Why Do I Wake Up With a Stuffy Nose? (And How to Fix It)

A young woman blowing her nose in bed after waking up with a stuffy nose.

If you’re waking up with a stuffy nose, you’re likely breathing through your mouth most of the night too. So you wake up with a dry mouth, maybe a sore throat, and if you’re snoring— which is more likely to happen with mouth breathing than nasal breathing— then you’re not getting very good sleep either. 

Everyone gets stuffy at times. If you’re not sure what’s causing you to wake up congested with blocked sinuses or even in pain, finding relief may feel like a huge task. If you’re wondering “why do I wake up with a stuffy nose” because you’re not going to bed with congestion and it’s not obvious because you don’t have a cold, the flu or allergies— we’ve got the answers.

There are five common reasons you are waking up with a stuffy nose. Once you know the cause and the steps to take to reduce your symptoms or eliminate them altogether, you may never have to deal with morning congestion again! It’s easier than you may think.

What Causes You to Wake Up with a Stuffy Nose?

Nasal congestion is an extremely common symptom of many common health conditions. If you wake up with sinus congestion, one of these conditions will likely be the cause. 

The common causes of morning stuffiness include:

1. Sinusitis

Sinusitis occurs when your sinuses become inflamed from an infection like the common cold or the flu. Along with nasal congestion, other side effects of sinusitis include:

  • Green or yellow nasal discharge
  • Headache
  • Difficulty or reduced ability to smell
  • Bad breath

Keep an eye out for any cold symptoms or signs of the flu— this could be the biggest giveaway that sinusitis is causing your morning congestion. 

Respiratory tract infections aren’t the only cause of sinusitis, a deviated nasal septum, nasal polyps, and allergies are also common causes and can lead to chronic sinusitis.

What is Chronic Sinusitis?

Chronic sinusitis is when your sinuses are inflamed or swollen for three months or more— even if you've been receiving treatment. This prevents your sinuses from being able to drain normally, creating uncomfortable sinus pressure and making it difficult to breathe through your nose. [1]

Chronic sinusitis can be caused by an infection, persistent exposure to allergens, swelling of your nasal lining, or growths like nasal polyps. Additional symptoms of chronic sinusitis include:

  • Thick, discolored mucus
  • Postnasal drip
  • Reduced sense of taste and smell
  • Difficulty breathing through your nose
  • Pain, swelling, or tenderness in your sinuses
  • Sore throat

Related: Allergies or Cold? How to Tell the Difference

2. Rhinitis

Rhinitis refers to inflammation of the nasal mucosa. The mucous membrane is a type of tissue that lines the nasal cavity. 

There are two main types of rhinitis:

  • Allergic rhinitis— better known as hay fever or allergies.
  • Nonallergic rhinitis— inflammation and irritation that is not caused by allergies.

If you're using traditional treatments you should determine whether your symptoms are caused by allergic rhinitis or non-allergic rhinitis. This is because what may work for allergic rhinitis can be less effective for nonallergic rhinitis. 

If your main symptom is congestion and you’re waking up with a stuffy nose, using gentle acoustic vibrations and positive expiratory pressure (PEP) with a SinuSonic device can help with both allergic & nonallergic rhinitis. 

SinuSonic is recommended by rhinologists as a universal solution for nasal congestion and is clinically researched and proven effective for both types of rhinitis. This is especially helpful for people who also have both types. Research indicates that 34 percent of the population has both allergic and nonallergic rhinitis. [2]

If you’re experiencing nighttime rhinitis that’s responsible for your stuffy nose in the morning, you may be exposed to allergens or irritants while you sleep that are enlarging the blood vessels in your nasal passages. 

Allergic Rhinitis

In fact, the #1 most likely reason you’re waking up with a stuffy nose are allergens causing inflammation and irritating your nasal passages.

Common allergens or irritants causing allergic rhinitis include:

  • Dust— or more specifically, dust mite allergens living in your mattress, pillows, bedding, carpets, and furniture.
  • Perfume or fragrances— including laundry detergents and soaps
  • Smoke, including irritating chemicals and toxic ingredients in cigarette smoke
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen from grasses, trees, or flowers
  • Mold or mold spores

When you wake up with a stuffy nose, try to notice if you're experiencing any other allergy symptoms. If you are, that’s another clue you're experiencing allergic rhinitis.

Are you also experiencing any of these other common seasonal allergy symptoms?

  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Sinus pain
  • Fatigue

In short: if you wake up with any of these symptoms along with a stuffy nose, allergic rhinitis is probably the culprit.

Nonallergic Rhinitis

There is some cross-over between the cause of allergic rhinitis and nonallergic rhinitis, such as occupational—irritant— rhinitis. Many people are allergic to the chemicals and irritants in secondhand smoke and smog, as well as dust and perfumes. And all of these things can trigger nonallergic rhinitis too.

Other causes of nonallergic rhinitis include:

  • Acute viral infection— the most common cause
  • Hormonal— including pregnancy rhinitis
  • Structural
  • Drug-induced

Although there is a lot of symptom cross-over, typically nonallergic symptoms don’t include itchy eyes and nose. Nonallergic rhinitis symptoms do however include:

  • Congestion
  • Chronic sneezing
  • Runny, drippy nose
  • Diminished sense of smell

You can learn more about allergic and non-allergic rhinitis in our article Are Nighttime Allergies Ruining Your Sleep? 7 Tips for Relief and Better Sleep.

3. Pregnancy Rhinitis

Pregnancy rhinitis refers to a stuffy nose that starts, as you’d expect, during pregnancy. It’s considered chronic nasal rhinitis—aka “stuffiness—” because it can last for at least six weeks, usually in the first trimester or late in the pregnancy. 

It's common too— affecting between 18 and 42 percent of all pregnant women. Unlike other forms of rhinitis or sinusitis, pregnancy rhinitis isn't caused by irritants or an infection. It's caused by inflammation created by increased blood flow to your nasal passages.

Experts believe pregnancy rhinitis is caused by hormonal changes a woman's body experiences during pregnancy, or the body creating extra fluid to support the baby's growth. This can also include mucus.

The most concerning symptom of pregnancy-induced rhinitis is the effect it can have on the fetus. Although the subject is relatively unstudied, there is a documented connection between stuffiness in pregnant women and higher risks for developing hypertension, preeclampsia, and other medical conditions. This is related to snoring, something pregnant women often report starting during their pregnancy.

Difficulty breathing through the nose causes mouth breathing, and mouth breathing contributes to snoring. Because snoring causes fragmented sleep and contributes to high blood pressure— aka hypertension— reducing nasal congestion at night may help prevent snoring and related health concerns.

Pregnant women also often experience headaches, more frequent anxiety, and poor concentration along with other symptoms of pregnancy rhinitis which include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sinusitis
  • Postnasal drip

If you’re one of the many pregnant women concerned about taking medications for persistent congestion during your pregnancy, there are non-drug solutions. Using a SinuSonic device to reduce congestion before you sleep is a safe and easy alternative.  

You can read more about treating rhinitis during pregnancy according to top rhinologists in the US. 

4. Ear Congestion

If you’re wondering  "How can congestion in my ears affect my nose?" They're actually more closely connected than you may realize.

Ear congestion occurs when one or both of your eustachian tubes— the small passages between your nose and middle ear— become obstructed. This can cause pressure in your ear, ear pain, or difficulty hearing.

Congestions that affect your sinuses can also affect your ears. This includes the common cold, allergies, or a sinus infection. An ear infection can also cause ear congestion— these are often caused by colds or other respiratory problems affecting your eustachian tubes.

So if your ears are feeling stuffed up along with your nose, this may be the root of your congestion.

5. Certain Medications

Some medications may be causing your stuffy nose— especially if you take them at night. [3] These can include:

  • Psychotropic drugs like alprazolam (Xanax) or gabapentin
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including aspirin
  • Antihypertensives like doxazosin or mianserin
  • Immunosuppressants like cyclosporine

If you think any of your medications may be causing morning stuffiness, talk to your doctor. They can help you update your prescription schedule, or even prescribe you an alternative if needed. Never stop taking your prescriptions or deviate from your dosage schedule without talking to your doctor first.

Nasal decongestants including nasal sprays can also cause congestion. That's because prolonged usage of these medications can cause rebound rhinitis— or additional congestion after as few as three days of use. It likely occurs because your body creates a tolerance for the medication, making it less effective over time.

What You Can Do To Prevent Morning Congestion

There are multiple reasons you’re waking up with morning congestion. Follow these few simple steps to help you breathe freely at night and wake up without a stuffy nose and morning congestion.  

Tip #1: Allergy-Proof Your Home

Remember— if you're feeling stuffy in the morning there’s a high likelihood you’re allergic to something in your home. The best thing to do is "allergy-proof" your home

This involves the obvious sweeping and vacuuming regularly, dusting often, and keeping pets off the furniture.

Using an air purifier or a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter can help remove allergens from the air too. Consider an air purifier in the bedroom for sound sleep and easy breathing at night.

Allergy-proofing your bed and bedroom are especially important at night to prevent waking up with a stuffed-up nose. This means hypoallergenic sheets, mattress covers to protect against dust mites that love to live in humid places, and washing your bedsheets weekly in hot water.

Tip #2: Use SinuSonic Before Bed

Using your SinuSonic device before bed can relieve nighttime congestion including slight stuffiness that may not be bothering you at bedtime— but may cause problems during your sleep or once you wake up.

This patented device decongests your sinuses through light pressure and gentle acoustic vibration— giving you natural relief from your nasal congestion without medication or messy irrigation.

Just two minutes before bed can help you breathe better at night, and regular use can help you breathe better over time.

Tip #3: Take a Shower Before Bed

A shower is a relaxing way to unwind for the night. It’s also great for rinsing off any irritants or allergens that may trigger inflammation or an allergic reaction that can cause morning congestion and stuffiness. 

The warm steam can also help moisturize your sinuses— dry nasal passages are another common culprit of nasal congestion.

Tip #4: Take Your Allergy Medication at Night

If allergies are the main culprit, or one of the main contributors to your stuffy nose when you wake up, take your allergy medication before bed. It can help you wake up with clear sinuses. 

Tip #5: Elevate Your Head While You Sleep

Elevating your head during sleep decreases blood flow to your nose, allowing gravity to naturally decongest your sinuses. 

This can be especially helpful if you have a cold and are sleeping with a stuffy nose too

Just make sure that your head is above your heart and not at too extreme an angle— this can cause neck pain.

Morning Dreams Come True— No More Morning Congestion!

Waking up with a congested nose can cause painful sinus pressure. It also means you’re more likely to get fragmented sleep and snore— which means you’re more tired when you wake. 

There is always an easy and safe solution for your nasal congestion woes. The first step— identifying the cause of your symptoms— may seem tricky at first, but it only gets easier from there once you know how to treat your symptoms.

You never have to ask yourself "why do I wake up with a stuffy nose" again. And now that you know what causes morning congestion and what to do to prevent it, you can get started tonight!

SinuSonic is an effective treatment for congestion, is safe to use daily, and works even better with continued use because it trains your sinuses to work as they should! If you have questions about SinuSonic, let us know! We'd love to hear from you.

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  1. "Chronic Sinusitis." Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 July 2021, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-sinusitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351661.
  2. Settimane, R A, and P Lieberman. “Update on Nonallergic Rhinitis.” Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: Official Publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11379801/. 
  3. Cingi, Cemal, et al. "Nasal Obstruction as a Drug Side Effect." SAGE Journals, Therapeutic Advances in Respiratory Disease, 20 Apr. 2011, journals.sagepub.com/.