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Why You Feel Sicker At Night

April 3, 2019

All Posts by MinuteClinic

Why do you feel sicker at night? Here's why this happens and how to ease nighttime symptoms.

It's bad enough to come down with a cough, fever, congestion and headache during the day, but have you ever noticed that you feel 10 times worse at night? You may find that you're able to fare well while the sun is up, only to have aches and pain return as soon as you're ready for bed.

Nighttime symptoms can become a real nightmare. This phenomenon extends beyond the common cold and flu. It's also said that conditions like arthritis and asthma intensify as the day goes on and worsen after midnight.

It's not in your head. Science shows that you really do feel sicker at night for a number of reasons. Learn why this happens and how to ease your nighttime symptoms.

1. Hormonal fluctuations

Throughout the day, your body releases cortisol, a hormone that helps regulate stress, blood sugar levels, metabolism and blood pressure. Cortisol levels hit their peak during the morning and drop around midnight. When this happens, it can cause your airways to narrow and make it difficult to breathe.

Cortisol also suppresses immune function. This means that when cortisol is low, your immune system becomes more active, fighting inflammation and infections. This raises your body temperature, which can cause a fever to spike or lead to chills and hot flashes.

2. Cold, dry indoor air

If you come home at night to a cold, dry bedroom, it can aggravate an already irritated nose and throat. Cold air draws moisture away from the nasal passages, leaving your sinuses dry, which contributes to cough and congestion. The cold air also makes it easier for bacterial infections to enter your airways.

3. Gravity

You're more likely to be sitting upright during the day, which allows mucus to drain. When you lay down at night, gravity takes hold. The effect? Mucus can collect in the back of your throat and clog your breathing.

4. Fewer distractions

Work, children and other obligations keep you busy during day time hours. However, at night, things become quiet. In the absence of distractions, you're more likely to pay attention to the pain and discomfort you're feeling, which only makes you feel worse.

What should you do?

It's possible to ease your nighttime symptoms. Here are a handful of tips to get you started.

  • Sleep with an extra pillow to keep your head upright and promote sinus drainage.
  • Keep a glass of water on your bedside table so you can stay hydrated.
  • Turn on relaxing music to distract your mind and promote good sleep.
  • Discuss your concerns with a doctor who can diagnose your condition.

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