According to figures, coughing is among the most common culprit leading to a medical visit. It is known that many different causes can make you cough. Usually, it requires no concern, yet coughing in certain positions (like lying down) may indicate something serious. And most doctors will want to figure out why coughing when lying down occurs before prescribing a treatment of some sort. Read on to find possible causes of this condition and when to seek medical help.
Why Do I Experience Coughing When Lying Down?
1. Acid Reflux (GERD)
Acid reflux can sometimes lead to coughing in a lying position. This is because when you lie down, your stomach acid which leads to heartburn and indigestion can also go into the lungs. If you think the issue is related to acid reflux, consider eating dinner earlier and making it a smaller meal.
2. Dry Air
You may cough when lying down mostly because you are in surroundings with dry air. Dryness tends to irritate the throat and nose and further lead to coughs.
In addition to gasping for air, many people with asthma also notice a dry cough. If you find yourself coughing when lying down, ask your doctor to test you for asthma to rule it out.
The culprit may also be a sinus infection or other long-term sickness or allergies that cause a chronic stuffy nose. If your sinuses are clogged, mucus may drip along the back portion of your throat, causing an annoying tickle.
5. Deficiency of Iron
An iron deficiency can cause irritation and swelling in the back area of your throat. This in turn would cause coughing. You can simply take some iron supplement to resolve this issue.
6. Medication Issues
Certain medications, including ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure, may lead to a dry cough. If you are on any medications, the doctor or pharmacist can tell you if they might induce coughs when lying down or not.
7. Heart Issues
Heart failure can include something less serious such as the heart not pumping blood throughout your system at its normal efficiency levels. If this happens, a logjam of fluid may buildup in the lungs. In addition to coughing when lying down, you may also notice other symptoms of shortness of breath when exercising or swollen ankles.
When to Seek Medical Help
If your nighttime cough persists for more than 7 days, you will need to visit your doctor to determine the cause and find an appropriate treatment. Aside from the length, certain symptoms along with coughing when lying down also require you to make a medical visit.
- Violent coughing beginning suddenly
- Green phlegm that is thick and foul-smelling
- Unintentional weight loss
- Abdominal swelling
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Cough producing blood
- Stridor (a high pitched sound) while inhaling
- Cough in those under 3 months old
How to Deal With Coughing When Lying Down
1. Bath/ Shower with Caution
Dryness in airways can worsen your cough. Some people notice relief by taking a bath or shower right before bed. However, just avoid this method if you have asthma as it may worsen your cough instead of helping it.
2. Monitor the Humidity
A humidifier can help reduce your cough if the air in your home is dry. Also, remember to use sterile water to avoid germs. However, too much moisture in your room can lead to coughing as well, because common allergens like mold and dust mites may thrive. Aim to achieve humidity levels between 40% and 50%. You can buy a hygrometer to measure humidity from a hardware store.
3. Get Your Bedside Table Ready
Before you go to sleep, put everything you will need if a coughing fit occurs next to your table. This should include cough drops or medicine, water, and anything else that might help you. So if you start coughing when lying down, such items can help you stop coughing immediately and receive less irritation.
4. Clean Bedding
People who have coughing when lying down should remember to clean bedding regularly. If you have allergies, then make sure that your bedding is clean. Dust mites commonly trigger allergies but you can eliminate them by washing your bedding weekly in hot water.
5. Prop Up Your Head
In cases when your cough is due to sinuses draining along the throat, you can prevent this by propping up your head. If your head is higher than the rest of your body, the drainage can’t accumulate in your throat, reducing coughing.
6. Adjust Your Sleeping Positions
Sleeping positions is closely related to coughing when lying down. Multiple studies show that when you sleep on your back, you are at an increased risk of stroke, sleep paralysis, sleep apnea, or asthma. Sleeping on your back lowers blood oxygenation, adding pressure to the lungs. This requires you to take deeper, faster breaths. While lying down on your stomach may reduce coughing, this would put pressure on the internal organs. The ideal position is sleeping on your side.
7. Make Lifestyle Changes
You will want to make a few simple lifestyle changes, such as the following:
- Drink lots of fluids to thin mucus within your throat
- Stop smoking
- Stay away from airborne irritants and secondhand smoke
- Talk to your doctor about changing medications
- Avoid allergens if you have allergies
- Consider a cough lozenge or piece of hard candy, but for children under 3, this is not recommended
If you have some sinus issues causing coughing when lying down, you can try a neti pot, over-the-counter medications for allergies or prescription nasal sprays to get relief. For the following medications, always talk to your doctor before using, especially if you have any preexisting conditions.
These over-the-counter medications suppress a dry cough and act as expectorants for a productive cough. Children under 6 should not use this.
This medication opens your nasal passages, letting you breathe better.
These dry up the nasal secretions and help to relieve coughs caused by allergies.
They open your airways to increase airflow, making it easier to breathe. They are ideal for cough due to asthma.
They reduce inflammation and can treat asthma or COPD.
These medication sprays reduce nasal inflammation and relieve runny noses, itching, and sneezing.