Coughing at night: Home remedies and causes – Medical News Today

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Everyone has a cough from time to time. In fact, coughing can serve a useful purpose by ridding the lungs of irritants or excess mucus. Coughing may also help remove germs from the lungs and prevent infection.
But when coughing occurs at nighttime, it can interrupt sleep and prevent a person from getting a good night’s rest.
Fortunately, there are several ways to relieve coughing at night, including medication, lifestyle changes, and natural remedies.
The following 10 tips may help a person reduce or ease their nighttime coughing:

A humidifier machine releasing vapor in a home.

A humidifier machine may help if the coughing is caused by dry air.
Dry air can make a cough worse. Air conditioning and cooling fans in the summer and heating systems in the winter can make the environment dry.
A person can try using a humidifier at night to add moisture to the air where they sleep. Adding humidity by this method may help soothe the throat and prevent coughing.
However, too much moisture can contribute to mold growth. Mold can be an allergen and cause even more coughing.
A device called a hygrometer can be used to check the moisture level in a room. A hygrometer can usually be bought from a hardware store.
A humidity level of about 50 percent in a bedroom is a good target to aim for.
There is a selection of humidifiers available for purchase online.
Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a generally harmless substance. Symptoms, such as sneezing, stuffiness, and coughing are common.
Common allergy triggers include mold, pet dander, and dust. A person can decrease allergy related coughing in the bedroom by:
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that causes some of the contents of the stomach to flow back up to the esophagus. It can lead to throat irritation and coughing, especially at night.
People who have GERD should talk to their doctor about managing their condition. Avoiding foods that may trigger heartburn and not eating for about 4 hours before bed may help decrease symptoms.
Hot tea with honey can soothe the throat, reduce irritation, and loosen mucus.
Honey should not be given to children less that 1 year old due to the potential risk of a form of food poisoning called botulism.
There is a selection of honey available for purchase online.
Cough medicine.
Cough supressants and expectorants may be needed if coughing is particularly severe.
Some people may want to consider taking over-the-counter medication when coughing makes it impossible to sleep.
Cough medications are usually classified as one of the following:
Cough medications may have side effects and interact with other drugs, so it is best to talk to a doctor or pharmacist first.
There is a selection of cough suppressants and expectorants available for purchase online.
Coughing often becomes worse at night because a person is lying flat in bed. Mucus can pool in the back of the throat and cause coughing.
Sleeping with the head elevated can decrease postnasal drip and symptoms of GERD, which both cause coughing at night.
A person can prop up the head of their bed using a few pillows or a back wedge. A change in sleep position can allow mucus to flow without causing coughing.
Salt water can ease a sore or irritated throat. It can also help remove mucus from the back of the throat.
To reduce coughing, a person can mix a teaspoon of salt in about 6 ounces of warm water and gargle a few times before bed. The salt water should be spat out after gargling and not swallowed.
Smoking cigarettes is a frequent cause of a long-term cough. Quitting smoking will help decrease coughing over time, although it will not stop the problem overnight.
The American Lung Association offers resources to help people who want to quit smoking.
It can also be helpful to talk to a doctor about aids for quitting, such as nicotine patches, gum, and medication.
A saline nasal spray can decrease dryness, thin mucus, and wash away irritants and allergens from the nose.
Saline nasal sprays contain salt and water and may also decrease postnasal drip.
There is a selection of saline nasal sprays available for purchase online.
Asthma is a long-term lung disorder that involves inflammation and narrowing of the airway. A common symptom of asthma is coughing, which often becomes worse at night.
A prescription inhaler may stop coughing at night due to asthma. Some inhalers contain respiratory medications to open the airways, which may ease coughing and make breathing easier.
Woman coughing at night, with tissues and cough medicine by her bedside.
Nighttime coughing may be a symptom of a range of conditions, including allergies, flu, bronchitis, and asthma.
Coughing at night can be caused by a wide variety of conditions, some of which are short-term and disappear within a week or two. In other cases, the causes of a nighttime cough can be long-term.
The following conditions are common causes of nighttime coughing:
Nighttime coughing can often be reduced by using one of the above suggestions. However, there are some instances when it is best to see a doctor.
A person should see a doctor if they have any of the following symptoms:
The severity of nighttime coughing will depend on the cause. For example, nighttime coughing due to a common cold will usually clear up in a week or two. If a chronic lung disease is the cause, coughing may be more difficult to reduce.
People who have allergies, asthma, or GERD can improve their outlook by managing their condition and working with their doctor to find treatment options that decrease symptoms.
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Last medically reviewed on January 9, 2020