Nosebleeds are messy, inconvenient and often look much worse than they are. Nosebleeds at night, during sleep can scary, shocking and overwhelming. A pillow covered in blood is not the ideal image for anyone to wake up to. Even though it may look like a crime scene, don't panic. Nosebleeds are common and can be easily controlled by taking just a few steps.
The most common causes for nosebleeds, especially at night, are dryness from heat, excessive nose blowing, nose picking and allergies. Dry air causes mucus in the nose to become dry and crusty, which can lead to flaking inside the nose, which leads to bleeding. The nose is loaded with small, sensitive blood vessels that bleed easily, especially when irritated by picking, rubbing or blowing. Additional causes can be colds, smoking, upper-respiratory infections, an item stuck in the nose, high blood pressure, tumors, facial injuries, blood-clotting disorders, a result of blood-thinning medicine or aspirin, and drug use.
What to do
If you wake up with a nosebleed, don't panic. Sit up or stand, don't remain in bed. Tip your head forward and pinch the soft cartilage below the bone in your nose with a tissue or washcloth. A common misconception about stopping a nosebleed is that you should tilt your head back. However, you should never lean your head back as this will cause blood to drip into your throat. Always lean forward and pinch. You can also use a cold compress or an ice pack. Never stuff tissues or gauze into your nostrils as they could get stuck. When the bleeding stops, do not pick or blow your nose for a few hours. Try to avoid picking, period. If the bleeding doesn't stop after 10 to 20 minutes, or if it happens again and again, see a doctor or call for emergency care.
What will a doctor do?
If you choose to see a doctor, he will try to find where the bleeding originates by examining your nose and asking questions about the frequency of bleeds, if the bleeding occurs in both nostrils, whether bleeds stop quickly, if you have noticed blood anywhere else such as in your stool, or if have you vomited blood. If the doctor discovers that your nosebleed was caused by dry air or allergies, he may recommend a humidifier, a nasal saline spray or gel to prevent irritation. He'll also likely check the vessels, check for breaks and make sure there aren't any other underlying issues that may be more serious. If bleeding is frequent enough to warrant treatment, your doctor may recommend cauterization, which involves burning the vessels that are prone to bleeding with special solutions and a heated device.
Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Avoid excessive rubbing. Open your mouth when you sneeze. Quit smoking, as smoke can dry the nostrils. Trim fingernails to avoid scratching the inside of the nose. Don't pick your nose.