If you have sinusitis, chances are it is not easy to get a good night’s sleep- unless you breathe through your mouth. Swollen sinuses make it hard to breathe through the nose.

There are other sinusitis symptoms that make sleeping a tad difficult, such as facial pain and headache. According to medical experts, sinusitis may be a contributing factor in obstructive sleep apnea.

Effects of Sinusitis on Sleep

According to otolaryngologist Dr. Steven Park, a significant shift in the human diet over the last few hundred years has resulted in underdevelopment of our facial bones, particularly our jawbones. Diets consisting mostly of soft, mushy foods have stunted human jaw development. This results in narrower nasal and sinus passages that are predisposed to obstruction due to allergies, colds or any type of inflammation.

In addition to underdeveloped jawbones, our oral cavities are smaller; our tongues take up more space. When we lie on our backs, gravity pulls tongue back toward the back of the mouth. This narrows the airway, which can make breathing difficult for people with chronic sinusitis whose nasal passages are inflamed to begin with. Many people which chronic sinusitis are less likely to sleep lying on their backs and lie on their side or stomachs instead.

People with chronic sinusitis are also more likely to snore and/or have obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which a person’s breathing becomes very shallow or pauses as he sleeps. Snoring and breathing pauses associated with sleep apnea are both caused by obstruction in the airways, either due to inflammation or a foreign object.

Treating Sinusitis

Getting prompt treatment for sinusitis is the first step toward better sleep. Home remedies you can try include:

  • Saline nasal irrigation
  • Nasal decongestant drops or sprays
  • Over-the-counter decongestants
  • Over-the-counter pain reliever for headache and sinus pain
  • Allergy shots if your sinusitis is caused by allergies
  • Placing medium-hot water in a bowl, draping a tower over your head and breathing in the vapor, or taking a hot shower or bath and breathing in moist, warm air
  • Drinking plenty of water or juice
  • Applying warm compresses to your nose, cheeks and eyes to relieve facial pain

Sinusitis is a viral infection. Although antibiotics are commonly prescribed, they may not be effective and they have side effects. If sinusitis persists despite efforts to treat it on your own, see a qualified ENT specialist to discuss other treatment options.