Remedies for Night Time Nasal Congestion

Have you ever woken up with congested sinuses or the feeling that you can't breathe? If so, it's likely affecting your sleep quality and might be causing sleep apnea, which means you stop breathing for short periods of time at night.

I've dealt with nasal congestion for years now. Lately, I've been experimenting with a variety of products that help me breathe easier and sleep deeper at night.

To tackle this problem, the first thing you should do is take care of obvious problems like poor indoor air quality, humidity, or mold. Use a high-quality air filter in your bedroom at night.

After the low-hanging fruit is taken care of, my take is: for mild nasal congestion, nasal strips and a non-medicated inhaler are the best. If that doesn't work try sinus cleaners like a Neti pot or medicated inhalers like Flonase.

Go with non-medicated if you can

I was using Flonase (Fluticasone) daily for almost a year. It's an effective drug, but it's effective because it's a corticosteroid that reduces the inflammatory response in your body by suppressing your immune system.

Some people fall into a vicious cycle of dependency where they need these drugs to sleep.[1] In my opinion, these should be the last resort and all natural, conservative therapies should be attempted first.

Causes

When you lie down at night in the horizontal position gravity increases blood flow to the head. This increased blood flow can cause the nasal passage to expand and cause a feeling of stuffiness. Poor indoor air quality, dry air, mold, or other allergies can also cause stuffiness at night.

Products

  • Nasal strips – These are clear strips that look like band-aids and are worn across the bridge of your nose. Unlike the "dilators", these strips gently open up your nasal passageway from the outside. They've turned out to be very helpful for me and are now part of my daily routine. I even wear them during the day to increase oxygen flow to my nasal cavity and brain. After experimenting with a variety of products at different price points, I didn't find any significant differences. I recommend Clear Passage or Breathe Right.
  • Non-medicated inhaler – This product looks like a lip balm tube, except when opened it emits a strong smell of camphor and menthol. It's meant to be inhaled deeply in each nostril and I found it to help relax and open up my nasal passages before bed. I personally recommend Vicks VapoInhaler Non-Medicated. It is a blend of camphor, menthol, methyl salicylate, and Siberian Fir.
  • Nasal dilator – A "dilator" is a small plastic device that fits inside your nostril and expands the opening to allow more air flow. These are sometimes used by athletes to increase oxygen intake while exercising. I experimented with the SleepRight brand. While effective, I found these devices to be painful and distracting while falling asleep and I honestly started to worry that my nostrils would be stretched out by the force of the device.
  • Nasal cleanser – I found it inconvenient to use a Neti pot or other sinus cleaners, although they were effective. Make sure to boil or use purified water in your Neti pot as it can be dangerous to introduce bacteria deep into your nasal cavity.

Final thoughts

For mild nighttime decongestion there may be no need for medication. I encourage you to try nasal strips and a non-medicated inhaler, both of which are inexpensive, non-invasive, non-medicated and may improve your sleep quality like they did mine.