Why do coughs get worse at night?


Quick Answer

Coughs get worse at night due to mucus pooling at the back of the throat, drier air at night and the body's natural reflex to clear the lungs, according to Everyday Health. Nighttime coughing may prevent sleep, and rest is one of the best ways to fight off a cold.

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Full Answer

Gravity causes mucus to settle at the back of the throat. Mucus comes from the stomach, lungs and the nose. This fluid causes irritation in the throat, and the body coughs as a reflex, notes WebMD. One way to prevent this mucus build-up is to prop up the head so that mucus drains properly. Using extra pillows on top of the bed or placing wooden blocks underneath the headboard helps to counteract gravity.

Dry, nighttime air makes coughing worse, especially in colder months, notes Everyday Health. Humidifiers help but should not be overused. Bacteria grow in moist environments, and overly humid air can make colds worse. Patients should aim for 40 to 50 percent humidity, according to WebMD.

The body's natural reflex is to cough to clear out mucus from airways. Coughing actually helps make breathing easier, notes Everyday Health. Dry, persistent coughs keep people from sleeping at night, but coughing serves an important purpose. Health experts recommend over-the-counter pain relievers and decongestants along with rest and plenty of fluids to alleviate cold symptoms during the day and overnight.

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