How to Sleep With Bronchitis

Despite the annoying symptoms of bronchitis, it is still possible to have a good night's sleep with bronchitis. Some things you must do to have a sound sleep with bronchitis include maintaining a nutritious diet, elevating your head while you sleep, using a BiPAP machine, increasing fluid intake, using steam, using a humidifier, and taking pain medications. Let's get to know what bronchitis is all about and look at details on how to sleep with it. 

What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis is when the lining of the tubes that carry air to and from the lungs, known as the bronchial tubes, are inflamed. The windpipe, also known as the trachea, is the main airway from where the two bronchi branch on either side. These bronchi further lead to smaller airways in the lungs called bronchioles. When the bronchi are inflamed, it leads to a condition known as bronchitis. Bronchitis can either be acute or chronic depending on the length of the infection and who is more vulnerable.

Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways that is temporally, usually lasting for about 3 weeks and causing a cough that is accompanied by mucus production. Acute bronchitis occurs mostly during winter and usually follows a common cold, flu, or sore throat.

Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways that lasts about 3 months a year and consecutively 2 years. It usually involves the daily production of a cough. Chronic bronchitis is part of several lung conditions called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It usually affects people who are above 40 years of age. 

Causes of bronchitis

  • Viruses are the most cause of bronchitis. It has been found that viruses cause 85% to 95% of acute bronchitis cases, the most common ones being rhinovirus, adenovirus, influenza A and B, and parainfluenza virus.1
  • Bacteria rarely cause bronchitis but can do so in people with underlining health conditions. The most common bacteria involved are Bordetella pertussis, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.1

These bacteria and viruses are found in droplets from the nose and mouth when someone coughs or sneezes. They are spread from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes around an uninfected person, and they inhale the droplets that come out of their mouth when the droplets land on surfaces and an uninfected person happens to touch those surfaces.

  • Irritant substances can also trigger bronchitis when someone breathes in them constantly. These irritant substances includes tobacco smoke, smog, or chemicals in household products. The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking. It can impact both persons who inhale secondhand smoke and those who smoke
  • Another cause of bronchitis is occupational exposure to substances such as grain dust, textiles (fabric fibres), ammonia, acids, and chlorine.2 This sometimes is referred to as occupational bronchitis and usually eases when one is no longer exposed to these substances

Tips how to sleep with bronchitis

List of tips/do’s and don'ts

Here are some tips on how to sleep with bronchitis.3 These tips could also be applied as general remedies for bronchitis.

  • Maintain a nutritious diet: maintaining a nutritious diet is a great way to sleep with bronchitis. Vegetables, whole grains, fruit, poultry, beans, lean meats, seafood, nuts, and eggs should all be included in a healthy diet. Include low-fat dairy and fat-free goods while avoiding foods high in saturated and trans fats, salt, cholesterol, and added sugars
  • Raise your head: Coughing caused by bronchitis can alter one’s sleep at night. Sleeping on your side or back causes mucus to accumulate in your throat, resulting in a cough. The best approach to avoid this is to elevate your head by using additional pillows. Another method is using a wedge to lift your head and neck. Just keep in mind that excessive elevation can result in neck pain
  • BiPAP Machine: A bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) equipment can help with breathing problems. It helps people with bronchitis breathe by delivering compressed air through a face mask. This gadget works by giving varied air pressure levels during inhalation and exhalation, which helps to calm the lungs and chest wall muscles. Position the mask over your nose or mouth when using a BiPAP machine. Check that the mask's edges are properly fastened to your face. When you inhale, the machine will produce one pressure level, and when you exhale, it will deliver a lesser pressure level
  • The use of steam: Before going to bed, take a warm shower or bath. Consider steaming your face for 10 to 15 minutes over a bowl or basin of warm water. The steam, the heated water produces might help release the mucus in your sinuses and chest. This can help clean your airways and reduce bronchitis symptoms as you sleep. You have a better chance of getting a decent night's sleep with the help of steam
  • Take more fluid: Because bronchitis is a lower respiratory tract illness, a person suffering from it should drink more fluids, as this can assist with either reducing and loosening the thickness of the mucus, keeping the throat moist, or lowering the risk of dehydration. Herbal tea, juice, and soup can also help. A cup of hot tea will also do the trick, having the same effect as steam. Choose a caffeine-free herbal tea blend. Varieties, including eucalyptus, chamomile, and other relaxing herbs, are wonderful alternatives for a good night's sleep
  • Use a humidifier: A humidifier raises the humidity level in a room by emitting steam or water vapor. When humidity is low, it is more likely to irritate the throat and nasal passages, exacerbating bronchitis symptoms. A humidifier circulates heated and humidified air to help loosen and discharge mucus. When utilizing a humidifier, make sure it's in good working order. Furthermore, keep an eye on the humidity levels. When a device is not maintained or cleaned regularly, it becomes a breeding ground for germs or mold as the remaining water becomes tainted and freezes over time. If you can't sleep because of a sore throat caused by bronchitis, gaggle saltwater, drink cold and warm fluids, take pain medication, and use over-the- counter sprays and lozenges
  • Take pain medication: While it is advisable to always talk to a doctor concerning which medications are best for you, some pain relief medications that can help lessen the symptoms of bronchitis and help with sleep at night include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), aspirin, or naproxen (Aleve)
  • Quit smoking: If you are a smoker, you should quit immediately. Smoking aggravates bronchitis and raises your chances of getting a chronic (long-term) disease
  • Avoid irritants: If you wish to reduce bronchitis symptoms at night, you must remove all potential allergens from your bedroom. If you have pets, keep them out of your bedroom because animal dander might aggravate these symptoms. Other irritants that can cause bronchitis symptoms, such as air pollution, dust, and chemicals in home items, must also be avoided. Avoid using scented candles, perfumes, cleaning agents, or other goods irritating the respiratory system. Also, check the filters in your home's heating and cooling systems regularly


Acute bronchitis usually clears up on its own within a few weeks without the need for therapy. Chronic bronchitis has no cure, but there are various drugs that can help ease symptoms. As earlier stated, it is also critical to avoid smoking and smoky settings, as they can exacerbate your symptoms.

When to seek medical attention?

Again, symptoms of bronchitis usually go away without any treatment. However, if the symptoms are severe and unusual, you may need medical attention from a physician. In the following situations, you might need to seek medical attention.

  • If your cough becomes severe and stays longer than three weeks
  • If you have a constant fever lasting longer than three days with a body temperature greater than 38oC
  • If the blood accompanies mucus that you produce while coughing
  • If you suffer from an underlying lung condition such as asthma and heart failure


Bronchitis is a state where the lining of the tubes that carry air to and from the lungs, known as the bronchial tubes, are inflamed. Bronchitis can either be acute or chronic depending on the length of the infection and who is more vulnerable. Acute bronchitis lasts shorter and goes away easily, while chronic bronchitis lasts longer and needs remedy. Though the symptoms of bronchitis can often make it difficult to sleep at night, it is still possible to sleep peacefully with the infection. The following may help peaceful sleep with bronchitis: maintaining a nutritious diet, elevating your head while you sleep, using a BiPAP machine, increasing fluid intake, using steam, using a humidifier, and taking pain medications. However, if your cough lasts longer than 3 weeks, you have a constant fever for more than 3 days, cough out blood in the mucus, and suffer any other lung disease; then it is advisable to seek medical attention.


  1. Worrall G. Acute bronchitis. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien. 2008; 54(2).
  2. NHS. Bronchitis. [Online].; 2019 [cited 2022 October 13. Available from:,when%20someone%20coughs%20or%20sneezes.
  3. Hospital and Healthcare Management. How To Sleep Peacefully With Bronchitis. [Online]. [cited 2022 October 12. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Fuanyi Awatboh

M.Sc. in Epidemiology and Control of Infectious Diseases, University of Buea, Cameroon

I am a professional Quality Assurance Mentor with Global Health Systems Solutions. My job is to enhance HIV testing, Care, and treatment by making sure that all entry points in the three hospitals under me follow standard testing algorithms, have all necessary tools and equipment needed for testing, train testers if need be, and monitor that all positive cases are under treatment among other duties. I have also mentored laboratories to increase their quality of service and standards of operations.

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