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August 22, 2014
By Nels Seifert, Contributing Columnist
The morning coffee is brewing, the spring flowers blooming wonderful
aromas, and you can’t smell it, because of morning congestion. Why?
Is it me?
It’s actually not an uncommon problem and most people wake up like
you, a stuffy nose, phlegm in the throat and chest, difficult to take that
first morning breathe. The problems relating to morning congestion
vary and the causes for these symptoms vary as well. Nasal congestion,
whether it’s in the morning or lasts throughout your day is that “stuffy
nose, thick feeling” in your sinus and throat area, causing that heavy,
unable to breath sensation we all dislike!
Your annoying morning congestion is caused by swollen and often
irritated blood vessels and nasal tissues filled with fluid, normal in most
adults and children, also accompanied by a discharge of fluid, or “runny
The accumulation of mucus buildup is referred to as “mucosal
inflammation” and is the underlying cause for most congestion issues
regardless the cause. A study by Dr. Robert Naclerio at the University of
Chicago, Pathophysiology of Nasal Congestion (2010) notes, “Mucosal
inflammation is the central pathophysiological mechanism that underlies
many of the specific and interrelated factors that contribute to
congestion, including increased venous engorgement, increased nasal
secretions and tissue swelling/edema.”
The causes behind the buildup of fluid and swollen nasal cavities range
from dry air to bright lights, but the most common causes are
associated with infections, allergies, and irritants you may come across
in your home and/or office. Some of these more common causes
include the common cold, acute and chronic sinusitis, hay fever, food
allergies, mold, perfume, stress, tobacco smoke, dry air, and a deviated
Whatever the cause, you can usually get rid of your congestion as the
day progresses; however, you will often have to start the annoying
process over again in the morning when you awake.
Here are the Top 7 causes behind your morning congestion and how
you can fight it naturally!
1. Sleep Position with More Elevation
One of the more common reasons you wake up every morning hacking
and struggling to smell the metaphorical roses is the way you sleep.
Most of us lay flat in bed, supine, or on our sides, but mainly in a flat
Have you ever wondered why the upper bodies of hospital patients are
normally elevated? The elevation of the upper body helps your body’s
mucus and fluid to move more naturally outward and drain. When you
are lying on a level plane, mucus is more likely to buildup and pool in
the sinus cavity and upper respiratory area, stagnating and thus
causing your morning congestion.
Research conducted at the Department of Otorhinolaryngology,
University of Regensburg, by Dr. Rohmeier, The Nasal Cycle During
Wakefulness and Sleep and its Relation to Body Position (2014) goes
into further detail regarding mucus production as it relates to body
position during sleep.
The study notes, “Shifts in body position during sleep alter the NC
[nasal cycle] in a specific direction to a significant extent.”
One naturally remedy to fight against the buildup of mucus while you
sleep is elevation. Use 2 or 3 more pillows to elevate your upper body
while you sleep and let your body naturally move the mucus from your
nasal and upper respiratory area.
2. Indoor Allergies? Rearrange Your Home
There is nothing worse than having allergies, constant sneezing and
hacking associated with sinus congestion and it’s even worse when it’s
in your own home.
As a sufferer of indoor allergies myself, I can relate to the frustration
you may feel when you are in the serenity of your castle and cant
breath. Home should be a relaxing place, not a place of constant
congestion. Indoor allergies that can cause your “at home congestion”
include animal dander, mold, and dust mites.
A study conducted by Dr. Abidin and Dr. Ming (2012) at the Infectious
Diseases Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research, Malaysia
stated, “Mite avoidance measures, such as washing bedding in hot
water, encasing mattresses and pillows in allergen impermeable covers
and woven material covers, maintaining room humidity below 50%
relative humidity, removing carpets and vacuum cleaning can reduce
exposure to mite allergen.”
Your fight against dust mites should start in the bedroom, working
your way to the other rooms of your home that you spend a lot of time
in. An air ionizer can be used effectively to help fight against dust mites,
but starting with your bed will significantly change your morning
3. Outdoor Allergies? Fight it with Apple Cider Vinegar
After you debugged and cleared out the mold you may or may not have
in your home, your fight against the morning congestion insurgency
can continue outdoors. It is no surprise that most of us will or have
suffered from allergies during key weather changes and pollen seasons,
but there are ways to fight against these changes naturally, without
prescription drugs and over the counter nasal sprays or pills. The
outdoor allergens can be caused by everything we come into contact
with every day we step out the door for a morning run, daily commute,
and/or Saturday picnic at the park.
Apart from the many natural allergens Mother Nature throws at us, we
have also created more with the rise of air pollution and its harmful
effects on our respiratory system. A study conducted at the National
Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
by Dr. Jennifer Parker (2008), discussed the correlation between air
pollution and the rise in childhood respiratory allergies. The study
noted, “Exposures to O3 and fine PM are associated with childhood
respiratory allergies.” One natural remedy you can use to fight
congestion associated with allergies is a teaspoon of apple cider
vinegar, 3 times a day. This will help reduce mucous production and
allow you to enjoy your time in the great outdoors, not hiding behind
latched doors and windows in your now dust mite, mold free home.
4. Clean Out Viral Infections with Something Hot!
Every year cold and flu seasons are discussed in detail with many
people shuffling into local grocery stores and pharmacies to get a free
flu shot instead of just staying healthier overall.
Chances are, flu shot or no flu shot, you will get a cold and experience
congestion in the mornings when you are fighting the viral or bacterial
infection in your sinus cavity.
If you get a cold this year, as fall and winter is fast approaching, you
can battle a little bit of your morning congestion and start your day
with clear breathing naturally.
One natural remedy that can help keep your nasal congestion to a
minimum during the day is drinking hot green or chamomile tea.
Studies have shown that heat helps break up the thick mucus and helps
it move out of the nasal passages easier.
Another exceptional way to clear out that morning congestion is to
start your day with a “Neti Pot” rinse.
The Neti Pot is an Indian Ayurvedic medicine practice for cleansing the
nasal passageway with a saline mixture. A study conducted by Dr.
Brown and Dr. Graham at the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and
Neck Surgery, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Nasal Irrigation:
Good or Bad? (2004) concluded, “Nasal irrigations should no longer be
considered merely adjunctive measures in managing sinonasal
conditions. They are effective and underutilized. Some of the persisting
unanswered questions will only be answered by further research.”
The neti pot will clear out your morning congestion and the hot tea you
can sip on throughout the day will ease your flu and cold congestion,
easing your work day.
5. Battle Dry Air and Breathe Easier with Herbal Power
The causes of morning congestion vary greatly and sometimes a little
preventive care is in order to keep you nasal passages clear so you can
breathe easy during the night and in the morning.
Two herbs that you can utilize in the evening before you sleep and
when you wake up are eucalyptus and menthol.
You may know menthol from the powerful punch it delivers via cough
drops and vapor rubs. Menthol comes from peppermint oil and has a
cooling effect that will trick your nose into thinking it’s getting more air
by stimulating the nerve receptors in the nasal cavity.
You can use menthol in a natural form instead of purchasing the vapor
rubs at your pharmacy. Applying it at night can improve your sleep and
help you breathe easier upon waking up.
Research by Dr. Sinclair, Remedies for Common Family Ailments: 10.
Nasal Decongestants (1996) discusses the benefits of using menthol
and eucalyptus to help curb nasal congestion.
Eucalyptus can be used as a morning steam vapor, naturally refreshing
your senses while breaking up the mucus and phlegm you may have
upon awakening. Mix a small amount of eucalyptus with hot water in a
clean bowl, covering your head with a towel over the bowl, breathing
6. Nettle Leaf, Nature’s Anti-inflammatory
Nettles or stinging nettles Urtica dioica have been used for centuries in
primitive and modern medicine for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Nettles can be taken in a natural or supplement form, allowing the user
to feel a comfortable state shortly after ingestion. The most common
way to consume nettles is by making it into a tea and drinking it.
The nettle has had great success in relieving allergic rhinitis, or nasal
congestion associated with allergies. Research conducted by Dr.
Mittman at the National College of Neuropathic Medicine in Oregon
(1990), concluded that “Urtica dioica was rated higher than placebo in
the global assessments.” It only makes sense that an anti-inflammatory
like nettle leaf would have benefits in congestion since it’s an
inflammation of the sinus tissues. Another great natural remedy in the
fight against morning congestion.
7. Nonallergic Congestion
Nonallergic congestion or nonallergic rhinitis is the congestion you may
experience without allergens being present and causing the symptoms
associated with the body’s allergic response.
Nonallergic congestion can be caused by perfume, strong odors,
tobacco smoke, drug use, or anatomical issues like a deviated septum.
Studies have shown that nonallergic congestion affects more than 7%
of the population in the United States, one third of the reported allergic
Research conducted by Dr. Settipane at the Department of Medicine,
Warren Albert Medical School of Brown University (2013) concluded
that “Although certain precipitants such as perfume, strong odors,
changes in temperature or humidity, and exposure to tobacco smoke
are frequently identified as symptom triggers, NAR may occur in the
absence of defined triggers.”
Nonallergic Congestion is something that can now be defined and
treated with the right diagnosis from your doctor, for example, to
decrease your morning congestion you could stop smoking or changing
perfumes. It’s important to identify the root of the problem first by
consulting your physician and getting the necessary tests to determine
if your congestion is caused by allergens or not.
It’s valuable to know why you wake up every morning feeling that
phlegm in your throat, unable to breathe, and enjoy your morning.
Morning congestion has many different causes and it can also vary
greatly in seriousness, ultimately crucial to pay a visit to your physician
and ask about tests and possible causes for your own morning
congestion since it may differ from person to person. There could also
be underlying causes such as bacterial infections or other serious
medical conditions that need to be addressed before getting worse.
Whatever the case, get your mornings back and smell those roses in a
natural and safe way!
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|Certain kinds of tea can help to clear out morning congestion