Why Do Noses Get Stuffy at Night?

Everyone, young, old, male and female, will at some point in their lives, have problems breathing through their nose. These breathing problems could be related to a medical condition that requires medication or even surgery. The breathing problems could be related to something simple, such as dry air. Either way, for most people, it seems that the nose stuffiness worsens at night.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


The nose prepares the air before it reaches your lungs. At times, the process is hindered by changes in humidity levels. When there is an inadequate amount of humidity in the air, the nasal membranes cannot produce enough mucous. The nasal passages can dry out and cause irritation and swelling. We breathe deeper when we sleep, therefore, the problem is amplified at night.


Sinuses are small airbags, found in the bones of the face. When they cannot drain properly, it is very difficult to breath through your nose. This problem can worsen at night when you lay down. Gravity plays a role in sinus drainage. While in a lying position, the sinuses may drain down the back of your throat, causing irritation. If you lay on one side or the other, the sinuses will drain to that side, making it difficult to breathe through the nose.


Allergies could cause nighttime stuffiness. If night is the only time you appear to have problems breathing out of your nose, you may be allergic to the material and or stuffing, that is contained in your pillow. Allergens cause an influx of histamines, which lead to a stuffy nose.

An allergic reaction may be caused from laundry detergent and the direct contact your face has with the sheets and pillowcase as you sleep.

Deviated Septum

For some, their nose only gets stuffy at night when they lay on their side. A deviated septum could cause this problem. The septum is the thin layer of cartilage that lies between the two nostrils. A deviated septum could be a birth defect, or caused from an injury. When you lay on your side, the obstruction narrows the passage making breathing more difficult.

Sprays and Surgeries

There are many sprays on the market that will relieve a stuffy nose. Most of these nose sprays should be used sparingly. The medicated nose sprays should only be used on a temporary basis. If you have a stuffy nose every night, it is best to seek the advise of a medical professional. Some nose sprays can become addictive, and with prolonged use, can damage the nasal passages.

A medical professional will also be able to diagnose a more serious problem, such as a deviated septum, which may require surgery in order to fix the breathing problems.

A humidifier, or saline nose spray can relieve the stuffy nose feeling you get at night when the air is dry, by adding moisture to the environment.