The pain and discomfort of a sore throat is something we’ve all suffered at some point. It is commonly caused by a viral infection, smoking and, in some, by bacteria. However, if your throat tends to hurt mostly at night, you may need to consider other factors that may be at the root of the problem.1 Here are some possible triggers you should be watching out for:
Allergies: An allergic reaction can cause a sore throat. Allergies and even the common cold can also increase mucus and cause it to drain down your throat. This post-nasal drip can irritate your throat and make things worse. So if you get a sore throat in the evenings or at night, maybe something in your environment during that period is causing your allergies to act up. Check for potential allergens like mold, pet dander, pollen, or dust.2 3 4
Dry air: Another factor that might be causing your sore throat is dry air. Heated buildings during winter especially may have very dry air indoors. This can make your throat feel scratchy and sore. If you spend your evenings at home in such an environment, you may have a sore throat at night or in the mornings when you get up.
Mouth breathing: Breathing through your mouth can also dry out your throat and lead to pain and discomfort. And like many people, if you tend to sleep with your mouth open, you may wake up during the night or in the morning with a sore throat. Various factors such as a stuffy nose or structural problems like a deviated septum can lead to mouth breathing.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): A digestive disorder that causes digestive enzymes and acid to flow from your stomach into your food pipe and even your throat, GERD can cause heartburn, a sore throat, nausea, coughing, and a hoarse voice. Since stomach acid tends to go easily into the food pipe when you are lying down, you may find that you have sore throat at night or in the mornings when you get up if you have this condition.5
Now that we’ve considered factors that may be responsible for your sore throat, let’s take a look at simple natural remedies that should help control it.
1. Have Turmeric Milk Or Tea
Turmeric, the potent yellow spice that’s commonly used in Indian food, can help tackle allergies. This is because curcumin, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound present in this spice, can inhibit the release of histamine. Histamine is a chemical released by your body during an allergic reaction and is responsible for causing the signature symptoms of a reaction. Traditionally, turmeric has also been used to remedy stuffy noses and colds.6 7
Steep turmeric powder in hot water to make yourself a cup of turmeric tea. Or add a teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of milk and bring it to the boil to prepare turmeric milk. Both these remedies can be had up to half an hour before bedtime. You can also start your day with these remedies. Fortify your immune system by adding the spice to your everyday cooking as well.
2. Sip On Benifuuki Green Tea
Another simple remedy that can help you tackle allergies is green tea. One study found that O-methylated catechin, a compound present in a variety of green tea known as Benifuuki, displayed potent anti-allergic effects. This catechin was able to inhibit the release of histamine and relieve symptoms of an allergic reaction.8 Steep a teaspoon of Benifuuki green tea in a cup of hot water for a few minutes to make yourself a cup of refreshing tea. Have this no later than 2 hours before bedtime so the tea doesn’t interfere with sleep.
3. Have Probiotics
Probiotics are good bacteria which offer many benefits from improving digestion to strengthening your immune function. They can also help you deal with allergies. Studies show that certain probiotic bacteria can inhibit proteins known as cytokines which are a part of your immune system and have a role in bringing about an allergic reaction. During one study, it was observed that having fermented milk which had probiotic Lactobacillus GG and Lactobacillus gasseri TMC0356 for a period of 9 weeks significantly improved symptoms in people suffering from a seasonal allergy to Japanese cedar pollen.
Probiotic bacteria are naturally present in some fermented foods like yogurt and available as supplements. But not all probiotic foods have the same bacterial strains. So before taking them, do check the label to make sure a strain that can help tackle allergies is present in it.9
4. Try A Nasal Wash
A salt water gargle is an effective and popular remedy for soothing a sore throat. Mix a teaspoon of salt into 240 ml of warm water to prepare the gargle and use this twice a day.10
Washing out the inside of your nose with a saltwater solution can help relieve post-nasal drip. Saline solutions are available at drugstores. You can also prepare one at home by mixing half a teaspoon each of saltwater and baking soda in 240 ml of sterile water.11 Fill a neti pot or bulb syringe with this solution and run it through your nostril while leaning over a sink.12
5. Avoid Allergens
While remedies like turmeric tea, probiotics, and green tea can help deal with an allergic reaction, the simplest way of avoiding a reaction is by avoiding exposure to whatever is triggering it. Take these steps to avoid potential allergens in the night:
- Keep your windows shut and stay in if pollen levels are particularly high.
- Carpets and fabric tend to catch dust. So wooden, vinyl, or leather furniture may be more appropriate for you if you are allergic to dust.
- Use mite-proof pillow covers and bedding and make sure you wash them in hot water (at a temperature between 54.4°C to 60°C) weekly.
- Mold may grow on carpets, wallpaper, books, and fabrics when they are damp. Use exhaust fans to reduce moisture levels in areas where it tends to be high – like the bathroom – and use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to remove mold present in the air.13 14
6. Chew Gum To Tackle GERD
Chew gum to help ease gastroesophageal reflux disease. How does that work? The activity of chewing stimulates saliva production and saliva can neutralize stomach acid and prevent it from irritating your throat. So chew gum for about half an hour after your dinner (or any meal) to tackle acid reflux. Go for sugar-free gum so that you don’t increase your risk of getting a cavity.15
7. Keep Your Head And Chest Elevated At Night
When you are in an upright position, gravity can keep stomach acid down and prevent acid reflux. But at night, when you lie down, it encourages stomach acid to flow up your food pipe to your throat. Keep your head and chest elevated above your waist when you sleep to make gravity work for and not against you. You can place something under the bed or mattress so that one end is raised by about 10 to 20 cm to do this; or get a foam wedge that helps raise your upper body.16
8. Have Dinner 3 to 4 Hours Before Bedtime
If you are prone to GERD, not having any food 3 to 4 hours before you go to bed helps ensure that stomach acid doesn’t flow into your food pipe when you lie down. Some foods like alcohol, coffee, chocolate, and fatty foods are also known to trigger acid reflux. So avoid them if you have GERD.17
9. Use A Humidifier
If the dry air at home is making your throat sore, there’s a simple answer to your problem – humidifiers! A humidifier can banish dry air which may inflame and irritate the airways in your throat and nose. Here are a few tips on using a home humidifier:
- Use a cool mist humidifier as a warm mist humidifier can burn if you are too close to it.
- Place your humidifier at a distance of approximately 2 meters from the bed.
- Keep the unit at a 30–50% humidity and make sure you don’t run it for too long. Too much moisture can encourage the growth of mold. Also, remember that you need to clean your humidifier daily so that germs don’t grow in the standing water.18
10. Use A Chin Strap
If you are a habitual mouth breather and it’s making your throat sore and dry, using a chin strap may help. A chin strap closes your mouth at night, encouraging you to breathe through your nose. But do keep in mind that if an underlying issue such as a deviated septum or nasal polyp lies at the root of your mouth breathing, you may need to see a doctor to correct those. A chin strap may also not be the best solution if you have a stuffy nose or sinus problems.19
|↑1||Sore throat. National Health Service.|
|↑2||Allergies, asthma, and pollen. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3||Bogawski, P., and M. Smith. “Pollen nightmare: elevated airborne pollen levels at night.” Aerobiologia 32, no. 4 (2016): 725-728.|
|↑4, ↑10, ↑11||Treating a Sore Throat Caused by Post-Nasal Drip. HealthLinkBC.|
|↑5||Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Harvard Health Publishing.|
|↑6||Kurup, Viswanath P., and Christy S. Barrios. “Immunomodulatory effects of curcumin in allergy.” Molecular nutrition & food research 52, no. 9 (2008): 1031-1039.|
|↑7||AHMED, TALHA, and ARSHAD TAIMOR. “HERBAL AND CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT OF BRONCHITIS.”|
|↑8||Maeda-Yamamoto, Mari, and Hirofumi Tachibana. “Anti-allergic action of 0-methylated EGCG in green tea cultivar benifuuki.” Journal of Food & Drug Analysis 20 (2012): 313-317.|
|↑9||Kawase, Manabu, Fang He, Akira Kubota, Masaru Hiramatsu, Hiroshi Saito, Toyota Ishii, Hiroshi Yasueda, and Kazuo Akiyama. “Effect of fermented milk prepared with two probiotic strains on Japanese cedar pollinosis in a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical study.” International journal of food microbiology 128, no. 3 (2009): 429-434.|
|↑12||What to do about sinusitis. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑13||Allergies, asthma, and dust. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑14||Allergic rhinitis – self-care. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑15||Moazzez, R., D. Bartlett, and A. Anggiansah. “The effect of chewing sugar-free gum on gastro-esophageal reflux.” Journal of dental research 84, no. 11 (2005): 1062-1065.|
|↑16, ↑17||Heartburn and acid reflux. National Health Service.|
|↑18||Humidifiers and health. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑19||Snoring Chin Straps. American Sleep Association.|