A woman in bed coughing at night

Why you're coughing at night: understanding the triggers.

Are you struggling with nighttime coughing? At CityMD, we understand how disruptive and uncomfortable it can be.

In this article, we'll explore the common triggers for coughing at night, provide tips on sleeping positions to alleviate coughing and discuss how CityMD can help you find relief.

Common triggers for coughing at night.

Nighttime coughing can be triggered by various factors, including:

  • Postnasal drip: Excess mucus dripping down the throat can irritate the airways, leading to coughing.
  • Allergies: Allergens like dust, pollen or pet dander can worsen nighttime coughing.
  • Asthma: Asthma symptoms often worsen at night, leading to coughing and difficulty breathing.
  • Acid reflux: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause stomach acid reflux into the throat, triggering coughing.
  • Respiratory infections: Common colds, flu or other respiratory infections can cause coughing, especially at night.
  • Environmental irritants: Exposure to smoke, pollutants or dry air can irritate the airways and lead to coughing.

Identifying the underlying trigger is essential for effective cough treatment and symptom management.


Why do coughs get worse at night?

It's a common phenomenon: you're fine during the day, but as soon as you hit the pillow, the coughing starts. Several factors contribute to why coughs tend to worsen at night:


Postnasal drip.

Mucus accumulates in your sinuses and nasal passages throughout the day due to allergies, colds or sinus infections. When you lie down at night, this mucus can drip down the back of your throat, triggering coughing as your body attempts to clear it.


Laying on your back.

When you lie flat on your back, gravity allows mucus and other irritants to pool in the back of your throat, leading to increased coughing. This position can also exacerbate symptoms of acid reflux, another common cause of nighttime coughing.


Changes in airway sensitivity.

Cough reflex sensitivity may increase at night, making you more susceptible to cough triggers during sleep. Additionally, changes in temperature and humidity levels in the air at night can further irritate your airways and worsen coughing.


Asthma symptoms.

For individuals with asthma, symptoms often worsen at night due to changes in lung function and airway inflammation. This can lead to increased coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing during sleep.

Other conditions. 

Sometimes persistent cough at night can be a sign of something more serious, especially if accompanied by other symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest discomfort or leg swelling.  These signs should prompt an immediate evaluation by a healthcare professional.


What position should I sleep in to stop coughing?

Finding the right sleeping position can help alleviate nighttime coughing.

Here are some tips:

  • Elevate your head. Sleeping with your head slightly elevated can help reduce postnasal drip and acid reflux. Use extra pillows or a wedge pillow to elevate your upper body.
  • Sleep on your side. Sleeping on your side can help prevent mucus from pooling in the back of your throat and reduce coughing.
  • Avoid sleeping on your back. Sleeping on your back can worsen acid reflux and postnasal drip, leading to increased coughing.

Experiment with different sleeping positions to find what works best for you and provides the most relief.


Treating a cough at CityMD.

If you're struggling with nighttime coughing, CityMD is here to help. Our experienced medical professionals can provide the following:

  • Accurate diagnosis. We'll conduct a thorough evaluation to determine the underlying cause of your cough.
  • Personalized treatment. Whether your cough is due to allergies, asthma, acid reflux or another cause, we'll develop a personalized treatment plan to address your specific needs.
  • Expert advice. Our team will offer guidance on lifestyle changes, such as avoiding triggers and maintaining good sleep hygiene, to help manage your cough effectively.

Don't let nighttime coughing disrupt your sleep and quality of life. Visit CityMD for compassionate care and effective solutions.

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