5 Causes of Nighttime Coughs and What to Do About Them

Everyone experiences coughing fits now and then. Coughing has a valuable purpose of ridding your lungs of excess mucus or irritants. However, when coughing occurs while you’re sleeping, it can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest.

So, are you being kept awake at night due to bad cough? Do you know what’s specifically causing it? If not, here are the reasons on what causes cough at night which you ought to know, and that may be hindering you from getting the sleep you need.

1. Allergies

Coughing at night with frequent throat clearing as well as hoarseness may be due to postnasal drip from allergic rhinitis or sinusitis. Hay fever and other allergies may give you a stuffy nose that will drip into your throat. Common triggers of allergies include dust, mold, and pet dander.

To reduce allergy-related coughing at night, try these tips:

  • Use a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter on your bedroom floor weekly to get rid of dust.
  • Rid your bedroom of dust magnets such as books, magazines, and trinkets.
  • Wash your bedding in hot water once a week.
  • Shower before sleeping to remove outdoor allergens like pollen.

Cleaning often is essential in keeping your bedroom free from allergens. If you’re too busy, get a cleaning service to eliminate allergens and enjoy restful, sound sleep.

2. Asthma

When air tubes in your lungs start to narrow and close up, too much mucus will start to build up. This is why people with asthma may experience dry cough at night because they aren’t able to take in enough air while they breathe. Dust buildup in your bedroom may worsen your asthma which then triggers you to have a coughing fit at night.

A prescription inhaler can stop coughing at night caused by asthma. Inhalers contain respiratory medications that help open the airways which can ease cough and make breathing easier.

3. Dry air

Dry air can make your cough worse at night. Air conditioning units during summer and heating systems during winter can make your home environment dry.

You can try using a humidifier before you sleep to add moisture into the air. Adding humidity through this method can help soothe your throat and prevent coughing. However, keep in mind that too much moisture may contribute to mold growth which can cause even more coughing.

A good target is to aim for about 50 percent humidity level in the bedroom.

4. Heartburn or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Even if you don’t feel any burning or pain, stomach acid that trickles up and bothers the nerves in the lower area of your esophagus can cause coughing at night.

If you have GERD, talk to your doctor about how you can manage your condition. Avoiding foods that can trigger heartburn, such as fried, fatty foods, spices, citrus fruits and chocolate, and not eating for about four hours prior to sleeping may help reduce the symptoms.

5. Smoking

When you smoke cigarettes, cigars, or vaporizers, you inhale various chemical ingredients. These chemicals will get stuck in your throat and lungs. This can result in coughing which is your body’s natural reaction to clear the airways of foreign bodies.

The best remedy to decrease coughing is to quit smoking. Consult with your doctor about getting help or using aids for quitting like gum, medication, and nicotine patches.

Other Nighttime Cough Remedies

To get the sleep and rest your body needs, here are other solutions you can try to get nighttime relief:

1. Drink tea with honey.

Hot tea with honey helps in soothing the throat. It also reduces irritation and loosens mucus.

2. Take over-the-counter medicine.

You may need cough suppressants or expectorants if your coughing is severe. These medications can ease your condition so that you enjoy a good night’s sleep. Classifications of cough medications are typically either of the following:


  • Cough suppressants – help block the cough reflex.
  • Expectorants – thins mucus in the lungs, making it easier to expel.

When taking cough medications, bear in mind that they may have side effects and react with other drugs. So, it’s best that you consult with a doctor or pharmacist first.

3. Elevate your head.

Often, coughing becomes worse at night because you’re lying flat in bed. Mucus can start to pool in the back of your throat then cause a coughing fit. By sleeping with your head elevated, you can decrease postnasal drip and the symptoms of GERD which both cause nighttime coughing.

Use a few pillows or a back wedge to prop up your head on the bed. A change in your sleeping position can also allow mucus to flow without causing coughs.

4. Gargle with warm salt water.

Salt water is capable of easing a sore or irritated throat. It also helps in removing mucus from the back of your throat. If you want to reduce coughing at night, mix a teaspoon of salt in six ounces of warm water, then gargle it before bed.

5. Use a saline nasal spray

A saline nasal spray can help reduce dryness, thin mucus, and remove allergens and irritants from the nose. Since the spray contains salt and water, it can also decrease postnasal drip.

When nothing works, see a doctor

You can reduce the common causes of nighttime coughing by trying any one of the suggestions given above. However, if nothing seems to work and you can’t get a good night’s rest, don’t hesitate to see your doctor.


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Content presented by American Residential Services, Inc., a UV air cleaning company

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