Why do you cough more at night? Four ways to get a better night’s sleep

Naga Munchetty suffers coughing fit during radio show

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If you’re experiencing a new, continuous cough, it might be Covid-19. However, most coughs are caused by a cold or flu and coughs are rarely anything sinister such as lung cancer. While a cough normally lasts three to four weeks before gradually getting better, you might find that you are coughing more at night. Express.co.uk explains the reasons behind this and the four ways to get a better night’s sleep when you have a cough, according to the Sleep Foundation.

Everyone has a cough every now and then, and people sometimes experience more coughing at night.

Coughing more at night time is called a nocturnal cough, and it’s very common among asthma patients.

When this happens, it can become very difficult to sleep and stay asleep.

Why do you cough more at night?

According to the Sleep Foundation, coughing generally serves the same function whether it happens at night or during the daytime – to remove mucus and foreign objects from the windpipe, voice box and lungs.

The site adds: “When you are sick, your cough might worsen at night due to postnasal drip.

“Postnasal drip refers to secretions that run down the back of the throat instead of coming out of the nose.

“This symptom often accompanies a cold, as well as the flu, allergies, and sinus infections.”

The sleep experts explained that lying on your back can worsen postnasal drip, which may be why you notice worse coughing at night.

Coughs normally clear up on their own within three to four weeks, but one of the things that speed up healing is plenty of rest.

If your cough is caused by a cold or the flu rather than smoking, heartburn or allergies, you’ll need to get enough sleep to help you recover.

Sleep and the immune system are closely linked and sleep promotes healing, and improves immunity, so is a key part of beating a cough.

So what do you do if you’re struggling to sleep with a cough?

Four ways to get a better night’s sleep


Honey can help to right off respiratory infections like the cold that could be causing your cough.

Honey is antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial and can reduce how often and how severely you cough at night.

This makes honey the perfect nightcap before going off to bed with a cough.

Honey might work better than cough medicine since cough medicine could actually suppress coughing and make it harder for you to recover from your illness.

The same is true for nasal decongestants, which can also cause insomnia and bring on horrible side effects such as headaches, nausea and dizziness.

Warm drink

Drinking hot liquids such as hot tea or chicken soup could reduce nasal congestion and help you breathe easier.

A 2008 study found that a hot drink and the same drink at room temperature could improve coughs, runny noses and sneezing, but the hot drink makes you feel less chilly and tired and soothes a sore throat.

Drink a hot cuppa or sip from a bowl of soup in the evening if you’re worried about coughing in bed, as this could help you feel better and improve your sleep.

Elevate your head and neck

As mentioned, coughing more at night could be linked to postnasal drip.

Postnasal drip is worsened if you’re lying down flat because of gravity, so propping your head and neck up with pillows could help.

The Sleep Foundation recommends using a wedge pillow or multiple bed pillows to make yourself comfortable while lying in a position that keeps your head elevated above the rest of your body.


High humidity levels could help to clear the nasal passages if your room is very dry, some studies suggest.

Pop a humidifier on at 30 to 50 percent using distilled water and leave it on your bedside table.

If it has a timer, set it for a couple of hours so it turns off while you’re sleeping.

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