Coughing can occur at night for various reasons. When it does, it can affect a person’s ability to sleep and get enough rest. But there are ways to relieve a nighttime cough.
A troublesome cough during the day may seem worse at night, and some coughs worsen when a person lies down. However, various strategies can help a person get a better night’s sleep with a cough.
These strategies include:
- using a humidifier
- reducing exposure to allergens
- managing acid reflux, asthma, and other underlying conditions
- drinking honey and lemon
- using medications, including herbal preparations
- salt water gargle or saline irrigation
- raising the head
- quitting smoking or avoiding tobacco smoke
In this article, learn about 22 ways to reduce or ease nighttime coughing. Inlcuding managing the environment, using medications, lifestyle changes, and natural remedies.
Here are some tips that focus on managing the air people breathe, both in the bedroom and during the day.
1. Try to quit smoking
Exposure to tobacco smoke is the
Quitting smoking also lowers the risk of a cough as well GERD, asthma, and other causes of a nighttime cough. A person should see an improvement after
A doctor can advise on effective ways to quit and how to use aids such as nicotine patches, gum, and medication.
2. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke
According to the
Asking others not to smoke and avoiding smoky areas may help reduce irritation and inflammation.
If a person finds it hard to quit, they can still help protect their household by:
- avoiding smoking indoors
- making the car a smoke-free zone
- avoiding places when out with the family or other household members
3. Try a humidifier
Dry air can irritate the throat and sinuses and make a cough worse. Air conditioning and cooling fans in the summer and heating systems in the winter can make the environment dry.
Using a humidifier at night can add moisture to the air while a person sleeps. This may help soothe the throat and prevent coughing. It is best to use distilled or demineralized water, as tap water can leave particles when it evaporates.
However, too much moisture can contribute to mold growth. Mold can be an allergen and cause more coughing.
A humidity level of about 40–50% is suitable for a bedroom, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
4. Manage allergens
Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a generally harmless substance. Indoor allergens include mold, pet dander, and dust. They can lead to sneezing, stuffiness, and coughing.
Some ways to decrease allergy-related coughing in the bedroom are:
- using an asthma and allergy-friendly vacuum cleaner once or twice weekly to remove dust
- putting an allergy cover on the mattress
- showering before bed to remove outdoor allergens, such as pollen
- keeping pets out of the bedroom
5. Reducing dust
Dust in the bedroom can make symptoms worse at night.
Here are some tips for reducing dust and dust mites, another common allergen:
- avoiding wall-to-wall carpets, soft furniture, stuffed toys, and other items that collect dust
- washing bedding in hot water once a week
- ventilating the space
- preventing damp, as mold increases dust
6. Keep windows closed
Depending on where a person lives, keeping the windows closed may help reduce allergic reactions and coughing at night.
Keeping the windows closed may help eliminate dust, air pollution, and pollen from the sleeping area.
7. Use an air filter
Air filters and air purifiers can help remove particles from the air.
Results suggested that an air purifier fitted with a HEPA filter can significantly lower both the concentration of particles in the air and the need for medication in people with this condition.
8. Raise the head of the bed
Coughing often worsens at night because a person is lying flat in bed. Mucus can pool in the back of the throat and cause coughing.
Sleeping with the head elevated can reduce the symptoms of postnasal drip and GERD. Both can cause coughing at night.
A person can prop up the head of their bed using:
- an adjustable bed
- additional pillows
- blocks under the legs of the bed
- a back wedge
A change in sleep position can allow mucus to flow without causing coughing.
There are many herbal and natural remedies for a cough. Always check first with a doctor, as there is not enough scientific research to confirm that many natural remedies are effective and safe, and they may interact with other therapies.
Remedies such as essential oils and honey will not cure an underlying condition. A person with a severe cough will need medical treatment, too.
9. Drink lemon with honey
Drinking lemon with honey before bed may help soothe the throat and reduce irritation. According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, it has a similar effect to cough medicines.
10. Ivy leaf
Some cough mixtures contain natural expectorants, such as the extract of ivy leaf (Hedera helix).
Ivy leaf appears to loosen and thin mucus in the same way as acetylcysteine, another treatment for managing mucus, but with fewer side effects.
11. Thyme and primrose
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is an herb with antispasmodic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and antioxidant properties. The active ingredient in thyme is thymol.
Primrose (Primula officinalis) also has similar properties and is also an expectorant, helping the body expel mucus.
12. Essential oils
Essential oils may help reduce cough and other symptoms of bronchitis, bronchiolitis, and other upper respiratory tract infections.
Oils of the following plants have
Add a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint to water and use for inhalation.
Always check first with a doctor, as essential oils may not be safe for everyone. It is also crucial to follow the instructions for each oil and to use them correctly. Always keep them out of reach of children and pets.
Although research suggests that essential oils may have some health benefits, it is important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor or regulate the purity or quality of these. A person should talk with a healthcare professional before using essential oils, and they should be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. A person should always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
13. Gargle with warm salt water before bed
In 2021, some scientists concluded that using a saltwater gargle may
To make a saltwater gargle, a person can mix a teaspoon of salt in about 6 ounces of warm water and gargle a few times before bed. A person should spit out the saltwater after gargling.
14. Use a saline nasal spray
A doctor may recommend a saline or steroid nasal spray to irrigate the nasal passages and the upper airway. A saline spray contains a specially prepared solution of salt and water.
A saline nasal spray
- flush out particles in the nasal passages
- remove mucus and pathogens from the back of the throat
- manage chronic inflammatory conditions, such as sino-rhinitis
- prevent upper respiratory tract infections
According to a
This is a yoga-based treatment and one of the six cleansing techniques, or Shatkarmas, of Hatha yoga.
Similar to saltwater gargle or saline irrigation, the practice of Jala Neti uses a neti pot, a small pot filled with lukewarm saltwater with a spout for inserting the water into the nose.
In NetiKriya, a person takes the water into one side of the nose and then blows it back out through the other side of the nose.
- Leaning over a sink, tilt the head sideways so that the forehead and chin are level.
- Insert the spout into the upper nostril while breathing through the mouth.
- Allow the water to drain down through the lower nostril.
- Clear the nostrils and repeat on the other side.
It is an ancient practice that
The use of neti pots may not be safe for everyone, and people should check first with a doctor before using one. Always use purified water, as there is a
The FDA also urges people to ensure their hands and all equipment are clean.
NetiKriya is not suitable for those susceptible to ear infections.
Cough medications are available over the counter (OTC) or as a prescription. Prescription drugs are stronger.
These products may have side effects and interact with other drugs. A person should discuss their choices with a doctor or pharmacist first. It is also essential to choose the right sort for the person’s age and the type of cough they have.
Some formulations are especially for nighttime coughs and contain ingredients that help a person sleep, such as Tylenol cold plus flu plus cough night.
16. Cough suppressants
Cough suppressants block the cough reflex. They are available as OTC or prescription drugs. Some prescription cough suppressants contain codeine and are unsuitable for children
Expectorants include products such as guaifenesin (Mucinex). They thin the mucus in the lungs,
They can help treat upper respiratory tract infections and chronic respiratory diseases, including COPD.
18. Use a steroid nasal spray
A steroid spray, such as fluticasone propionate (Flonase), contains corticosteroid medications. These help reduce inflammation, and doctors sometimes prescribe them for people with nonallergic rhinitis. A steroid spray may also help manage a postnasal drip.
However, corticosteroid use can have adverse effects, including a possible worsening of asthma symptoms. It is essential to follow a doctor’s instructions when using a steroid spray.
Following a doctor’s recommendations about vaccinations can help prevent diseases that cause a cough.
A doctor may carry out tests to identify an underlying cause and treat it appropriately.
Seeking treatment and following the treatment plan for these conditions can help manage them and address a cough.
20. Seek treatment for GERD
GERD is a digestive disorder that causes regurgitation and heartburn. It happens when a sphincter (valve) in the esophagus becomes weak.
It can lead to throat irritation and coughing, especially at night when lying down.
A doctor may recommend:
- eating smaller meals more often and not eating from
3 hoursbefore bedtime raisingthe head of the bed at night
- avoiding substances that trigger symptoms, such as chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco
A doctor may also prescribe medications to manage symptoms.
21. LPR and postnasal drip
A common cause of a postnasal drip is LPR, sometimes called silent reflux. This is similar to GERD but does not cause heartburn. Instead, it can cause a postnasal drip, a cough, and a feeling like there is a lump in the throat.
People with LPR should:
- avoid trigger foods, such as spicy and fatty foods, chocolate, and alcohol
- avoid eating for 3 hours before bedtime
- sleep with the head of the bed raised
Polyps and other conditions can also cause a nighttime cough due to a postnasal drip.
22. Manage asthma
Using an air purifier and avoiding allergens can help manage asthma, but asthma is a potentially life threatening condition that needs medical attention.
Medication for asthma comes in different forms,
Some inhalers contain medications to open the airways, which may ease coughing and make breathing easier. Some are for regular, long-term use, and others provide rapid relief.
A cough can happen at any time, but some types of cough seem worse at night.
People with the following conditions may find their cough
Other causes of a cough include:
- respiratory tract infections such as a cold, the flu, COVID-19, and tuberculosis (TB)
- cystic fibrosis
- hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis
- breathing in lung irritants, including tobacco smoke, some chemicals, and air pollution
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis
- post-infectious cough, which lingers after another illness, such as the flu or COVID-19
use ofvarious drugs, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta-blockers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), methotrexate, amiodarone, and others
A person should see a doctor if they have a cough and any of the following symptoms:
- a fever
- a persistent cough
- coughing up blood
- chest pain
- trouble breathing
- any severe or worsening symptoms
It is always a good idea to seek medical help if a person has a cough or other symptoms that are causing concern.
The outlook will depend on the cause.
Quitting smoking may improve a cough after a
A cough from a cold or the flu usually goes away after 3–4 weeks. A post-infectious cough usually lasts
A nighttime cough can be distressing. If it causes sleep loss, it can affect a person’s mental and physical health.
Seeking help for a nighttime cough and following up on treatment for an underlying disorder can help improve the outlook.
Here are some answers to questions people often ask about stopping a cough.
What causes a nighttime cough?
There are many causes of a cough, and some are worse at night, including asthma and postnasal drip. Carpets, soft furnishings, bedding, and soft toys are common in bedrooms and all act as dust traps, which increases the risk. Lying flat in bed can also cause mucus to collect in the airway, making coughing more likely.
How can I stop it?
Many strategies may help stop a nighttime cough. They include hydrating the room, removing dust, keeping windows closed to keep out pollution and allergens, salt water nasal irrigation, herbal remedies, and prescription and OTC cough suppressants. Often, however, the most important action is to avoid smoking and address any underlying health conditions.
A cough can develop for many reasons. Some go away within a few days, while others persist or come and go throughout a person’s life. At night, some types of cough become worse.
Raising the head of the bed can help resolve some types of nighttime cough. Other tips depend on the cause. With GERD, LPR, and other causes of a postnasal drip, avoiding eating close to bedtime may help. Keeping a room clear of dust may help those with asthma and other allergies.
Anyone with a persistent nighttime cough should speak with a doctor, as there may be an underlying cause that needs addressing.