Common causes of dry coughs at night
Coughs can worsen in bed because mucus gathers at the back of the throat when you lie down and as the amount of mucus increases, the cough reflex is triggered. There are a variety of things that can lead to a dry cough at night, though some are more common than others.
Coughs are most often caused by viral infections and in this case they are usually accompanied by the likes of nasal congestion, headaches and a sore throat. For most people the signs of infection will ease after a few days but when it comes to dry coughs these can persist long after all other symptoms have gone.
A pollen allergy
Another common cause of dry coughs is pollen but this is most noticeable when pollen counts are high. Did you know that hayfever is the most common allergy in the developed world? Unfortunately many confuse their hayfever symptoms with the cold or flu, especially if they have never suffered from the allergy before, therefore if you are unsure about your symptoms it might be worthwhile taking our quick test to find out more.
Mould and dust allergies
Perhaps less well known about are allergies to mould spores and dust mites. Though it isn’t always the case, these things are more likely to occur if you, or someone in your family, suffers from eczema or asthma.
Large gatherings of dust mites can be found in mattresses, carpets and bedding because these have a high humidity level, as well as containing an abundant source of skin flakes which is their favourite meal. So, if you are prone to allergies, dust mites could be the reason for your night-time cough.
This particular problem is increasingly being recognised as a common cause of dry coughs at night. Reflux occurs when the acidic contents in the stomach travel backwards and then up into the gullet. If this reaches the throat then irritation occurs and this can result in coughing. As you lie in your bed, the stomach and throat will come to the same level making it easier for reflux to occur.
So what can you do about your night-time cough?
Once you’ve worked out what’s causing your dry cough at night (a visit to your doctor may be required for a professional opinion) you can begin to address the problem.
1) Drink honey and lemon before bed
A cup of hot water with a slice of lemon and a teaspoon of honey can often help to soothe irritation in the throat before you go to sleep. The sticky honey can also leave a protective layer on the back of your throat which should prevent coughs all night long.
2) Sleep alone
If you are worried about disturbing your partner with your cough it can actually make the problem worse. Therefore, to help you relax, and to ensure you both get a good night’s sleep, it could prove helpful to sleep alone. Now, I don’t mean you have to do this all the time but why not try it out once or twice and see if you feel a difference?
3) Sleep with an extra pillow
This will prevent mucus accumulating at the back of your throat and so if this is the cause of your dry cough it may help to improve the situation. If you suffer gastric reflux however, it will also help to prevent irritation at the back of your throat.
4) Wash your bedding more often
If you have allergies this will help to reduce the level of dust mites you come into contact with at night. Also, if your mattress is past its best a new one will reduce your exposure to these miniscule creatures even further.
Remember, you can head over to our allergy hub to find out more about how to deal with allergies.
5) Be prepared
We all know that a sip of water helps a cough so make sure you have a glass ready on your bedside table. Also, if you are using a cough medicine ensure you have this at the ready too.
Looking for suggestions? Our very own Cough Spray is convenient to use and contains Mullein and Marshmallow to provide fast and effective relief from tickly coughs.
6) Take Echinacea.
Since we are on the topic of herbal remedies, if your cough is the result of a viral infection then Echinacea could help. It may reduce inflammation, as well as symptoms in your respiratory system.
Our Echinaforce Echinacea Drops are made from freshly harvested Echinacea so that the plants do not lose their beneficial properties during the production process.
This makes it the ideal option if you wish to try the herb out for yourself.
7) Use bitter herbs
These will help if you suffer from gastric reflux, as well as symptoms such as indigestion and bloating. Bitter herbs are best in tincture form and should be taken 5 to 10 minutes before each meal.
Here our Digestisan remedy, made from cynara, dandelion, peppermint and boldo, is the product to try! Just drop 15-20 drops in a little water 3 times daily.
If your cough does not settle despite your best attempts, seek help from your doctor urgently. It is important to get to the cause of any unexplained cough – we do not want to miss a more serious health condition!
Originally published 13 November 2014 (updated on 12 October 2018)