Coughing only at night – babies, toddlers and adults – should you be worried?

by sleep disorders, sleep supplements, sleep wellness

As every parent knows one of the most common issues we have to deal with is making sure that our babies and toddlers are getting a good night’s sleep.

A common sleep problem in toddlers is coughing that happens only at night.

Today, we’ll will into get some of the potential causes and what you can do about it.

crying toddler coughing at night

Statistics say that this type of coughing is likely caused by one of the following four conditions: Croup, Bronchiti, Asthma and Sinusitis.


If your baby or toddler is coughing only tonight at night, croup might be causing the issue. Croup is a condition that irritates the uper airways of the toddler.

How to recognize it?

This cough is repetitive, aggressive and the bursts are harsher at night. It’s a result of an inflamed throat, windpipe and/or vocal cords.

Usually occurs in toddlers under the age of five and symptoms can include: difficulty breathing, fever, problems with swallowing food and high-pitched wheezing sounds.

Views expressed by the Mayo Clinic are that cough caused by croup can usually be soothed in your own home by increasing the moisture air (using a humidifier) and by making sure that your kid stayed hydrated.

toddler coughing croup


Most parents are familiar you the condition – it’s an inflammation of the bronchial tubes that is usually caused by infections or colds.

How to recognize it?

Bronchitis symptoms include white, yellow, green or clear mucus, coughing and chest discomfort followed by extreme fatigue. The condition itself usually improves waiting a week; however, the night coughs may persist for a few weeks.

Your pediatrician might decide to recommend cough syrup or some other sort of suppressant to offer relief.

little girl with inhaler and thermometer on side table


Asthma is followed by narrowing of the airways and production of mucus.

It’s hard to precisely define the symptoms because they substantially vary on case-to-case basis.

Signs of the condition can be shortness of breath, wheezing from the lungs and a persistent cough. The views expressed by Mayo Clinic describe asthma as being caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

If the night coughs are caused by asthma, your pediatrician will be the one to craft a treatment plan.

girl using the asthma inhaler


Sinusitis is characterized by the swelling and inflammation of nasal cavities which results mucus build-up.

The most common causes are infections, but it can also be caused by polyps or a deviation of the nasal septum.

Coughing caused by sinusitis tends to get worse at night.

The condition commonly goes away on its own, but should it persist for more than a few days, consult your pediatrician.

mother and kid with nasal pot

Toddler coughing only at night – other considerations

Apart from the obvious conditions that we listed above, if the night cough is chronic you should you rethink the sleeping environment off your baby or toddler.

The choice of the baby crib or toddler mattress is crucial

This might include steps like rethinking the choice of the baby crib mattress, optimizing the humidity of the air and making sure that the environment is clean and safe from any allergens that might be causing the night-only coughs in babies and toddlers.

Kids that are especially sensitive to allergens such as dust mites might get relief if you change the linen more frequently. If none of the conditions we talked about above are the cause, the most likely cause for a toddler coughing only at night are allergies caused by a range of triggers – one of the more common ones being the dust mites from the linen.

The reason for this is the fact that dust mites feed on the dead skin cells that stay trapped in the sheets and the body of the mattress.

Coughing only at night – adults

One of the most common sleep is chronic night coughing especially if you’re sleeping with a partner. Not only do you keep them awake but you interfering with your own sleep patterns too.

Nocturnal coughing can be a sign of number of respiratory problems: bronchitis, pneumonia, heart problems and acid reflux.

If your cough is caused by a temporary issue like cold there’s probably no need to worry, should the coffee milk and pool after two or three nights it’s advisable to consult your physician

Statistically speaking most of the night coughs are a symptom of allergies or respiratory tract congestion, but there are still steps you can take to improve the condition.

Tip 1 – Adjust your sleep position

If you have issues with acid reflux in the past this is probably one of the tapes card from your doctor – sleep inclined.

The easiest way to do this is to you dedicated pillows also known as wedges. This will prevent the mucus that you swallow during the day getting back to your throat and towards your lungs.

The cremation doesn’t have to be extreme. If you want don’t want to get a special pillow, the solution can be as simple as elevating the top of your mattress by 3 to 4 inches by placing within blocks, either under the frame of the top part of the mattress or the mattress itself.

The incline flipping from this position will allow you to avoid acid reflux coming back from your esophagus and irritating your throat.

If at all possible avoid sleeping on your back, because this is one of the sleep positions that makes things worse if you’re suffering from. Due to the shape of your digestive tract you’ll see many more irritation from acid reflux when sleeping on your left side

If a heart condition is cause of problems, sleeping in an inclined position can also help significantly because the water that is naturally goes down to the lower area and has minimal effect on your breathing.

wedge pillow

Tip 2 – take a cold shower before you go to bed

Another common cause for nocturnal coughing can be a dry respiratory tract. To learn whether this is your scenario try taking the long soothing bath in the top of hot water.

Try to inhale as much steam as you can, it will help with the dryness.

Cautionary note – don’t try disconnected if you’re suffering from asthma, but because it can worsen your condition.

Tip 3 – avoid sleeping under a fan, radiator or an air conditioner

Cold air blowing into your face can worsen your cough, or even cause it in the first place.

Move your bed so that it’s not under the air conditioner or the fan.

Tip 4 – get a humidifier

This step dies into the conversation already have about the dryness of the respiratory tract being the potential issue causing your nocturnal onset of cough.

A humidifier can help you keep a certain level committed to the house. The sting opens your respiratory tract and allows air to circulate better.

The moisture created by the humidifier will help keep your respiratory tract hydrated.

The moisture level years should be kept in the range between 40 and 50%, because dust mites and mold thrive in space that are more humid than that.

cool mist humidifier blue

Tip 5 – wash your sheets and covers at least once a week

If your nocturnal cough is persistent, it’s likely that you’re suffering from allergies and it’s crucial to keep your sheets clean.

Dust mites are small creatures feed on that skin that sheds up your body, and they thrive because there is more food – cells of your debts can. If you are prone to allergies, chances are high that your also sensitive to dust mites.

The rule that you mentioned – washing your sheets at least once a week, also applies to your pillow and your blankets. You can minimize the risk by investing in a hypo-allergenic pillow.

Tip 6 – keep a glass of water at hand

It’s a good idea to always have a glass of water on your bedside table. If you wake up to a dry cough during the night, you can suit your throat with a sip of water. Avoid using cold or iced water, since it can only further irritate your throat.

Tip 7 – train yourself to breathe properly

Make an attempt to train yourself to breathe through your nose while you sleep, it’s just basic physiology. It’s our nature to break through the nose, while breathing through the mount exclusively is a learned behavior because most of us develop some kind of congestion in the nasal area over our lifetime.

Breathing through your nose will put less stress in your throats and relieve your night calls.

It might sound complicated, but after a few weeks of training you can learn to breathe properly.

Below is an outlines of how to do the exercises:

  • Sit in a comfortable, slightly reclined position
  • Relax your body and close your mouth
  • Place your tongue behind your lower teeth – make sure that your tongue doesn’t touch the top of your mouth
  • Place your hands on your diaphragm (belly)
  • Make a conscious effort to breed in using your diaphragm rather than your torso. This is important because it helps the lungs work properly while gently massaging your liver and intestines.
  • The secondary benefit of proper breathing is that it stimulates the elimination of toxins from your body.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose (for 2 to 3 seconds)
  • Breathe out the same way but take a bit more time (3 to 4 seconds)
  • Take a break of 2 to 3 seconds before breathing in again
  • Repeat this several times, while slightly increasing the duration of breathing in and out as well as the brakes in-between
  • Repeat this exercise a few times a day and you’ll soon notice a change – you’ll see that breathing through the nose comes to us naturally.

Cough suppressants

In more persistent and severe cases of coughs your physician might advise taking a cough medicine. The first step is likely to be an OTC syrup. These help with the coughing two different ways.

  • They soften the mucus located in your throat and your respiratory tract
  • They block the natural coughing instinct
  • Another option is applying VapoRub on your chest before going to bed.
  • Both of these are universally recognized to be helpful remedies for nocturnal cough.



Honey is an excellent natural remedy for an irritated throat because it covers and soothes the mucous membranes of the throat. Just one spoonful can go a long way.

Rule of thumb here can be to take one or two spoonfuls of honey 3 times a day, dissolved in hot water with a touch of lemon juice.

Cautionary note – although honey is a very healthy natural remedy shouldn’t be given to children under the age of 2 because of the risk of botulism, a disease which is bacterial in origin.


Licorice root tea

Licorice root is a natural decongestant. It soothes your throat and soft in the mucus present in the respiratory tract. It also fights off and inflammation present.

You can purchase licorice feedbacks in most stores but it’s advisable to go with brands that there third party tested.

Making the licorice root tea

Unless otherwise stated on the box, infuse the licorice root in boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Covered the to keep the steam and the restorative oils in the tea.

During this study 1 to 2 times a day and before you go to bed.

If you want to combine the power of honey licorice root, you can always replace the water in the honey solution (see mentioned above) with a bit of added lemon.

Gargle saltwater

In some cases of nocturnal coughing saltwater might be of help. This is especially true if the causes of the night coughs are congested breeding pathways.

To make the solution these old about half of small spoon off salt worried about 250 mL of lukewarm water until it’s been so. Use the solution to gargle, but be careful not to swallow repeat the gargling until you have used up solution and then rinse your mouth with clear water.

glass of water lemon soda and salt

Use water vapor and natural oils

Steam is an excellent way to absorb moisture through the respiratory tract and sued by nocturnal costs. By adding in essential oils such as eucalyptus three you will also have the added antibacterial, antiviral and the inflammatory benefits.

Here is a short outline of how to make the solution of natural essential oils:

  • Boil enough water to feel one bowl of medium-size
  • Pour the water into the bowl and let it rest for about a minute
  • Add 3 to 4 drops of essential oil – eucalyptus is always a good choice
  • Stir quickly will until the vapor start to rise
  • Bend your head above the bowl and try to be as close as possible to the steam (make sure that you’re not too close for steam to be unpleasant or burn your skin
  • Place a clean towel over your head and the bowl, making a tent of sorts to trap the steem
  • Breathe deeply for 5 to 10 minutes and repeat the procedure to 2×3 times a day

Essential oils are also found to be helpful for nocturnal coughs when applied directly to the skin. Always mix the essential oils with organic olive oil before applying it, because the essential oils are not meant to be applied directly to the skin.

essential oil mixed with virgin olive oil

Back to you

We have gone over some basic techniques to deal with persistent nocturnal coughs, both for adults and for babies and toddlers coughing only at night – these are provided for educational purposes and its common sense to consult your physician before using the techniques described above.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to drop us a like or comment below.

Sleep tight

young man sleeping


  • Bob Ozment

    Bob has been testing and writing about all things sleep (and especially blankets, air mattresses and folding beds), for 8+ years now. before that, he worked as a Quality Assurance Manager with one of the bigger names in the sleep industry. He holds a masters degree Statistics, Actuarial & Data Sciences from the central Michigan University at Mount Pleasant. He's one of the people who designs our producing testing and statistical models. He’s a stomach sleeper, but nobody’s perfect.