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Reasons Why You Are Waking Up With A Stuffy Nose?

For many people, getting up in the morning can be an unpleasant experience. Many people who wake up feeling congested find themselves reaching for a box of tissues. In fact, some people may find their nose to be so stuffy that they find it challenging to breathe upon waking up. Waking up with a stuffy nose is more common than you may think. There are various reasons behind this early morning nasal congestion. Read on to find out some of the reasons why you are waking up with a stuffy nose.

Reasons Why You Are Waking Up With A Stuffy Nose

Reasons Why You Are Waking Up With A Stuffy Nose

  1. Number 1 Cause of Early Morning Congestion: Allergens

    The most common reason why some people wake up with a stuffy nose is allergens. According to data hailing from the 2005-2006 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), nearly 74 percent of people are exposed to at least three to six types of allergens in our bedrooms alone every night.(1)

    This means that each time you roll over or adjust your covers, you are basically getting exposed to a variety of allergens and sending them right into your airways. This is one of the biggest reasons why the nasal passages become inflamed during the night, causing you to wake up with a stuffy nose.

    Here are some of the commonly found allergens that can lead to early morning nasal congestion and how you can minimize their impact on your respiratory system.

    1. Pollen

      If you are allergic to pollen, then it is likely to peak during season change. Pollen allergies are usually known to be seasonal. Being allergic to pollen could be responsible for increasing your nasal mucus or causing inflammation in the tissues of your nose, leading to a stuffy nose in the morning.

      Pollen is known to be a major trigger for seasonal allergies, and you might be getting exposed to pollen from open windows, or they might be entering your bedroom through the AC ventilation system.

      There are several ways to deal with seasonal pollen allergies, including:

      • Restrict the time you spend outdoor on high pollen days.
      • Try to delegate outdoor chores to family members or friends who are not affected by pollen.
      • Use high-quality air filters in the house to clean up the air.

      Consult your doctor about prescription or over-the-counter allergy medication you can take during the peak time of seasonal allergies. You can also discuss the option of immunotherapy.(2, 3)

      You can also think about trying acupuncture. In 2015, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery included acupuncture in the list of recommended treatment options for seasonal allergies.(4)

      There are also many alternative remedies, such as butterbur and spirulina. Data from the National Institute of Health suggests that there is sufficient evidence to show that butterbur can decrease the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.(5) Studies have also found that spirulina can also help alleviate the symptoms in people with seasonal allergies. (6)

    2. Dust Mites

      You can find dust mites in every home, regardless of how immaculately clean the house is. If you are allergic to dust mites, then it’s not actually the mites or the dust that triggers your allergy. It is, in fact, the particles from the feces of these dust mites that trigger your allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing, and early morning congestion.(7, 8)

      Unlike those who suffer from seasonal allergies, people who are allergic to dust mites have to be careful all year round and take precautions to keep their symptoms under control.

      According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation (AAFA), here are some steps you can take to decrease the population of dust mites in your bedroom:(9)

      Maintain the thermostat settings between 64o and 68o – this will help because dust mites tend to thrive in warmer temperatures.

      Make sure you wash your bedding in hot water regularly – this should be done at least once a week, or more frequently if you are waking up every morning with a stuffy nose.

      • Use certified allergen-reducing air filters throughout your home.
      • Use allergen-reducing covers over your pillows and mattresses. Avoid having a carpet or upholstered furniture in your bedroom.
      • Clean your floors with a vacuum, preferably one that comes with a certified HEPA filter. Use a mop afterward to trap any debris that the vacuum might have missed.
      • Use a dehumidifier to prevent dust mites from growing.
    3. Pet Dander

      As per the American Veterinary Medicine Association, there are nearly 70 million homes in the US that have at least one pet.(10) If you are sharing your bedroom or bed with your cat, dog, or even a bird, then it might be that your pet is responsible for your early morning congestion.

      If you are facing a lot of difficulty due to your morning stuffiness, then avoid sleeping with your pet and also avoid cuddling your pet in the evenings. You can also take the following measures to decrease morning stuffiness and reduce nasal inflammation:

      • Move any litter box out of your bedroom.
      • Bathe your pet using an anti-allergen shampoo.
      • Try to have hardwood floors to prevent the dander from settling down deep within the carpeting.
    4. Mold

      Mold growing inside your home can also be a cause of early morning congestion. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recommends that people should check the most common places in their house for mold growth.(11) These include the bathrooms, gutters, basements, garbage cans, refrigerator drip pans, and any other area where a leak might have led to dampened surfaces.

      If you find mold growing inside your house, then you can call professional mold remediators and also consult with an allergist, who will prescribe certain medication for your symptoms if you are unable to get any relief from over-the-counter allergy medications.

  2. Other Causes of Morning Stuffy Nose

    Apart from allergens, waking up in the morning with a stuffy nose could also be due to irritants that are causing inflammation in your nasal passages in the night as your sleep. Some of the common irritants that can lead to morning congestion include:

  1. Tobacco Smoke

    If someone in your house is a smoker or you are exposed to tobacco smoke during the day, then it is possible for you to experience morning congestion. Even though most people disregard the dangers of secondhand smoke, the fact is that secondhand tobacco smoke can also significantly increase the risk of developing chronic sinus problems and lead to rhinitis in the morning.(12)

    If you suspect that exposure to tobacco smoke could be the cause of your morning stuffiness, then you should consult your doctor about what medications to take.

  2. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

    Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a chronic condition of the gastrointestinal system that causes the contents of your stomach to flow back up into the throat and nasal passages.

    Many studies have found that this condition is associated with rhinitis, thus causing you to wake up with congestion in the morning.(13) The symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease are known to worsen during the night. This is because your sleeping position causes the trickle backup problem to become worse.

    To reduce the effect of gastroesophageal reflux disease while you sleep, you can try the following tips:

    • Elevate the head of the bed by six to eight inches – gravity will assist you in keeping the stomach acid from coming back up.
    • Avoid sleeping on your right side as this seems to lead to a relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter, which is the right ring of muscle that usually protects against acid reflux.
    • Avoid sleeping on your back, especially if you are overweight or obese as the pressure on the stomach helps push the acid into the esophagus.
    • Avoid having late night snacks and meals.
    • Try to wear pajamas that do not bind at the waist.
  3. Hormones

    Hormonal changes during menstruation and pregnancy can also lead to early morning stuffiness. Studies have found that nearly 39 percent of pregnant women experience rhinitis during their pregnancy.(14)

    Here are some ways to alleviate your symptoms if you are pregnant:

    • Exercise (only after consulting your doctor)
    • Irrigate your nose with a Neti pot and saltwater
    • Use nasal dilators such as nasal strips


If you find yourself frequently waking up in the morning with a stuffy nose, and you don’t have the flu or a cold, then it is likely that you are dealing with allergic or non-allergic rhinitis. Early morning nasal congestion can be caused by many factors, including seasonal pollen allergies, dust mites, pet dander, acid reflux, hormonal changes, and even environmental factors such as tobacco smoke.

By taking the necessary steps to decrease your exposure to such irritants, you will be able to successfully reduce your symptoms of morning congestion.


  1. Salo, P.M., Wilkerson, J., Rose, K.M., Cohn, R.D., Calatroni, A., Mitchell, H.E., Sever, M.L., Gergen, P.J., Thorne, P.S. and Zeldin, D.C., 2018. Bedroom allergen exposures in US households. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 141(5), pp.1870-1879.
  2. Mohapatra, S.S., Qazi, M. and Hellermann, G., 2010. Immunotherapy for allergies and asthma: present and future. Current opinion in pharmacology, 10(3), pp.276-288.
  3. Calamita, Z. and Bernardino Potthast, S., 2013. Immunotherapy in allergies: an update. Inflammation & Allergy-Drug Targets (Formerly Current Drug Targets-Inflammation & Allergy), 12(1), pp.12-18.
  4. Seidman, M.D., Gurgel, R.K., Lin, S.Y., Schwartz, S.R., Baroody, F.M., Bonner, J.R., Dawson, D.E., Dykewicz, M.S., Hackell, J.M., Han, J.K. and Ishman, S.L., 2015. Clinical practice guideline: allergic rhinitis. Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, 152(1_suppl), pp.S1-S43.
  5. Nccih.nih.gov. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://nccih.nih.gov/health/butterbur> [Accessed 19 April 2020].
  6. Sayin, I., Cingi, C., Oghan, F., Baykal, B. and Ulusoy, S., 2013. Complementary therapies in allergic rhinitis. ISRN allergy, 2013.
  7. Overview, D., 2020. Dust Mite Allergies: Overview. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK447098/> [Accessed 19 April 2020].
  8. Bessot, J.C. and Pauli, G., 2011. Mite allergens: an overview. European annals of allergy and clinical immunology, 43(5), p.141.
  9. Aafa.org. 2020. Dust Mite Allergy | AAFA.Org. [online] Available at: <https://www.aafa.org/dust-mite-allergy/> [Accessed 19 April 2020].
  10. American Veterinary Medical Association. 2020. U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics. [online] Available at: <https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Statistics/Pages/Market-research-statistics-US-pet-ownership.aspx> [Accessed 19 April 2020].
  11. ACAAI Public Website. 2020. Mold Allergy | Causes, Symptoms & Treatment | ACAAI Public Website. [online] Available at: <https://acaai.org/allergies/types/mold-allergy> [Accessed 19 April 2020].
  12. Reh, D.D., Higgins, T.S. and Smith, T.L., 2012, September. Impact of tobacco smoke on chronic rhinosinusitis: a review of the literature. In International forum of allergy & rhinology (Vol. 2, No. 5, pp. 362-369). Hoboken: Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company.
  13. Locatelli, F., Finocchio, E., Marcon, A., Bono, R., Cerveri, I., Pirina, P., Trucco, G., Olivieri, M., Ferrari, M. and Verlato, G., 2016. The association between gastritis/gastroesophageal reflux and rhinitis/rhinosinusitis.
  14. Dzieciolowska-Baran, E., Teul-Swiniarska, I., Gawlikowska-Sroka, A., Poziomkowska-Gesicka, I. and Zietek, Z., 2013. Rhinitis as a cause of respiratory disorders during pregnancy. In Respiratory Regulation-Clinical Advances (pp. 213-220). Springer, Dordrecht.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 22, 2021

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