How to Stop Coughing at Night

Coughing is pretty normal and can help clear out stuff from your lungs. Sometimes it’s even helpful for getting rid of germs and preventing sickness. But when you’re coughing at night, it can really mess with your sleep and make it hard to rest well.

Thankfully, there are a bunch of things you can try to stop that nighttime coughing. You can take medicine, tweak your lifestyle a bit, or try some natural remedies.

What Causes Coughing?

When you’re sick with a cold, sinus infection, or the flu, mucus can drip from your nose or sinuses into your throat while you’re lying down to sleep. This often makes you cough more at night because you feel the drip tickling your throat and want to clear it.

But there are other reasons you might cough and have trouble sleeping:

– Asthma: This can cause your lung airways to narrow and fill up with too much mucus. People with asthma might also have dry coughs because they’re not getting enough air when they breathe, and dust can make it worse.

– Allergies: If you have hay fever or other allergies, your nose might get stuffed up and drip into your throat, leading to coughing.

– Heartburn or GERD: Stomach acid can creep up into your esophagus and irritate the nerves there, causing you to cough, even if you’re not feeling heartburn or pain.

– Smoking: Smoking can cause mucus to build up in your lungs, making you cough. You might also feel the need to cough to clear out toxins from your airways.

– Certain blood pressure medications: Some ACE inhibitors can cause a dry cough that persists for some people.

Why Coughing Gets Worse at Night

Coughing can feel worse at night because of a few reasons. It might be because of issues with your lungs and airways, like infections, postnasal drip, allergies, or asthma.

According to Samuel Mathis, MD, from the University of Texas Medical Branch, things like lung infections make coughs worse at night. When we lie down, it helps the little ‘hairs’ in our lungs (cilia) move mucus out, and coughing is our body’s way of getting rid of extra mucus.

Another reason, is that during the day, moving around helps loosen trapped mucus. But when we lie down at night, it’s harder for our bodies to clear this mucus naturally.

This can lead to postnasal drip, where mucus collects in the back of the throat and causes coughing.

Remedies for Night Cough

Here are some tips to help ease nighttime coughing:

1. Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of fluids can help loosen mucus and make it easier to expel. Make sure to drink water regularly and consume water-rich foods like melons, pineapples, strawberries, and oranges.

2. Try herbal tea with honey and lemon

Herbal teas with honey and lemon can be effective for managing coughs caused by upper respiratory infections, allergies, and postnasal drip.

Honey coats the throat to prevent irritation and suppress the cough reflex, while lemon’s anti-inflammatory properties may help ease coughing. You can also experiment with other hot teas, as they may help soothe an irritated throat.

3. Try honey

Honey acts as a natural cough suppressant, reducing both the frequency and severity of coughing. Look for natural or locally sourced honey for added benefits.

4 Use cough drops

Cough drops provide short-term relief by soothing your throat and calming persistent coughs. They stimulate saliva production, which coats the throat and alleviates irritation.

5. Take a steamy shower

A hot shower creates steam that adds moisture to the air, helping to clear your airways and loosen nasal secretions. Taking a steamy shower before bedtime can help ease your cough and promote relaxation for a better night’s sleep.

6. Watch your diet

If your cough stems from GERD (acid reflux), try avoiding heavy, spicy, fatty, and late-night meals as they can worsen symptoms. Opt for foods high in fiber, water, and alkaline content instead.

Foods like bananas, brown rice, sweet potatoes, broccoli, watermelon, carrots, cucumber, pineapple, and brothy soups can be helpful. Aim to eat these at least 3 hours before bedtime.

7. Consider OTC medications

Over-the-counter options for GERD include antacids such as Tums or acid-blocking medications like famotidine (Pepcid) or omeprazole (Prilosec).

These can reduce the amount of acid irritating your throat, alleviating nighttime coughing associated with reflux.

8. Try antihistamines

If your cough is due to postnasal drip from allergies, antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or loratadine (Claritin) may be beneficial.

They work by drying up nasal mucus, reducing the amount of fluid that accumulates in the back of your throat and irritates the tissues, thus easing the cough.

9. Raise your head while sleeping

If your cough is due to GERD, elevating the head of your bed by 4-6 inches can help. Even a slight tilt can use gravity to keep stomach acid in your stomach. You can do this by placing bricks or blocks under the head of your bed.

10. Use a humidifier

If dry air is causing your cough, a humidifier can add moisture to the air. Aim for a humidity level of 40% to 50%. Too much humidity can make your cough worse or increase the risk of infection.

11. Reduce allergens

If allergies trigger your coughing, try to minimize allergens in your home. Regularly clean and dust your living space to prevent dust buildup.

Consider using a HEPA filter to remove allergens from the air. If you have pets, keep them out of your bedroom. Wash your bedding frequently as well.

12. Consider OTC medication

If nothing else works, you can try over-the-counter cough medicine for relief. Look for one containing dextromethorphan to suppress the cough reflex, or pseudoephedrine to reduce nighttime postnasal drip.

However, it’s wise to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any medication.

When to See a Doctor

Knowing when to seek medical attention for nighttime coughing is important. Here are some signs that indicate it’s time to see a doctor:

Fever: If your temperature is higher than 38.3°C.

Persistent cough: If you’ve been coughing for more than a week.

Coughing up blood: This is always a cause for concern.

Wheezing: Difficulty breathing accompanied by a whistling sound.

Chest pain: Especially if it’s severe or persistent.

Trouble breathing: Any difficulty breathing should prompt medical attention.


The outlook for nighttime coughing depends on its underlying cause. For instance, a cough from a common cold typically resolves within a week or two, while coughing related to chronic lung conditions may be more challenging to manage.

People with allergies, asthma, or GERD can improve their outlook by effectively managing their condition and collaborating with their healthcare provider to explore treatment options that alleviate symptoms.

How to Stop Coughing at Night

Leave a Comment