Why do my sinuses always close up at night?
April 3, 2014 8:12 AM   Subscribe

The older I get, the worse my sinus issues. Throughout the day, my nasal passages are mostly okay, but it never fails: I get into bed at night, close my eyes, and ten minutes later I can't breathe. While I'm working my way through various remedies (drugs, doctors, homebrewed quackery, et cetera), I'd just like to know WHY this invariably happens? What's going on up inside my head?
posted by jackypaper to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe when you lie down, your sinuses can no longer drain via gravity?
posted by The otter lady at 8:15 AM on April 3, 2014

Possibly an allergy for bed mites and/or dust. I've had great success spraying my mattress with something that kills mites (I am using a German brand called Milbiol, which is a spray of some non-toxic plant matter that disrupts the mite's reproduction).
posted by Namlit at 8:17 AM on April 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

Long shot, but: Do you have feather pillows, a feather mattress pad, down comforter, etc.? If so, it is possible you have developed a feather allergy, even if it didn't bother you in the past. (Ask me how I know.) Or it could be a dust mite allergy, as Namlit suggests. Or both! Or some other allergen!

In your situation, I would replace any feather bedding with non-feather versions, and wash all your bedding (even pillows) on hot/dry on hot to kill any mites, and also vacuum your mattress. Also, dusting and HEPA-vaccing your bedroom will help, although the most helpful thing IME is removing all possible allergens in your bedding.

Allergen-resistant pillow and mattress covers can also help, but really it's all about killing/removing the mites. IME the covers just increase the time you can go between cleanings.
posted by pie ninja at 8:21 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Easy way to narrow this down, using Ye Olde Scientific Method:

- Lie down for 10 - 15 minutes on the bed in the middle of the day; see how your sinuses do.
- Lie down in some other location for 10 - 15 minutes at night; see how your sinuses do.
- Lie down in some other location for 10 - 15 minutes in the middle of the day, see how your sinuses do.

That'll tell you whether it's the time of day, the location, OR just flat-out "being in a horizontal position". I suspect the other posters are on to something re: the bedding, however.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:25 AM on April 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, folks. I'll definitely attend to that bedding and any possible infestation. Ew!
posted by jackypaper at 8:29 AM on April 3, 2014

It could be something else in your bedroom, like carpet or a plant.
posted by mareli at 8:29 AM on April 3, 2014

This was me for a long time. I have a dust mite allergy. I recently started taking loratadine (generic brand clairitin). It has been incredibly helpful, because really there's no perfectly effective way to get rid of mites. You can get Equate brand pills incredibly cheap at Wal-Mart.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:32 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had this. I did a MAJOR clean of my bedroom, including moving my bed out of the way and cleaning VERY thoroughly the floor that is normally hidden under it. I was/am horrified at how much dust and dirt and crap was under there. The first night after I mega cleaned I was worst than ever, just because of all the dust and junk I kicked up during the cleaning. After that, though... sleep heaven.

And yeah, wash your pillows regularly. Or maybe you are due to buy some new ones. My husband was a crap sleeper when we first got together. I saw that his pillow was super gross and stained yellow and he admitted he never washed his pillows. I washed his pillows in hot water with bleach and voila! He sleeps.

And wash your blankets/comforter. Seriously. Bedding can be a big culprit in this.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:42 AM on April 3, 2014

Dust mites are everywhere, and aren't necessarily treated as an infestation like bed bugs would be. If you get a mattress enclosure (not just a top cover) and similar pillow covers, you can take care of most issues. Wash your bedding weekly in hot water, and get an air purifier with Hepa filter for the bedroom. Dust mites are my most serious allergen, and these recommendations come from my allergist.
posted by bizzyb at 8:45 AM on April 3, 2014

Could the air in your bedroom be too dry? My partner sleeps much better when the humudifier is filled and running; he will snore if it's not. The dry air clogs up his nose.

Easy enough to try out: spray a mist of water in the room before you go to bed, and see if that helps any. If it does, get a humidifier.
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:50 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can get dust mite covers for your pillow and mattress. Way more effective than trying to clean those things.

I have dust mite allergies, and have a two-prong approach: dust mite covers and allergy medicine right before bed.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:51 AM on April 3, 2014

Acid reflux can do this.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:55 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

When this happened to my then-fiancé, the culprit was a mold colony behind the headboard (we lived in a beach community).
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:00 AM on April 3, 2014

I used to have this issue, and my kids woke up every morning all sniffly, but washing our bedding regularly with Demite, which reduces dust mite allergens, took care of things. We're all breathing much more clearly at night.

Although I'm wondering if there's also a more mechanic thing at work too. Maybe when you lie down there's more blood flowing into your sinus tissues which causes them to expand and make breathing through your nose more difficult?
posted by bassomatic at 9:14 AM on April 3, 2014

This sounds very familiar. Loratadine, aka Claritin, works wonders for my dust-mite allergy, if you're looking for a particular medication to try first. You can get "Equate" generic brand very cheap from Wal-Mart.
posted by vogon_poet at 9:25 AM on April 3, 2014

Chances are it's your pillow.

Aspergillus fumigatus and dust mites have probably set up a mutual admiration society in your pillow, and it can be pretty difficult to break that up-- but it turns out that feather pillows are more resistant to developing this problem than synthetics.

My guess is that the Aspergillus spores are the major source of your issues.
posted by jamjam at 10:19 AM on April 3, 2014

Response by poster: Again, thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread. I will begin trying these suggestions tonight!
posted by jackypaper at 10:38 AM on April 3, 2014

A deviated septum can do this, too.
posted by Gev at 10:42 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is there by any chance an AC vent blowing right on your face when you are in bed?

There is a lot of mold in HVAC labyrinths which in not a problem for most people most of the time. (Mold and poo germs - they're everywhere!) Could be a problem for
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:16 AM on April 3, 2014

You might benefit from an anti-histamine nasal spray like Astepro. This is a relatively new prescription product that is a topical anti-histamine for your nasal passages that doesn't have all the systemic side effects of oral anti-histamines like Claritin or Allegra. It is like the difference between using a hydrocortisone cream for a rash instead of taking oral doses of Prednisone -- faster acting and fewer side effects.
posted by JackFlash at 11:31 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're laundering in cold or warm (not hot) water, adding a 1/2 cup -1 cup of borax to the load will kill dust mites. Borax will also make your laundry detergent more effective. If you have carpeting in your bedroom, you can also sprinkle borax on it, let it sit for a few hours and vacuum it up.
posted by quince at 3:00 PM on April 3, 2014

I get into bed at night, close my eyes, and ten minutes later I can't breathe.

What is the cause of your inability to breathe? I ask because your description implies to me that your sinuses are swelling shut. I have had that happen. It is a very different thing from getting stopped up with mucus. It is due to inflammation and the inflammation can be due to an allergic reaction.
posted by Michele in California at 3:27 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, get a sleep test. What feels like closed sinuses could be your soft palate and uvula dropping down and blocking inhalation, i.e., Obstructive Sleep Apnea. You'll need an order from your Primary Care Physician to have your insurance pay for it.

I have swelling sinuses and sleep apnea and have been sleeping with a CPAP for over 30 years. It changes your life to get a good night's sleep.
posted by KRS at 8:09 AM on April 4, 2014

My sinuses have always been horrifically congested. It was always worse at night when I lay down to go to sleep. It got worse over the years. Recently I started using Flonase (don't know what the generic name is). Works like a charm. My sinuses will never be clear, but I can totally breathe through my nose now! It's awesome!
posted by evil otto at 11:39 AM on April 6, 2014

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