man coughing in bed

Ways to help with coughing at night

If you, your partner or your kids are suffering through sleepless nights because of an uncontrollable cough, don’t despair. There are many ways you can help a sore throat.

First things first, what can cause night time coughing?

Coughing is your body’s natural way of clearing your airways and lungs of any mucus or bacteria which might be irritating them. There are many reasons why you might be struck with a bout of night time coughing and identifying exactly what is causing yours will be to key to treating it.

In most cases, coughing can be attributed to1:

An infection – if you’ve got a cold, the flu or a respiratory infection such as bronchitis, coughing is a common symptom.

Asthma – as asthma can restrict the airways and make them feel inflamed, a dry cough is not unusual.

Indigestion – coughing, along with a burning sensation in the chest, is a common symptom of heartburn. 

An allergy – coughing is a primary symptom of various allergies, especially dust allergies, hay fever or pet allergies.

Smoking – long-term smokers will often have a persistent, chesty cough which should slowly go away if you decide to quit.

How can I stop coughing at night?

While most coughs usually clear up on their own within a few weeks, you might be able to speed them along., Why not consider:

Purchasing a humidifier

The dry, hot air that comes out of heaters can cause havoc with your airways if you have a cough. Instead, make sure the air is kept moist in your bedroom while you sleep by buying a humidifier (also known as an air vaporiser) which works by pumping a thin mist around the room2. You could even add a few drops of peppermint oil to the water in your humidifier3.

Drinking hot honey and lemon

Before bed, try sipping on some hot honey and lemon. Honey has antibacterial properties and may help a sore throat, while lemon juice is a great source of vitamin C4. Alternatively, try taking a spoonful of manuka honey every day or sucking on lozenges containing honey or bee pollen.

Elevating yourself as you sleep

Many people often cough at night as lying horizontally allows mucus to flow more freely to the back of the throat and, consequently, irritate it. When you go to bed, try propping yourself up with an extra pillow.

Cleaning your bedroom

Dust mites and pet hair will definitely increase the likelihood of your night time coughing if it’s being caused by an allergy. To lower the risk, make sure your bedroom is cleaned regularly, you change your bedding every one to two weeks and that you don’t let your pets sleep in the same room as you5.

Breathing through your nose

When you’re trying to fall asleep, make sure you inhale and exhale through your nose (if it’s not blocked) instead of your mouth. This will put less stress on your throat if it’s sore and help keep it moist if you suffer with a dry cough6.

I’ve tried all these methods – what else can I do?

If you’re unable to conquer your night time coughing or your cough has been around for longer than three weeks, consider seeing your GP as they may be able to prescribe you something, especially if you have a bacterial infection.

Note that coughing accompanied by a high fever, vomiting, bloody phlegm or breathing difficulties can be a sign of a much more serious health condition7. Seek medical attention immediately if you or your children experience more than one of these symptoms.

Last updated: 20 April 2020

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