Coughing at night with asthma.

Coughing At Night With Asthma

Last updated: April 2022

So, everybody coughs at night when they have asthma, right? I mean, it’s perfectly normal, right?

Actually, no.

I met a woman with asthma who coughed all night long, all winter long. She and her husband slept in separate rooms in the winter because her coughing was so severe. FYI, that’s NOT normal!1

Unless you are sick, you should not be coughing at night. A night cough (or nocturnal asthma) is one of the red flags of asthma to let you know something is wrong with your asthma. It usually means there is inflammation (swelling) in your lungs.2

Why am I coughing at night?

Well, it is normal to cough at night if you are sick. But if you do not have a cold, bronchitis, or pneumonia, you should not be coughing at night. Nocturnal asthma (or night time coughing) can be caused by a variety of things, such as:3,4

  • Allergies (This is especially bad for my family if we go to bed during allergy season without showering. The pollen in our hair and on our skin makes us sneeze, wheeze, and cough during the night.)
  • Laying down (ever notice how it is easier to breathe when you are sitting upright? When I have bronchitis, I will always sleep on my couch, propped up on a pillow. It makes it so much easier to breathe!)
  • Changes in the circadian rhythm that can cause hormone changes
  • Sinuses draining
  • Increased airway resistance due to airways narrowing during sleep

For the last couple of weeks, I have been waking up coughing during the night. This is not like me at all. And I'm not sick, so I shouldn't be coughing.

Finding the cause of your nighttime cough

Is my room dusty? When was the last time I cleaned off my upholstered headboard? The nightstands? Vacuumed under my bed? Dust is one of my asthma triggers, so I wanted to make sure my room was very clean. So all of that was cleaned.

And what about what's ON my bed? I am a stickler for keeping my bedding clean and washing the sheets once a week, as recommended. I also decided that I was going to wash everything else on the bed too. So it took most of my Saturday morning, but I washed the sheets, thermal blanket, coverlet, and a decorative pillow.5

So, everything that could get dusty was washed or vacuumed.

But - it is also allergy season. A quick look at my local pollen count showed that cottonwood, willow, ash, cedar, oak, and birch are all in the "very high" category. And willow, maple, and sycamore are all in the "high" category. Oh boy. No wonder my allergies are off the chart!

I know that it will not help to have clean sheets if I am climbing into bed covered in pollen. The asthma doctor has told us to shower before we go to bed at night. That way, your body is clean and the pollen has been washed away. Otherwise, you lay down in bed and toss and turn all night and the pollen in your hair and on your skin is spread all over the bed. You breathe that in, and you can wake up wheezing, sneezing, and coughing.

Clean sheets + a clean body = a good night's sleep

If you are coughing at night and you are not sick, it may be time to do some detective work. Take a good look at your room and see if you need to vacuum, wash your sheets, or shower before bed if you have allergies.

Some people may also have problems if they have acid reflux, and that can trigger their asthma when they lay down at night to sleep.5

Talk to your doctor and see if they can help you find out what's going on.

Let's all get a good night's sleep. I don't know about you, but I am a much nicer person when I get a good night's sleep!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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