Why is my cough worse at night? Should I be concerned? We’re answering these and other questions about nighttime coughing.
RELATED: Why Do We Cough?
Coughing at Night Questions Answered
Why Is My Cough Worse at Night?
Coughing is your body’s way of clearing your airways. If you have a cough, you may notice it’s worse at night. There are two main reasons why your cough gets worse at night.
Coughing gets worse at night because you’re lying down.
When you lie down, phlegm drips down the back of the throat and begins to pool. It then triggers a cough reflex to get rid of the obstruction.
Your cough may be worse at night because gravity causes stomach acid to creep up your throat. The rising stomach acid irritates nerves in the esophagus, which sets off a reflexive action, and you cough.
Environmental factors can aggravate a cough as well.
Dry air is the main culprit. The nose and mouth add moisture to the air before reaching the lungs. If the air is dry, it can cause dehydration, dry out your sinuses, and disrupt the moisture layer that lines the lower airways in the lungs.
Besides, irritants and allergens in your home can make you cough more. Dust mites and pet dander are two of the most common causes. But, mold, detergents, or other chemicals may also be to blame.
What Causes a Dry Cough at Night?
In many cases, the environment causes a dry cough at night, but other possible causes include GERD, asthma, and ACE inhibitors.
GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease)
GERD causes stomach acid to back up into the throat. If you’re only coughing when lying down or after eating, GERD is the most likely explanation.
A GERD-induced cough is dry and spasmodic. It’s also the second most common cause of chronic cough.
Asthma causes inflamed airways. As a result, people experience difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing.
An asthma cough is dry and ends with a wheeze or rattle, and it gets worse during physical activity and at night.
Doctors often prescribe ACE inhibitors to treat high blood pressure. In roughly 20% of patients, it causes coughing. The cough is dry and usually begins a few weeks after starting the medication.
What Causes a Productive Cough at Night?
A productive cough produces phlegm that your body tries to expel by coughing. As mentioned, phlegm pools in the back of the throat, making you cough more when lying down.
Common causes of productive cough are postnasal drip, respiratory infections, and pneumonia.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) causes a hacking cough that produces a lot of phlegm. The cough is often worse in the morning but gets better as the day progresses. While people with COPD cough more during the day, it may still interrupt sleep.
Why Is My Child Coughing at Night?
Children cough for similar reasons as adults. That is to say, environment, postnasal drip, infection, and acid reflux.
Other possible causes include aspiration (food or liquid particles in the lungs), a blockage, or habit. These are, however, not explicitly related to night time.
How Do I Stop Coughing at Night?
Before you start treatment, it’s vital to figure out what is causing a cough. In most cases, your doctor can prescribe a course of action to help manage nighttime coughing. Additionally, there are some home remedies you can try.
- A humidifier adds moisture to the air, but only use sterile water to prevent cycling germs back into the air.
- Avoid irritants. Make your bedroom a sanctuary by keeping the windows closed and pets out. You can also try an air purifier.
- Drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Keep some water next to your bed as well.
- Suck on a menthol cough drop or hard candy before bed to help lubricate your throat.
- Prop up your pillows so that your body is more upright while you sleep to prevent phlegm from pooling in your throat.
- Manage acid reflux and GERD symptoms.
- Add raw honey to tea or swallow it straight. It’s a natural cough suppressant and may help a coughing child sleep better.
Should I See a Doctor If I’m Coughing at Night?
Coughing at night often follows an upper respiratory infection and is more annoying than dangerous. But, if it lasts more than two months or severely affects sleep, make an appointment with your doctor.
You should also visit your doctor if you experience other symptoms, including:
- chest pain
- bloody phlegm
- shortness of breath
- unexplained weight loss
Overall, if you’re concerned, it’s always best to speak to a healthcare professional.
Why Is My Cough Worse at Night? | Summary
Coughing is worse at night because gravity causes phlegm to collect in the throat or environmental factors dry and irritate airways. Common causes include infections, asthma, acid reflux, and allergens. Visit your doctor if you’re concerned about a nighttime cough. Finally, some home remedies may help, but your doctor can prescribe the best treatment to manage nighttime coughing.
Is your cough worse at night? How do you deal with nighttime coughing? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!