for your overall health too.
Congestion often forces you to breathe through your mouth at night. You get 20% more oxygen throughout your body when you breathe through your nose. This is because air traveling through your nasal passages warms or cools, filters, humidifies and pressurizes the oxygen before it reaches your lungs. This allows your lungs to absorb everything much easier.
Better oxygenation throughout your body helps improve your immune system, supplies your body with more energy, allows the nervous system to function properly and helps keep your heart healthy.
A stuffy and congested nose is a lot more than an annoying obstacle for a good night's sleep, it can impact your health too. Fortunately we’ve provided multiple gentle and easy ways to relieve nasal congestion— all without drugs or nasal irrigation.
Ready to “De-Stuff” Your Nose at Night?
There are many reasons you may not be getting enough sleep at night, a stuffy nose shouldn’t be one of them.
Learn more about SinuSonic