Why Do I Have a Sore Throat Only at Night?

Sore throat

If you have ever woken up in the morning with a recurring sore-throat, then you understand how frustrating and troubling this can be. If you only get a sore throat at night, you may be tempted to think that you are suffering from allergies. You might also wonder if you have some kind of virus.

Or, is it your immune system? Is there something wrong with your nasal passages? Is it the air in your apartment, house, or bedroom?

These are all ideas that may pop into your brain when you start to become aware of the problem. But the fact of the matter is that you probably need more information to figure out what is really going on. Here is some info that can help you to get started down the path of diagnosing the problem and getting it sorted out.

Figuring out what is causing a sore throat can sometimes be a complicated affair. Be advised that a visit to your doctor may be required to figure out exactly what is going on. But in the meantime, you can examine the situation for clues to help point you in the right direction. Sometimes, you can treat the problem at home without going to a lot of trouble—but as with any health-related problem, every case is a little bit different.

What Does a Sore Throat Mean?

Sore throats are pretty common. In fact, they rank right towards the top with fatigue as one of the most common symptoms of illness that a person can experience. But, sore throats (especially at night) are not always a sign of illness, either. Yes, they can be caused by a cold, or by the flu… but they can also be caused by something as simple as an allergic reaction, cool air, or irritated sinuses.

Back in the old days, having a sore throat could mean big trouble. If you ended up with pneumonia or some other kind of serious illness, then a sore throat could serve as a warning sign of a dangerous sickness. But for the most part, occasional sore throats are nothing to worry about.

Sore throat symptoms are also pretty easy to spot, and can include…

  • Pain
  • A scratchy sensation
  • Difficulty while swallowing, or painful swallowing
  • Sore, swollen glands in your jaw or neck
  • Red, swollen, or sore tonsils
  • White patches or pus on your tonsils
  • A hoarse voice

To answer this question plainly, a sore throat could mean anything from irritation due to the air, to a serious, dangerous illness like pneumonia or other viruses. Most often, sore throats are just an irritation. But if you are waking up with a sore throat every night, or experience them only at night a decent percentage of the time, then you might be looking at something a bit more environmental.

There are a number of things that could cause such a problem.

Common Reasons For A Sore Throat At Night

Environment

EnvironmentTalking loudly in an environment that isn’t good for your throat.

Believe it or not, it is possible to strain your vocal cords while talking loudly… especially if you do so in an environment that is already irritating to the soft membranes and tissues of the airway. Do you work in a smoky bar where you have to shout to be heard? Do you spend a lot of time outdoors, shouting or talking loudly over equipment in environments that could be hard on your throat? (cold air, sawdust, wood-smoke, particularly dry air, etc.)

If so, then you may be looking at a very simple problem. Drinking water more regularly, drinking warm tea with honey, or using some other method to keep your throat protected could help to decrease the odds of this kind of problem happening.

Smoking

SmokingIt is quite possible that smoking is contributing to this problem if you are a smoker. Exposure to tobacco smoke can irritate the throat, mouth, and voice box.

If you tend to smoke more in the evening, this may be contributing to waking up in the morning with a sore throat.

Allergies

Allergies or sinus issuesAllergies could be a huge contributor to night-time sore-throats, especially at certain times of the year. Thankfully, when winter lasts longer in Canada, the allergy season tends to be less severe—but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t expect at least a little bit of a problem with it, especially if you are sensitive to pollen and other types of seasonal allergies.

Plus, allergies are likely the number-two culprit of recurring nighttime sore throats (second only to snoring and/or sleep apnea), because while you are sleeping, there is a good chance that any sinus drainage is going to go down the back of your throat instead of out through your nose—which makes it a perfect suspect for people who are experiencing sore throats mostly at night on a regular basis.

This kind of problem can also be caused by mold, mildew, animal dander, etc.

Read Also:  Can Salt Therapy Help With Snoring?
A Virus or a Cold

VirusIt is quite possible that a virus or a cold could be to blame for your sore throat—though it is also true that these types of problems tend to clear up over time instead of dragging out and becoming a regular thing. Still, if your sore throat is accompanied by a fever, chills, or other cold or flu-like symptoms, you may want to consider seeing a doctor to rule out the possibility of a more complicated medical issue.

Gastroesophagel Reflux Disease

Gastroesophagel Reflux DiseaseGERG, or Acid Reflux, can sometimes cause stomach acid to get past the upper esophageal sphincter. If this happens, it can enter the throat, or even the voice box. This is also possibly more likely to happen at night, as you will be lying down—so it makes sense to look at this possibility if you are experiencing night-time sore throats on a regular basis.

Either way, acid reflux can cause hoarseness, a sore throat, or even laryngitis in some cases. You will likely also experience unexplained dry coughing if acid reflux is a problem for you, so keep an eye out for that. If you are dry coughing and experiencing nightly sore-throats, it is possible that this is your problem.

Dry Air

Dry airDry air can actually be quite irritating to the sensitive tissues of the throat, and can sometimes be a common reason for night-time sore throat problems. If your bedroom, or house, tends to have dry air, then this can make for soreness and inflammation, especially at night.

Also at night, your heater may run when the temperature drops, which can sap moisture out of the air. Plus, you are probably not drinking water as regularly while sleeping—which makes your throat even dryer as time goes by.

To remedy this, you might want to consider setting up a humidifier to try to keep the air from getting so dry. This is a simple remedy that can sometimes do wonders for nighttime sore throat problems.

Snoring or Sleep Apnea

SnoringOf course, snoring and/or sleep apnea could also be to blame for a nightly sore throat, as can mouth-breathing during sleep. Snoring and/or sleep apnea can rattle the soft-tissues of the upper palate, which can irritate the sensitive tissues of the airway and throat.

But mouth breathing can also contribute to drying out the throat and irritating it with the cold night air while you rest. Generally, snoring and sleep apnea go hand-in-hand with mouth-breathing, which can make this problem a lot worse.

Also, since snoring only happens when you are asleep, that could explain why you would experience the sore throat only at night, and not during the day. If you experience other snoring symptoms or have had your partner tell you that you snore, this may very well be contributing to your nightly sore-throat problems.

Why Does Snoring Cause a Sore Throat?

You may experience a sore throat from snoring for a variety of reasons. Snoring occurs when the uvula and soft palate partially collapse over the back of the throat. As air moves through the mouth and into the airway, the uvula and soft palate vibrate against the throat, which causes the sounds that we recognize as snoring.

Soft plate vibration and snoring

Many people snore because they breathe through their mouths while they sleep when their nasal passages are swollen or congested. Breathing through your mouth increases the chances that your soft palate and uvula will collapse, and it can dry out your throat. Because your airway is partially blocked, it takes extra pressure for air to reach your lungs and come back out again. This dries out your throat just like a box fan dries out a wet towel by blowing air at it with extra force.

The constant vibration of the soft palate and uvula while you snore can also irritate the tissue in your throat, causing soreness. Your soft palate and uvula can swell up as well, which can make your throat feel swollen and irritated.

Having a sore throat can worsen an existing snoring problem, too. Inflamed or swollen tissue will make the airway even narrower, worsening the obstruction. Then, as the snoring worsens, the sore throat will become even more severe. This vicious cycle could continue forever without treating the snoring problem, the sore throat, or both. Fortunately, there are lots of remedies available to stop snoring and to ease a sore throat.

Home Remedies to Stop Snoring

Some people snore simply because of the position they sleep in. You may be able to stop snoring just by adjusting your bed or your sleeping position. Sleeping on your back can put extra pressure on your throat, which could cause your soft palate and uvula to block the airway and cause vibrations. Try sleeping on your side instead. If you tend to roll over onto your back while you sleep, try putting a body pillow next to you to keep you on your side.

Tennis ball method for snoring

Some people are also successful with the tennis ball method, which involves sewing a pocket onto the back of your pajamas and placing a tennis ball inside. Sleeping on your back with a tennis ball under you is so uncomfortable that you’ll stay on your side instead.

You can also try sleeping with a couple extra pillows under your head, which will prop you up and reduce some of the pressure on your neck. Putting some books under your mattress can help to prop your head up, too.

If your snoring is caused by breathing through your mouth while sleeping, there’s a good chance your nasal passages are swollen or congested. Taking a warm shower right before you go to bed can reduce swelling and clear out your nose. Using a humidifier while you sleep can help, too. If your nose gets swollen or congested because of allergies, make sure your room is free of dust or pet dander. Change your pillowcases and dust all the surfaces in your room.

Read Also:  Has Your Partner Noticed That You Are Snoring After Drinking Alcohol?

If you often wake up with a sore throat, quitting smoking can make a big difference. Smoking can dry out your throat and cause swelling and soreness, but it can also increase snoring, which will further worsen your sore throat.

Home Remedies to Ease a Sore Throat

When you wake up with a sore throat from snoring, drinking plenty of water right away is the best way to ease the discomfort. It’s important to keep your throat moisturized during the day to prevent it from drying out too much at night. Hot tea with honey is great for easing a sore throat, too.

Hot tea with honey

Another popular option is to gargle with a saltwater mixture. Combine one teaspoon of salt with a pint of warm water, and gargle with it when you wake up. However, avoid adding too much salt to the mixture. Excessive salt will dry your throat out even more.

If your snoring and sore throat issues persist even after you make efforts to treat them, it’s important to see your doctor to discuss the problem. Snoring can be a sign of a more serious health issue, and your doctor can suggest devices or other treatments to help you manage the problem.

How Do You Know if a Sore Throat is Serious?

Fever

So how do you know if you should actually see a doctor in reference to soreness, or scratchiness, in your throat?

WebMD.com actually lays out some pretty simple guidelines for gauging the ‘threat level’ of your current condition.

If you do end up with a sore throat, you should wait a day, drink some fluids, and take some pain medication if you are really uncomfortable. You can even take some vitamin C to try to aid your immune system in your fight against what is currently ailing you. The idea here is that you shouldn’t need to run out to the doctor’s office right away, as most sore throats just pass on their own without a problem.

But, if you develop any other indicators of a more serious problem, a doctor’s visit should follow fairly quickly. Here are some of the indicators to look out for.

  • Do you feel achy all over?
  • Do you have a fever?
  • Are you having difficulty swallowing?
  • Are you having trouble breathing?

If you experience any of these problems along with a sore throat, you should definitely consider going to a doctor right away.

What Can You Do About a Sore Throat If It Isn’t Serious?

Odds are good that your sore throat is not an indicator of a problem that will send you to the hospital. And for sore throats that end up being a smaller problem, there are definitely some steps that you can take to try to fix the issue without going to too much trouble.

Here are a few tips that you can make use of to make progress toward waking up without a sore throat every morning.

  • Stop smoking
  • Run a humidifier in your room while you are asleep, especially in the winter
  • If you tend to suffer from allergies, you may want to consider running an air purifier in your bedroom
  • Start washing your hands more regularly, especially after using the bathroom
  • Avoid sharing food, glasses, or utensils with people
  • Try to keep alcohol-based hand sanitizers around the house, and use them periodically (to cut down on cold and flu germs that may be sticking around)
  • Avoid touching things in public where germs may be likely to abound (door handles, countertops, drinking fountains, computer keyboards, etc.)
  • Avoid people who are sick. If your friends or their children get sick, wait until the illness passes to spend time together
  • Don’t eat too much right before you go to bed (this helps for acid reflux)

If you fear that snoring or sleep apnea may be to blame, consult your doctor for ideas to lessen the risk of it continuing. You may need to treat your snoring/sleep apnea problem before the nightly sore throat will go away. Snoring devices, lifestyle changes, or even some types of therapy can all make a difference.

What is the Most Likely Cause of Waking Up With a Sore Throat?

If you regularly wake up in the mornings with a sore throat, then odds are good that you are experiencing a symptom of some kind of irritation. Ultimately, inflammation is usually what causes a sore throat… which happens when irritation occurs.

A mild upper-respiratory tract infection is one of the most common reasons for waking up with a sore throat—but if your sore throat has persisted for a long time without any other symptoms, then odds are good that you are suffering from….

  • Some kind of allergy
  • A snoring problem
  • Sleep apnea
  • Acid reflux
  • Or a common cold

At any rate, most doctors agree that if a sore throat persists for much longer than a couple of days, a trip to your primary care physician is in order. The problem may or may not be serious—but it never hurts to get it checked out, especially if it is starting to become more noticeable.

Sometimes, a prolonged sore throat (or a sore throat that keeps coming back) is a sign that something is definitely wrong… and such a thing can definitely be due to a bacterial or viral infection.

Updated: 6.12.2018

References

https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/get-to-the-bottom-of-your-sore-throat#1

https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/sore-throat-cold-strep-throat-tonsillitis#1

https://utswmed.org/medblog/vocal-cords-care/

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