If you get nighttime coughs, you may want to try a lozenge, a humidifier, or elevating your head or neck.
It’s late. You’d like to be sound asleep — but every time you begin to drift off, a cough jolts you awake again.
A nighttime cough can be disruptive and frustrating. You need to sleep so you can get the rest you need to fight your illness and function during the day. But your nagging cough won’t let you get the elusive sleep you so badly need.
So, what can you do to conquer your cough at night?
In this article, we’ll look at some possibilities you may want to consider for different types of coughs, including wet and dry coughs and those ticklish back-of-the-throat ones.
Wet coughs, which are sometimes called productive coughs, often involve excessive mucus in the chest, throat, and mouth.
Elevate your head and neck
Sleeping flat on your back or on your side can cause mucus to accumulate in your throat, which can trigger a cough.
Try an expectorant
Expectorants thin the mucus in your airways, making it easier to cough up phlegm.
Swallow a little honey
Drink a warm beverage
A steamy, warm beverage may help soothe a throat that’s become irritated from coughing and also loosen up mucus.
Take a hot shower
Steam from a warm shower may help loosen mucus in your chest and sinuses, clearing your airways.
Less commonly, dry coughs could be caused by whooping cough.
Try a lozenge
Throat lozenges can be found at drugstores and retailers, and they come in an assortment of flavors.
Whichever one you try, be sure to finish the lozenge before you lie down so you don’t choke on it. Avoid giving lozenges to young children as they can be a choking hazard.
Consider a decongestant
Decongestants can help dry up the postnasal drip that can cause that nagging nighttime cough.
Decongestants are not safe for people who have high blood pressure or children younger than 12.
Look into a cough suppressant
Cough suppressants, which are also known as antitussives, prevent coughing by blocking your cough reflex.
They can be helpful for dry nighttime coughs, as they may stop your cough reflex from being triggered while you sleep.
Drink plenty of fluids
Staying hydrated is especially important when you’re feeling under the weather. Drinking fluids throughout the day can help keep your throat lubricated, which can help protect it from irritants and other coughing triggers.
Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Just be sure to stop drinking fluids at least an hour before bedtime to avoid bathroom trips during the night.
If your cough is being caused by allergies or postnasal drip, you may be kept awake by an itchy or ticklish cough.
Use a humidifier
Air that’s too dry can irritate your throat and send you into a flurry of coughing.
One word of caution: Be careful not to overdampen the air. Allergens like dust mites and mold can worsen in wet air, and asthma can sometimes be exacerbated by dampness.
Keep your bedding clean
The American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology recommends that you wash your sheets, mattress covers, blankets, and pillowcases in hot water at 130°F (54.4°C) or higher, once a week.
Try an oral antihistamine
Consult with a healthcare professional about whether your cough would respond to an OTC or prescription medication that blocks your body’s production of histamines or acetylcholine, both of which stimulate coughing.
A cough can be caused by a wide variety of conditions and circumstances. If you understand the cause of your cough, it may be easier for you to choose an effective remedy.
These conditions and factors are all known to cause coughing:
- viruses like colds and flu
- bacterial infections like pneumonia and bronchitis
- postnasal drip
- certain medications, such as ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, and some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- cystic fibrosis
- whooping cough
Consider getting a whooping cough vaccination, and if you smoke, know that quitting may improve your cough in as little as 8 weeks.
In most cases, a cough that’s caused by an infection or irritant will usually clear up within a few weeks with home remedies or over-the-counter (OTC) medication.
But there may be times when a cough is more serious. Make an appointment with a healthcare professional if:
- your cough lasts longer than 3 weeks
- your cough turns from dry to wet
- you’re coughing up increased amounts of phlegm
- you also have a fever, shortness of breath, or vomiting
- you’re wheezing
- your ankles are swollen
- you’re experiencing unintentional or unexplained weight loss
Seek immediate medical attention if you have a cough and:
How can I stop coughing at night?
Some short-term remedies for a wet cough may include taking an expectorant, swallowing honey, and drinking a warm beverage before bed. For a dry cough, you can try sucking on a lozenge and taking a decongestant before bed, as well as elevating your head while you sleep. If your cough persists or your symptoms worsen, speak with a doctor. They can diagnose the underlying cause and provide a treatment plan that’s right for you.
What is the best position to sleep in when you have a cold and cough?
Avoid laying flat on your back if you have a cough. This may cause mucus to accumulate in your throat, triggering a cough. Instead, try keeping your head and neck elevated. You can stack some pillows or plush items to create an elevated surface to rest your head and neck on.
How do you sleep with a COVID cough?
If COVID-19 has caused a dry cough, try setting up pillows to help keep you propped up on your side while sleeping. This may help prevent irritation that could cause coughing. If you have a wet cough, elevate your head by propping yourself up on a few pillows.
Can lying on your stomach help with a cough?
Laying on your stomach with your back end elevated may help drain your lungs, but it’s unlikely to alleviate a cough. It may actually make the pressure in your sinuses worse.
A nighttime cough can be disruptive, but there are many effective treatments available to lessen its severity and duration so you can sleep more peacefully.
If your cough is caused by a cold, the flu, or allergies, you may be able to ease your cough by trying some simple home remedies or by taking OTC cough, cold, or allergy medications.
If your symptoms last longer than a few weeks or your symptoms worsen, consult with a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.