Coughing at night can cause you a sleepless night yet sleeping is very essential to every human being. Research reveals that a healthy person should sleep at least 6-7 hours every day. When you are suffering from a viral infection, getting plenty of rest and relaxation is very important. This can be difficult if you are continuously coughing during the night, effectively ruining the whole sleeping pattern. Researches reveals that the underlying conditions that make people cough more at night are crucial and you should consult your doctor.

Coughing at Night Causes

Severe coughing at night

Coughing at night

Any health problem that causes you to cough during the day will most likely lead to coughing at night. For example, the common cold can give rise to a variety of symptoms, including coughs, which stay with you day and night until the infection resolves.

The following conditions causes severe coughing at night:

  1. Asthma

This is a chronic disease of the bronchioles and more commonly encountered in young people. These small tubes transport air into the depths of the lungs and can become inflamed and narrowed as a result of a variety of factors, including an allergic tendency. Some of the early signs of asthma include coughing at night, coughing whilst exercising and a mild wheeze

  1. Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)

This is also referred to simply as ‘acid reflux’. It is associated with indigestion and reflux occurs when acid in the stomach escapes up into the oesophagus. If severe, this irritates the pharynx (back of the throat) and the upper parts of the respiratory system, triggering the cough reflex. Lying down encourages reflux as the stomach and mouth are at approximately the same level which is why people with acid reflux may cough more at night

  1. Sinusitis

The sinuses are small cavities lying within the cheekbone and forehead. Sinusitis is the condition which comes about when the lining of these cavities become infected and inflamed, giving rise to the main symptom of the feeling of a blocked nose. Mucus in the sinuses drains into the back of the nose and pharynx. When you lie down, excess mucus drips down into the back of your throat, irritates the tissues, triggering the cough reflex

  1. Heartburn

Symptoms: A ‘throat’ coughs following a meal, or waking you at night, often with a nasty acid taste in your mouth.

Causes: Heartburn, or acid reflux, occurs when stomach acid flows back up the oesophagus, irritating the throat and triggering coughing at night. Large or rich meals late at night are triggers.

Treat it: Sleeping with an extra pillow can help reduce the backflow of acid. If it’s occasional, a simple over-the-counter anti-reflux treatment, such as Zantac, will reduce the production of stomach acid. If it’s frequent, talk to your GP who may want to investigate.

  1. Chest infection

Symptoms: A hacking cough with greenish phlegm, plus a fever that follows after a cold.

Causes: A chest infection, or acute bronchitis, affects the lower airways. It’s generally caused by the same viruses that cause colds, but inflammation spreads lower into the lungs, leaving the area open to attack by bacteria hence coughing at night.

Treat it: Drink plenty of fluids and take paracetamol to reduce a fever. Because most bronchitis is caused by a virus, your doctor will only prescribe antibiotics if he suspects a secondary bacterial infection has occurred.

  1. Whooping cough

Symptoms: Uncontrollable coughing fits, which may produce a ‘whoop’ sound.

Causes: This highly contagious disease has been on the rise again in recent years, and spreads when an infected person coughs and another person inhales the bacteria. A vaccine is given to babies and since last year, pregnant women, but protection fades so you can still get it as an adult.

Treat it: Babies are at the highest risk of severe complications and death and need close monitoring. In older children and adults it’s generally unpleasant, but not serious, lasting up to six weeks. Drink plenty of fluids and take ibuprofen to ease a sore throat.

  1. Medication cough

Symptoms: A dry, niggling cough, often worse at night.

Causes: ACE inhibitors, a drug used to control high blood pressure, can cause a chronic cough in 20% of patients.

Treat it: If your coughing at night coincided with starting medication, talk to your doctor who can supply alternative blood pressure drugs.

  1. Tuberculosis

Symptoms: A persistent cough, often with extreme tiredness, weight loss, night sweats and coughing up blood.

Causes: Another highly infectious illness, once thought to be wiped out, current TB rates are the highest for 40 years.

Treat it: Because TB awareness is low these days; it’s worth mentioning the condition to your GP if your symptoms fit those described above. If they suspect TB you’ll have a skin test to check for antibodies and be sent for a lung X-ray. Treatment involves six months of strong antibiotics that cures 99% of cases.

  1. Smokers’ cough

Symptoms: It’s easy to get used to a ‘smokers’ cough’ but if it changes in any way, for example, becomes more frequent or you cough up blood, it needs checking out immediately.

Causes: Smoking irritates the airways causing a cough, which in the long-term can be a sign of COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis – meaning there’s irreversible damage to your airways, worsening if you continue puffing away.

Treat it: If you’re a smoker or ex-smoker with a persistent coughing at night, your GP should send you for X-ray. It’s never too late to quit – giving up will lessen or abolish a smokers’ cough in 94% of people within four weeks, and will stop the rate of deterioration in COPD cases.

  1. Lung cancer

Symptoms: A new cough lasting longer than three weeks, a long-standing cough that gets worse, coughing up blood, unexplained breathlessness, weight loss, tiredness or chest pain.

Causes: Lung cancer is now the second most common cancer in the UK and smoking accounts for 90% of cases. Treat it: If an X-ray confirms it, treatment combining surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy depends on the stage of the cancer.

  1. Heart problems

Symptoms: Persistent coughing or wheezing, plus extreme tiredness, breathlessness on exertion and fluid retention.

Causes: When you suffer heart failure, fluid can build up in the lungs and cause a lingering coughing at night.

Treat it: See your GP immediately. If they suspect heart failure you’ll be referred to a specialist hospital clinic for an ECG and blood tests. Treatments include ACE inhibitors to prevent fluid build-up and beta-blockers to slow the heart rate.

Can’t Stop Coughing at Night

severe coughing at night

Baby coughing at night

The annoying sensation in your throat starts as a tickle and then escalates to a hacking cough just as you’re trying to fall asleep, or it wakes you up in the middle of the night. Coughing is your body’s way of ridding your lungs and airways of irritants such as mucus, microbes, and pollutants. Read on to learn how to stop coughing at night and why it happens in the first place.

Depending on what’s causing it, there are different remedies and lifestyle changes you can try to relieve or prevent nighttime coughing in both adults and children. Dry, warm air can irritate your throat and airways. Some people also cough when they turn their heater on in the winter. This is due to the release of pollutants that built up in the heating ducts. A humidifier that produces a cool mist can help keep the air in your bedroom moist. This can keep your throat feeling better.

If nighttime coughing is caused by a medical condition such as a sinus infection, it’s important to get treatment. You may need a prescription from your doctor for antibiotics. You can also use a neti pot to help clear sinuses.

Dry Cough at Night

A dry cough at night often occurs alongside a tickly cough and can be caused by viral infections or allergies. Unlike a chesty cough, a dry cough does not produce any mucus and is therefore termed as non-productive. It is closely related to tickly coughs and often, these terms are used interchangeably.

A dry coughing at night is most often the result of infection by cold and flu viruses. It can also be triggered by atmospheric pollutants irritating your throat. In most of these situations, dry coughs occur because the back of your throat becomes irritated or inflamed, but may also arise from deeper in the chest.

Any cough can be a nuisance and this is particularly so if sleep is disturbed. A vicious cycle can develop – if one is tired, recovery from any infection or illness can take longer.

Common causes of dry coughs

  1. Viral infections we know as the common cold and flu. These coughs may occur at the start of the illness or more likely, appear towards the middle or the end of the infection, and may linger long after other symptoms have disappeared
  2. Allergies can also lead to a dry cough. Hay fever, an allergy to grass and tree pollen, causes irritation to the eyes and nose and when the throat is affected, a cough results. Sensitivity to other particles such as animal fur, known as allergic rhinitis, can also lead to the same symptom
  3. Air pollutants can irritate the back of the throat causing a cough. This is the situation seen when non-smokers enter a smoky room
  4. Acid reflux is now accepted as a cause of dry coughs. What happens is that the acidic contents of the stomach travel upwards to the back of the throat. Minute amounts of acid may then enter the upper respiratory tract, causing inflammation and coughing. This is more likely when one is lying down flat.

Coughing at Night only in Adults

Physiologically, coughing is a rapid expulsion of air from the lungs that happens reflexively to keep the airways clear. Night cough in adult may be a symptom of conditions specifically affecting the lungs and throat or a more generalized condition, such as a cold or the flu as well.

Adult people get Inflammation of the lungs or throat, due to smoking, colds, or flu. Smokers produce excess mucus in their airways and the lung struggles constantly to clear these passages. Remarkably, this symptom is one of the first to improve, even completely disappear, with smoking cessation.

In rare cases, night coughing in grown up people can be a symptom of a serious infection of the lungs, bronchial tubes, or throat. Night cough can also be a symptom of congestive heart failure if it occurs together with pink frothy mucus in the mouth, severe shortness of breath, wheezing, and rapid heartbeat.

Depending on the cause, coughing at night may occur only while you are lying down or also while you are sitting up, and it may be accompanied by sputum production, sneezing, shortness of breath, wheezing, or gastric contents moving upward into the mouth.

In some cases, when you cough while in the bed, it can be a sign of a life-threatening condition, such as congestive heart failure, pulmonary edema, or a severe respiratory infection. If you, or someone you are with a cough accompanied by serious symptoms, such as chest pain, a high fever, or severe breathing problems, seek immediate medical care.

Severe Coughing at Night

Coughing at night causes

Severe cough

Most coughs may disappear without treatment, but severe nighttime coughing may be a sign of a serious condition. For example, heart failure can cause a chronic cough that worsens at night. Respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and COPD also cause severe, chronic cough. Lung cancer and blood clots in the lungs are less common causes of severe coughs.

You have to watch out for the following symptoms in case you are in the bed and you cough severely with them:

  • a fever of 100˚F (38˚C) or above
  • trouble breathing
  • choking
  • swelling in your legs or abdomen
  • wheezing
  • green, yellow, or bloody phlegm
  • it lasts more than three weeks

Dry Cough at Night Home Remedies

If want to know how to get rid of your coughing at night, try these home remedies with simple ingredients that you can find right in your kitchen. These natural cough remedies easy to follow but are really effective in boosting your immune system.  The fact that they call for all-natural ingredients means that they are safe to use as home remedies for cough for kids.

  1. The Classic Golden Milk

This dry cough treatment has been used successfully for centuries. Add a pinch of turmeric to a glass of warm milk before bedtime. The warm milk will calm your throat and help you sleep. Turmeric – the golden spice – is a panacea for many problems because it is a natural antibiotic. When you awaken the next day, you will be all rise-and-shine-y for sure!

  1. Spice Up that That Drink

Many of us crave a cuppa when we have been coughing all day. Warming spices are natural cough remedies that we can easily incorporate into our tea. When boiling water, add a spoonful of aniseeds or a stick of cinnamon to your pot. A few slices of ginger boiled with the water will work well too.

  1. Basil is the Best

Tulsi or holy basil is a powerful antibacterial and antioxidant that can cure a cough in a jiffy. Chew on some fresh basil leaves or steep them in boiling water and drink up. Add a few drops of basil essential oil to a pot and inhale the steam to get rid of that tickly throat.

  1. Honey

Honey has cough-curing compounds that will give you instant relief from a dry cough. Mix 5 tablespoons of honey in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. This is an immune-boosting homemade cough syrup that also works great for children with coughs.

  1. Aloe vera

Aloe has anti-inflammatory properties which makes it the perfect choice for scratchy coughing at night. Add some honey into a glass of aloe juice. Bon santé!

  1. Onion Remedy

Onions contain healing sulfur which makes them a staple in chronic cough remedies. Combine 1 teaspoonful of raw onion juice with 1 teaspoonful of honey; let stand for 3-4 hours. Take this syrup thrice a day. Drinking warm onion broth is also a magic potion for dry cough.

  1. Stay hydrated

Through all of this, the best advice is to keep hydrated if you have a cold or flu – it will help with catarrh and mucus. Keep your throat lubricated and drink plenty of fluid. Honey is a natural antiseptic so try some warm water with honey and lemon, which can be very soothing.

  1. Take a hot tea

Some say hot teas are the best way to soothe a sore throat, moisten the upper respiratory tract and calm a cough. Avoid any tea with caffeine in them, and drink those with chamomile and honey. If that does not work consider having a teaspoon of honey before bed.

  1. Menthol and Eucalyptus oil

This is a natural cough remedy. With a few drops of eucalyptus oil in your bath water, placing a small warmer by your bed or even using an ointment on your chest, inhaling the vapor helps in freer/easier breathing which can soothe coughing at night.

  1. Sit in a warm bath or take a warm shower

The steam from either will help loosen the mucus and phlegm that are sitting in the upper airways. While this might make you cough and have mucus run from your nose a lot, it is clearing the system out so it can help shorten the duration of your sickness.

  1. Shift the way you’re sleeping at night

Lying on your back can cause nasal drip to be much worse than laying on your side or your stomach. Elevated sleeping can do wonders. Prop a few pillows up behind you to open the airways and move the mucus. Sleeping on a recliner can have the same effect when trying this night cough treatment.

  1. Use a humidifier
Coughing at night treatment

Using humidifier to control cough at night

Use it to provide moisture into the air where there might not be much. When trying to breathe dry air, the passages will become dry, causing the cough. With moisture in the air, the cough is less likely to happen. Some humidifiers have places to place vapor rub on them. This emits a peppermint like smell throughout the room that helps open airways.

How to Stop Coughing at Night without Medicine

Cough medications are typically not recommended for children under 4 and can cause side effects, such as dizziness, drowsiness and stomach upset. You can use natural remedies to get rid of your cough at home. However, if your cough does not clear up within a few weeks; contact a medical professional for advice.

Your GP won’t give you antibiotics for it

Although flu can be debilitating, it cannot be treated by antibiotics from your GP as it is a virus and antibiotics are only effective against bacteria. It is urged that patients consider having one to protect themselves and others against the illness. Again, your Boots pharmacist or GP can advise whether you are eligible to have the free vaccination this year

Germs circulate easily via sneezed and coughed-out droplets. Always carry tissues and use them to catch coughs or sneezes to stop germs spreading. Viruses can also transfer to your hands from surfaces such as taps and door handles then can enter the body through the nose.

More references

  1. Avogel: coughing at night:
  2. Com: 7 kinds of cough and what they might mean:
  3. Mirror: what causes that cough:
  4. Benadryl: treatments for night cough:
  5. Health line: how to stop coughing at night: