Why do my sinuses shut down at night?
May 18, 2010 7:33 AM   Subscribe

Too frequently, my sinuses ambush me at night. I'm fine throughout the day, then as soon as I hit the pillow--bam--something inside stuffs my nose for no decent reason other than to give me a headache that keeps me up half the night. Doc's X-rays show no abnormalities in my sinus cavities, but if I take his prescribed Allegra D too late in the day, the pseudoephedrine prevents me from sleeping. Do I need to move to a drier climate, or is there some miracle home remedy that I'm missing?
posted by jackypaper to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried Breathe Right strips? It doesn't answer why, but they're a freakin' miracle device for me.
posted by wg at 7:34 AM on May 18, 2010

Try a neti pot?
posted by leslies at 7:37 AM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Have you tried using a different pillow? A new mattress? Does this happen elsewhere, or only in your own home? Do your sinuses get congested anywhere if you're laying down horizontally, or only in your bed?

It might be worth trying non-synthetic organic bedding, in case you're sensitive to VOC offgassing. Good luck.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:38 AM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

When my sinuses are bugging me I use a neti pot a couple of hours before going to bed and sleep with a humidifier running in the room. Have you tried getting a new pillow or washing the one you have in very hot water? You may have a mild dust allergy.

You might also talk to your doctor about prescription nasal sprays that help keep your sinuses/nasal passages clear.
posted by corey flood at 7:40 AM on May 18, 2010

Fwiw I live in a dry climate and don't experience relief from sinus problems... ymmv though, I've moved to another country and experienced sweet relief from allergies and hence sinus problems.

If the sinus problems only come up at night, you might find a solution is to do a serious cleaning of your room and house - vaccuum and clean all surfaces, get rid of dust, keep the pets out of your room, possibly have the vents cleaned in your house if you have central air, replace your pillows, wash your bedding, vaccuum the bed to remove dust mites. How old's your bed? If it's several years old then you might consider getting a new one, those things get dirty with dust mites.
posted by lizbunny at 7:40 AM on May 18, 2010

Seconding a Neti pot. It has changed my life. It's hard to do it the first time, and it also seems like stuff comes out that has been up there for YEARS, (never do it in front of anyone, even one's S. O.) but it will flush out a lot of the irritants that are possibly making your nights harder.
posted by Danf at 7:42 AM on May 18, 2010

I take Loratadine [generic Claritin] and that makes me a little muzzy in the evenings which is okay for sleeping. I also used Benadryl before I did this, same results. Can you take your allergy medicine in the morning? But yes I'd really suggest trying to eliminate things from your sleeping area to see if you have the same problems. So try a few things and ask yourself some questions

- do you get stuffy when you're reading in bed and not lying down?
- do you get stuffy when you lie down somewhere that is NOT your bed?
- do you have an evening routine that might contain an allergen [moisturizer, soap]
- does this come and go with the seasons?
- can you try a new laundry soap and/or fabric softener?
- do you have enighbors say in an apartment building who smoke or who do other nighttime things that may trigger your allergies?
- try a new: pillow, comforter, mattress pad [you can get some nice hypoallergenic mattress covers] make sure you dust your room and maybe use an air filter.

Good luck, I know that tracking this stuff down is no fun.
posted by jessamyn at 7:44 AM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the pillow and bed suggestions. Pillows can hold an amazing amount of dust (most of which is human skin--gross).

You might try taking a non-pseudoephedrine allergy med (I had great luck with Singulair for a year or so until it stopped helping as much) instead.
posted by ropeladder at 7:45 AM on May 18, 2010

Oh and I talked to my doc and got a nasal spray when it was really bad, before settling on the Loratadine. I think I used Nasonex or one of the other ridiculously-named options. I found that using it before bed helped the "gah I am lying down and my nose is closing" cycle to stop.
posted by jessamyn at 7:50 AM on May 18, 2010

neti pot. Amount of salt is very important, if it's not exactly right, it will be painful and annoying, otherwise it's totally easy to do.
posted by rainy at 7:52 AM on May 18, 2010

I'm allergic to down and can't have down pillows or comforters. Do you know if you're allergic? Because that could be a match for the rapid reactions you describe.
posted by Askr at 7:56 AM on May 18, 2010

This happens to me, I wake up during the night with the drip and in the morning a hacking cough. Since I started to vacuum my mattress , once a week and wash my pillowcases & sheets in a fragrance free detergent it's gotten much better! No allergy medication has really ever helped me.
posted by jara1953 at 8:11 AM on May 18, 2010

I've done pretty much everything jessamyn has advocated, to great effect. I completely screwed it up by sleeping with the windows open last night, but that's my own fault.

My contributions:
- Try sleeping with your head elevated. Just enough of an angle so that your sinuses can drain. In the worst case you'll end up with a sore throat, but less head congestion.
- Benadryl before you go to sleep. I never take it during the day because I turn into a zombie, but taking a good-sized dose before bed helps.
- Swap your Allegra D prescription for a normal Allegra one. I tend to go nuts if I take too much pseudoephedrine, and the extended release stuff like that kills me off. You can parcel it out in four hour increments throughout the day, and avoid taking it in the evening. I like the control of having the two medications separate.
- Stay hydrated. Medications like Mucinex can help "unstick" congestion, but being hydrated is much more effective for head congestion.
posted by mikeh at 8:22 AM on May 18, 2010

A few years ago, after suffering with the same symptoms as the OP, I determined that I am allergic to feather down. Pillows, sleepingbags, coats, vests filled with down set my sinuses running like a faucet. So I ditched everything with feathers and have not had a problem since.
posted by birdwatcher at 8:54 AM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Drier climates don't help sinuses, you want more moisture, as many people above are saying. I would look for environmental solutions, not just medicine, since these seems to happen due to where you are. Consider getting a cool mist humidifier. Neti pot is a good choice, too.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:54 AM on May 18, 2010

I had this problem, and it went away with a recent move. My theory: dustmites. Despite my attention to vaccuuming, there was an unbelievable amount of dust under our bed when we moved out of the apartment. Combine that with the new mattress in the new place, and no more nighttime stuffiness and coughing.

If you can't afford to replace pillows and mattresses, try an allergen-barrier of some sort -- washable, zippered covers are a pretty cheap fix, and you'll feel SO much better.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 8:55 AM on May 18, 2010

I had this too, I vacuumed my pillows and mattress (found a Kirby curbside - YAY!) and it definitely helped.

washing blankets may help too. If I don't wash wool every fall it can make me all sneezy.
posted by KenManiac at 8:56 AM on May 18, 2010

nthing some kind of sinus rinse. I'm an annoying relentless fan of the NeilMed Sinus Rinse which, while somewhat nasty, is made bearable by the hypotonic salts and a 30s nuke in the microwave to warm it.
posted by scruss at 9:14 AM on May 18, 2010

Nthing dustmites. Try getting hypoallergenic covers for your pillow, mattress and duvet. You need to do all 3 to be effective, then wait a week and see if it improves.
posted by felspar at 9:17 AM on May 18, 2010

I am allergic to some mould and go through the same thing in the seasons this mould is supposed to grow. The clean pillow and mattress works for me too. This should probably work for a number of allergies. Do you know if there is something you're allergic to?
posted by niyati182 at 9:56 AM on May 18, 2010

I'm fine throughout the day, then as soon as I hit the pillow--bam--something inside stuffs my nose for no decent reason other than to give me a headache that keeps me up half the night.

Nth-nth-nthing dustmites. Mayo Clinic page on reducing dustmites.

If you are allergic to dustmites, you can take Benedryl before bed, if you tolerate it okay (I don't.)
posted by desuetude at 10:08 AM on May 18, 2010

Dustmites and down pillow/comforter, those are easy to address and likely to be your problems. I wouldn't try the other stuff until I'd addressed those. Good luck.
posted by davejay at 10:47 AM on May 18, 2010

Everyone else has given good advice re: dust mites, down, etc. Here are a couple of things that have made me breathe so much easier at night:

Flonase is a godsend to me. I really cannot do without it, especially in allergy season.

During pollen season (late spring for me) I have to take a shower EVERY afternoon/evening without fail, rinse my hair, and change my sheets and pillowcases frequently. Pollen grains are clingy little guys and they will follow you home and into bed if you aren't careful.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:29 AM on May 18, 2010

Nthing everyone in that you should look closely into allergies as your symptoms don't sound like typical sinus issues. As far as meds go, I started using Nasacort AQ recently on an as needed basis and it works wonders for me. Its a topical steroid spray that helps reduce swelling and doesn't have any of the systemic effects that you can get from oral meds.
posted by rtimmel at 12:08 PM on May 18, 2010

Go through your routine and see if you can isolte what's going on - is it something in your bed, something about the time of year, something about the time of day, something about your routine? An odd thing my mom found - she thought she was allergic to her pillow and was doing all sorts of dust-cover stuff, but it turned out to be her toothpaste.
posted by aimedwander at 1:02 PM on May 18, 2010

Are you using a feather or down doona?

This can cause sinus irritation, both from dust and dust mite,

and also from tiny pieces of feathers that the doona sheds, and which you then inadvertently breathe in.

Nthing that sinus irritation/blockage means you want more humidity in your bedroom, not less.

Perhaps consider a humidifier?
posted by Oceanesque at 3:33 PM on May 18, 2010

Flushing your sinuses won't help much if your head hitting the pillow kicks up a cloud of pollen and dust mite poop. Get rid of feather bedding, and consider getting allergy covers for your mattress and pillows.
posted by dws at 4:41 PM on May 18, 2010

I have this. Tried everything,

Apparently it was reflux! Got worse when I laid down! Who knew! Consider it.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:52 PM on May 18, 2010

You can throw your pillow in the dryer for 30 minutes on the hottest setting to help kill off the dust mites/mold. It's cheaper than buying new pillows all the time. I found out that the new energy saver type dryers don't always get hot enough. I might give the vacuuming a try. I miss my old super hot energy wasteful dryer.
posted by stray thoughts at 10:07 PM on May 19, 2010

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