Causes, Prevention and Relief of Morning Congestion

Last updated: September 17th, 2023

What Causes Morning Congestion?

If you wake up with a stuffy nose, your first thought might be that you are getting sick. While the cold and flu can cause nasal congestion, also known as rhinitis, there are a range of other reasons why your nose might feel plugged up in the morning.

Studies have found that nasal congestion can disrupt your sleep. Additionally, ongoing nasal congestion can contribute to snoring, which may affect the sleep of bed partners.

To help you reduce morning stuffiness and get better sleep, we describe the causes of morning stuffiness, ways to prevent a stuffy nose, and tips for relieving morning congestion.

Causes of Morning Congestion

A stuffy nose is caused by inflammation and a buildup of mucus in the nose and sinuses, which reduces airflow and contributes to the sensation of blocked nasal passages. Congestion is most often caused by illness [1] or allergies, but can result from many other factors, including pregnancy and small growths called polyps in the nasal passage.

Cold or Flu

Common illnesses that can cause a stuffy nose include colds and the flu. When a person catches these contagious illnesses, it usually takes two to four days for nasal congestion to begin.

Allergies, Low Humidity, & Dry Air

Allergies to things inhaled like pollen, pet dander, or mold spores can cause inflammation and congestion in the nose. Low morning humidity, dry winter air, and smoke from wood fires or vaporizers can also contribute to nasal congestion.


Hormonal changes in pregnant women can cause inflammation in the nose, resulting in a stuffy nose.

Nasal Indrawing

Nasal indrawing, when air is pulled in while breathing, can also lead to congestion. Nasal indrawing can cause difficulty sleeping and might also be a symptom of a more serious illness, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In these cases, it is important to follow up with a medical provider.

Nasal Polyps

Polyps, small, noncancerous growths on the inside of the nose, can block the nasal passage. Polyps are common in people with allergies and asthma, but can grow in anyone.

How to Prevent Waking Up With a Stuffy Nose

Combat Dry Air

If dry air is a contributing factor for your runny nose, sleep with a humidifier in the bedroom. Aim for an indoor humidity level between 30 and 50 percent.

Wear Pollen Protection

To reduce your exposure to allergens, wear sunglasses and a hat outside, and limit time in exposed places like parks, porch swings, and other outdoor furniture. Thoroughly wash clothes and take a shower after spending time outdoors.

Avoid Taking Hot Showers

A few moments in a hot shower can be refreshing, but hot showers are drying and can worsen the symptoms of a stuffy nose. Instead of taking hot showers, keep water on the warmer side, and use saline or saltwater nose drops or sprays to lubricate your nose.

Treat Allergies

Taking over-the-counter or prescription medications and getting regular allergy shots can lessen the effects of allergies and help reduce symptoms like nasal congestion.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

Consult a doctor if a stuffy nose persists more than ten days, is caused by a persistent illness or infection, or is recurrent and accompanied by facial pain, fever, or discharge. If you have allergies, talk to your doctor about medications and lifestyle changes that can help manage your symptoms.


Waking up with a stuffy nose can make it difficult to breathe and cause disruptions during the night. If you experience a stuffy nose more than once, take precautions to prevent airborne irritants, use saline sprays or nose drops to moisturize your nose, and consider getting medications or allergy shots to reduce symptoms. It is important to talk to a doctor, however, if your symptoms last for more than ten days or if you experience facial pain, fever, or discharge.

At Snoring Mouthpiece Review, we believe that everyone should get the sleep they need to feel their best during the day. If you’re suffering from morning congestion, or any other sleep-related issue, our experts are here to help. Check out our editorial team members and product reviews to find reliable advice and reviews from experts on all things sleep.

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