An introduction to coughing at night
Coughing at night can prevent you from getting good and restful sleep.
Any health problem that causes you to cough during the day will most likely lead to coughing at night. For example, the common cold can give rise to a variety of symptoms, including coughs, which stay with you day and night until the infection resolves.
Conditions that can cause you to cough more at night
- Asthma – this is a chronic disease of the bronchioles and more commonly encountered in young people. These small tubes transport air into the depths of the lungs and can become inflamed and narrowed as a result of a variety of factors, including an allergic tendency. Some of the early signs of asthma include coughing at night, coughing whilst exercising and a mild wheeze
- Heart failure – this is a weakening of the heart’s ability to pump blood. As the heart struggles to move blood round the body, fluid builds up in tissues. In the lungs, the cough reflex is triggered in an attempt to rid the body of unwanted fluid. The situation is made worse when lying down as this posture allows fluid to accumulate more easily in the lungs. Heart failure and heart disease are the main causes of persistent coughing at night in those over 65 years of age
- Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) – this is also referred to simply as ‘acid reflux’. It is associated with indigestion and reflux occurs when acid in the stomach escapes up into the oesophagus. If severe, this irritates the pharynx (back of the throat) and the upper parts of the respiratory system, triggering the cough reflex . Lying down encourages reflux as the stomach and mouth are at approximately the same level which is why people with acid reflux may cough more at night
- Sinusitis – the sinuses are small cavities lying within the cheekbone and forehead. Sinusitis is the condition which comes about when the lining of these cavities become infected and inflamed, giving rise to the main symptom of the feeling of a blocked nose. Mucus in the sinuses drains into the back of the nose and pharynx. When you lie down, excess mucus drips down into the back of your throat, irritates the tissues, triggering the cough reflex
- Hayfever - if you suffer from a common allergy such as hayfever, you may find yourself coughing more during the night, especially if the pollen count is high. This is because your immune system will identify pollen as an irritant and attempt to expel it from your throat passages, stimulating a dry, tickly cough.
How to ease a night-time cough
Taking some cough syrup or using a cough spray before you go to sleep is a great way to soothe irritation and ease coughing through the night. You can also try natural remedies such as honey and lemon.
Depending on the cause of your cough, there are extra things you can do, like changing your bedsheets more often.
Read our 7 tips to beat dry coughs at night for some more information.
When to see your doctor
You should seek medical advice if you experience unexplained coughing at night or a persistent cough of unknown cause. In addition, see your doctor if you unexpectedly lose weight, experience chest pain, shortness of breath or if you cough up blood.