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Sinus Infections and Insomnia: Cause and Treatment

by Dale Cudmore | Updated: Oct 04, 2020

Sinus infections, or sinusitis, causes symptoms like a plugged nose and facial pain. It’s not surprising that this can lead to sleep issues.

Research has found that people with chronic sinus infections are much more likely to suffer from sleep problems - 60-75% compared to 8-18% in the general population (1).

We also know that chronic sinus infections result in a significant decline in quality of life (2), and sleep is a big part of that.

Why Sinus Infections Cause Sleep Trouble or Insomnia

One study found that patients with sinus infections had a mean PSQI score of 9.4. Any score over 5 indicates poor sleep (3).

You can use our Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index Online Calculator to get your own score if you’d like.

While there isn’t that much research on this specific topic, current research suggests a few main things:

  • Sleep quality is tied to symptom severity - Not exactly surprising, but there’s a correlation between the severity of symptoms like nasal obstruction, facial pain, headaches, and coughing to how poor the sleep quality is (4, 5).
  • Inflammation may affect sleep quality - There appears to be a correlation between the degree of inflammation caused by the infection and sleep dysfunction (6).

SummaryWhile there is limited research on the topic, treatments that help manage symptoms or inflammation will likely reduce the severity of sleep problems.

How Can Sleep Problems From Sinus Infections Be Treated

For temporary cases of sinusitis, which are usually caused by viruses, no treatment is necessary and they typically resolve without antibiotics (7).

But chronic sinus infections that cause insomnia will require treatment.

The standard treatment options for sinusitis include:

  • Surgery - A few studies have shown that FESS results in significant improvements for all sleep quality related measurements (8, 9).
  • Antibiotics - For bacterial sinusitis, a physician can prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.
  • Nasal sprays with corticosteroids - While typically not a complete fix, nasal sprays can reduce inflammation to provide some relief of symptoms, and thereby help improve sleep quality (10).

Those treatment options will be managed and prescribed by your doctor.

On top of those, you can try to improve other areas of your lifestyle that affect sleep quality:

  • Sleep hygiene - Having good sleep habits can help you sleep well even if you’re in a bit of discomfort. See this sleep hygiene for insomnia guide for more details.
  • Reduce allergy exposure - Allergens can make breathing troubles even worse and be contributing to some part of your sleep issues. Regularly washing your bed sheets and using an air filter can help.
  • Breathing strips - There’s not much concrete evidence on whether or not breathing strips can help improve symptoms, but there’s little potential harm in trying them. They are available over the counter.
  • Minimize your insomnia risk factors - Take a look at the main risk factors of insomnia. Finding ways to reduce stress, or losing weight if you are overweight can help reduce sleep issues.

References

  1. Sleep disruption in chronic rhinosinusitis
  2. Patient-reported outcome measures for adult chronic rhinosinusitis: A systematic review and quality assessment
  3. Sleep quality and disease severity in patients with chronic rhinosinusitis
  4. Risk factors for sleep impairment in adult patients with chronic rhinosinusitis
  5. The impact of chronic rhinosinusitis on sleep-disordered breathing
  6. Antisomnogenic cytokines, quality of life, and chronic rhinosinusitis: a pilot study
  7. The diagnosis and management of acute and chronic sinusitis
  8. Improvements in sleep-related symptoms after endoscopic sinus surgery in patients with chronic rhinosinusitis
  9. The impact of sinus surgery on sleep outcomes
  10. Antibiotics and topical nasal steroid for treatment of acute maxillary sinusitis: a randomized controlled trial

Medical Disclaimer: The information on SnoozeUniversity.com is not intended to be a substitute for physician or other qualitified care. We simply aim to inform people struggling with sleep issues about the nature of their condition and/or prescribed treatment.


About the authorDale is the founder of Snooze University and a sleep researcher. I overcame my sleep issues and now I'd like to help you do the same by summarizing the latest sleep studies for you.