Why Can’t I Breathe Through My Nose When I Sleep?

Is a stuffy nose holding you back from a good night’s sleep? 

Struggling to breathe through your nose at night can turn your restful sleep into restless frustration. You might find yourself waking up feeling unrested, with a dry throat from mouth breathing alongside complaints from your partner about noisy snoring. 

In this article, we’re here to unveil the mystery behind why it might be difficult to breathe through your nose while you sleep and what you can do about it!


#1 Allergies

Allergies can significantly impact your ability to breathe through your nose while you’re sleeping. 

When you’re exposed to potential allergens like pollen, mold spores, pet dander, and dust mites, your body might have a reaction that results in the release of chemicals like histamine. 

Histamine can cause inflammation and swelling in your nasal passages, which can also lead to excess mucus production and congestion. This nasal congestion can make it feel really difficult to breathe through your nose, forcing you to breathe through your mouth, which can disrupt the quality of your sleep. (1)

How to Fix Allergies

The first step to eliminating allergies is to establish what you might be allergic to. You might already know this, but if not, consider getting allergen testing done by your healthcare provider.

Next, you’ll want to eliminate your exposure to these allergens as much as possible by creating an allergen-free bedroom environment. You can do this by getting hypoallergenic bedding and pillows, using an air purifier, and washing your sheets regularly in hot water. 

Also, if you know it’s your pet you're allergic to, try to make your bedroom a pet-free zone and wash your furry friend regularly to reduce pet dander.


#2 Deviated Septum

A deviated septum can occur when the delicate wall that separates your nasal passages is displaced over to one side. This imbalance makes one nasal passage smaller than the other, significantly hindering your ability to breathe through your nose during sleep. (2)

Signs of a deviated septum often include nose bleeds, noisy breathing while you sleep, frequent sinus infections and even sleep apnea. Sometimes, however, there are no symptoms. 

While not always accurate, you may be able to tell if you have a deviated septum by leaning your head back and looking in the mirror. If your nostrils look very uneven or if they are two very different sizes, there’s a chance you may have a deviated septum.

It’s important to get an evaluation with a healthcare practitioner if you suspect a deviated septum might be behind your nasal breathing issues. 

How to Fix a Deviated Septum

When it comes to treating a deviated septum, there are both surgical and non-surgical options available. 

To fully fix a deviated septum, a surgical procedure known as a septoplasty is usually performed. This procedure adjusts the nasal septum to improve its alignment, improving airflow through the nose. 

Less invasive options to find relief in milder cases include nasal strips that help to open the nasal passages from the outside, or nasal dilators that expand the nostril space from the inside to help improve airflow without the need for surgery. (3)

An ENT specialist will help you make the right treatment decision based on your individual needs and the severity of your case. 


#3 Nasal polyps

Nasal polyps are benign (non-cancerous) growths that can develop within the lining of your nasal passages or sinuses. When they grow large enough, they can obstruct airflow, making it hard to breathe through your nose. 

It’s not always clear why some people develop nasal polyps, but they are thought to be a result of chronic inflammation within the nasal passages from allergies, infections, or asthma. (4)

Symptoms of nasal polyps often include a reduced sense of smell, increased mucus production, post-nasal drip, facial pain and pressure, and snoring.

Since nasal polyps are often accompanied by congestion, your breathing problems may be worse at night when you lie down.

How to Fix Nasal Polyps

The treatment for nasal polyps usually involves a combination of both medication and surgery. 

Corticosteroids are frequently prescribed in the form of a nasal spray to help reduce inflammation and shrink polyps. 

For some people with nasal polyps that are very large, or don’t respond to medication, a surgical procedure called an endoscopic sinus surgery may be suggested. 

In this procedure, a tiny camera and device called an endoscope are used to physically remove the polyps and improve nasal airflow. It’s considered a minimally invasive surgery, and most people can go home on the same day. (4)

After healing from nasal polyp surgery, it can be useful to sleep with mouth tape to promote healthy nasal breathing, since mouth breathing usually becomes a deeply ingrained habit in those who have had chronic nasal obstructions.


Try Dream Recovery Mouth Tape today


#4 Nasal Valve Collapse

The nasal valve is the narrowest part of your nasal airway and it plays a pivotal role in regulating how air flows through your nose.

If the tissue that holds up this structure weakens and narrows, it can collapse inwards, making nasal breathing difficult due to decreased airflow. 

This can make breathing through your nose really difficult during sleep, leading to mouth breathing, snoring, and sleep disturbances. 

You can often tell if you have a nasal valve collapse if you see the skin of your nostrils collapsing inwards while looking in the mirror and breathing, but a specialist will use certain instruments to make a proper diagnosis.

Nasal valve collapse is usually due to abnormalities in your nasal structure at birth, a deviated septum, injury, aging, or a rhinoplasty (nose job).

How to Fix Nasal Valve Collapse

For a permanent solution to nasal valve collapse, surgery is usually required. 

The different procedures used often include:

  • Grafting: The surgeon removes cartilage from other areas of your body and then inserts this tissue into your nose.

  • Implants: A specialized device is implanted into your nose that helps to support the structure of your nasal valve.

  • Suture suspension: This procedure lifts your nasal valve upwards to help widen the nasal passages and improve airflow.  (5)

Non-surgical options that can act as temporary solutions usually include the use of external nasal dilators or strips that physically open the nasal passages while they’re being used, improving airflow during sleep.


#5 Chronic sinusitis

Chronic sinusitis is defined as chronic inflammation of the sinus that occurs for more than 12 weeks at a time. It might be caused by an infection, nasal polyps, or swelling from allergies or other environmental factors. (6)

Resulting swollen tissues within the sinus and increased mucus production can cause a chronically runny nose and blocked nasal passages, making it harder to breathe. 

Lying down can also increase congestion, which is why it may feel worse at night when trying to sleep. The facial pain and pressure associated with chronic sinusitis can also make it difficult to get a good night’s rest.

How to Fix Chronic Sinusitis

The treatment for chronic sinusitis will depend on the root cause of the issue, which should be determined by a healthcare provider. Sometimes antibiotics may be necessary if there is a suspected infection or antihistamines might be used if you’re having a severe response to allergens.

For temporary relief, over-the-counter medications like decongestant and anti-inflammatory nasal sprays or drops can help reduce swelling and congestion but should be used sparingly. 

Additionally, using a saline solution to flush out your nasal passages can help clear congestion by removing excess mucus and potential irritants. (6)

Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day can also help to thin mucus, making it easier to clear congestion and breathe through your nose when you sleep.


Why is my nose clogged when I sleep?

Your nose might be clogged when you sleep due to a variety of reasons such as allergies, nasal polyps, a deviated septum, chronic sinusitis, or a nasal valve collapse.

How do you unblock your nose while sleeping?

The way you can unblock your nose while sleeping depends on why your nose is blocked. If your nose is blocked due to congestion elevating your head while sleeping, using nasal strips or dilators, or trying nasal irrigation before bed might help, however, if your nose is blocked due to structural issues like nasal polyps you’ll need to get advice from a healthcare practitioner.

How do I stop breathing through my mouth while sleeping?

The best way to stop breathing through your mouth while you sleep is by using Dream Recovery Mouth Tape. The practice of mouth taping promotes healthy nasal breathing by preventing your mouth from opening while you’re sleeping.

Should I use mouth tape if my nose is blocked?

No, it’s advised that you shouldn’t use mouth tape if your nose is currently blocked or nasal breathing feels difficult. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re unsure if mouth taping is safe for you.

Final Thoughts

Nasal breathing difficulties while you sleep are more than just an irritation - they’re a sign that something’s not quite right. 

Whether it be allergies, a deviated septum, nasal polyps, nasal valve collapse, or chronic sinusitis, each condition has its own pathway to relief. 

After finding the solution to your nasal breathing woes, mouth taping can be a game-changer in breaking the habit of mouth breathing. This simple practice re-trains your body back to natural, healthier nasal breathing, enhancing sleep quality and overall health. (7)

Try Dream Recovery Mouth Sleep Tape and discover the secret to truly restorative sleep

Please Note: We do not recommend using Dream Recovery Mouth Tape if you are currently struggling to breathe through your nose. If you are unsure if mouth taping is safe for you, consult with your healthcare practitioner.







  1. Naclerio R. M. (1990). The role of histamine in allergic rhinitis. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 86(4 Pt 2), 628–632. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0091-6749(05)80227-1

  2. Alghamdi, F. S., Albogami, D., Alsurayhi, A. S., Alshibely, A. Y., Alkaabi, T. H., Alqurashi, L. M., Alahdal, A. A., Saber, A. A., & Almansouri, O. S. (2022). Nasal Septal Deviation: A Comprehensive Narrative Review. Cureus, 14(11), e31317. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.31317

  3. Roithmann, R., Chapnik, J., Cole, P., Szalai, J., & Zamel, N. (1998). Role of the external nasal dilator in the management of nasal obstruction. The Laryngoscope, 108(5), 712–715. https://doi.org/10.1097/00005537-199805000-00016

  4. Del Toro E, Portela J. Nasal Polyps. [Updated 2023 Jul 31] Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560746/

  5. Sinkler, M. A., Wehrle, C. J., Elphingstone, J. W., Magidson, E., Ritter, E. F., & Brown, J. J. (2021). Surgical Management of the Internal Nasal Valve: A Review of Surgical Approaches. Aesthetic plastic surgery, 45(3), 1127–1136. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00266-020-02075-5

  6. Kwon E, O'Rourke MC. Chronic Sinusitis. [Updated 2023 Aug 8]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441934/

Watso, J. C., Cuba, J. N., Boutwell, S. L., Moss, J. E., Bowerfind, A. K., Fernandez, I. M., Cassette, J. M., May, A. M., & Kirk, K. F. (2023). Acute nasal breathing lowers diastolic blood pressure and increases parasympathetic contributions to heart rate variability in young adults. American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology, 325(6), R797–R808. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpregu.00148.2023

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