Not sleeping well affects both your body and your mood, but when you have sinus pain and congestion, getting a good night’s sleep may be easier said than done. Sinusitis, often referred to as a sinus infection, occurs when there is swelling in the nasal sinuses and passages. You may experience symptoms like pressure around the nose, eyes, or forehead, a stuffed-up nose, and thick mucus. Some people also report tooth pain with sinusitis. If you have allergies, you may be at greater risk for sinus trouble, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
See more: how to fall asleep with a stuffy nose
“There are many reasons that sinus pain and congestion get worse at night,” says Jordan S. Josephson, MD, an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and the author of Sinus Relief Now. “One is that allergies tend to be worse at night, and two is that when you lie down, your nose becomes more congested.” But this doesn’t mean you should give up on a good night’s sleep. Instead, try these expert-approved tips to help you sleep better despite sinus pain and congestion:
- Take an antihistamine before bed. If you have allergies, taking an antihistamine before bed can help control your sneezing and runny nose, Dr. Josephson says. Some antihistamines make you sleepy in addition to keeping allergy symptoms at bay, so it’s a win-win. “If you use a nasal spray for your allergies, you can try using that at night, too,” adds Satish Govindaraj, MD, an associate professor of otolaryngology and neurosurgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
- Make your bedroom a pet-free zone. Allergies can make sinus pain and congestion worse. “If you have an allergy to dust mites or to pets, keep your bedroom as free from allergens as possible,” Dr. Govindaraj says. “Keep your pet out of the bedroom, and consider investing in dust-proof covers for your pillows and comforters.”
- Prop up your head. “For congestion relief, sleep with your head elevated on a few pillows and maintain a position where your head is above your heart,” Govindaraj suggests. “This will decrease blood flow pooling in the nose.” Lying flat, by contrast, allows mucus to build up in your sinuses, where it can clog your nasal passages and disrupt sleep.
- Skip that nightcap. You may think that a glass of wine before you turn in will help with sleep, but that’s a myth — especially if you have sinus pain and congestion. “Alcohol can make you feel congested, especially wine,” Govindaraj says. “If you are prone to sinus pain or congestion, don’t drink alcohol before bed.” Alcohol can also leave you feeling dehydrated, which can aggravate sinus pain.
- Avoid caffeine before bed. This is especially important, Josephson says. Caffeine is a stimulant that will keep you awake, so it makes sense to cut it off before 2 p.m. Also, caffeine is dehydrating, so it will make your sinus pain and congestion worse. Instead, choose water or decaffeinated and herbal teas in the afternoon and evening to quench your thirst.
- Keep nasal passages moist. During the day, use a simple over-the-counter nasal saline spray to keep nasal passages clear, or rinse your sinuses with a neti pot, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery suggests. “At night, using a humidifier can help to avoid drying out the air, especially during the winter,” says Sam S. Rizk, MD, a New York City-based ear, nose, and throat doctor and facial plastic surgeon.
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark. This is good advice for anyone with problems sleeping, including people with sinus pain. Other sleep hygiene tips from the National Sleep Foundation include maintaining a regular bed and wake time (even on weekends), using your bedroom only for sleep and sex, and avoiding any stressful activities before bed.
- Know when to call the doctor. “If you have severe congestion and sinus pain for a week or more and have an accompanying fever, you should see an otolaryngologist [an ear, nose, and throat specialist] because it could be a sign that you have a sinus infection that requires more aggressive treatment,” Dr. Rizk says. A combination of non-surgical medical treatments is often needed to manage sinusitis, according to guidelines updated in 2015 by the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. Analgesics, topical intranasal steroids, nasal saline irrigation, or a combination of these treatments may help, note the guidelines, published in the journal Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery in April 2015. Getting appropriate treatment may boost your overall well-being, too. A decline in productivity can afflict people dealing with sinus pain and congestion, but one study found that, with treatment, participants maintained the ability to be productive in day-to-day life — one of many factors that can affect people’s quality of life. The findings were published in 2015 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery. Talk to your doctor about the treatment that would be best for you.
Following these tips will put you on the path to sinus pain and congestion relief and help you get a good night’s sleep.