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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Unable to breath when lying down!

03/17/2005

Question:

I`m wondering if you may be able to shed some light on a problem I`ve had for a number of years now. During the day my breathing is perfectly normal and whilst my nose isn`t completely clear I can breath through it OK. However, when I lie down its as if something blocks off and for some reason I don`t compensate by opening my mouth and breathing through that instead. Instead I become uncomfortable, don`t sleep and sometimes begin hyperventilating in almost a panic for oxygen. The problem can be aleved with a decogestant nose drop which I now use every night (despite the fact that its only supposed to be for short term usage). And I only need a small amount to make a difference and I use child formula. However in trying to ween myself off and using less - I end up waking in the morning with a chronic headache, due I assume to a lack of oxygen. I don`t know what can be causing this r how to solve the problem. Incidentally I`m confident that it isn`t an allergy linked to bedding etc. I don`t know if this may be linked but I also go near-deaf when in a warm indoor atmosphere eg. department store esp if I`m stressed -it`s as if I`m under-water. Please help, since nobody else can! I had hearing tests done but because I wasn`t haven`t a problem at that time they were normal.

Answer:

It is normal for the nose to become slightly more congested when lying down.  This is because blood tends to pool more and drain less from the nose when the head is in a more recumbent position.  In addition, any congestion will be more noticeable at night when trying to go to sleep  and not being distracted by other activities.

Having said that, if the congestion is such that you feel as though you are not getting enough air, then there may be an abnormal obstruction.  It may not be enough for you to experience a problem during the day, but becomes more noticeable at night.  The best way to explore this possibility is to see an ear, nose, and throat physician for an examination.

As you know, using a decongestant spray every day is not healthy for your nose.  Even just using it at night, your nose can develop what we call rebound congestion.  The cycling congestion and decongestion in your nose becomes dependant on the spray.  Therefore, it would help to stop using the spray on any regular basis.  If you have difficulty stopping the spray on your own, again an ear, nose, and throat physician will be able to help by prescribing appropriate medication.

 

 

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Response by:

Allen M Seiden, MD Allen M Seiden, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Division of Rhinology and Sinus Disorders, Director of University Taste and Smell Center, Director of University Sinus and Allergy
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati