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  #1  
Old 05-31-2007, 02:10 AM
gitfiddle gitfiddle is offline
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What causes one side of my nose to stop up almost every night?

This thread is a long time coming. For years now, most nights out of the week, I wake up in the middle of the night with one nostril completely stopped up. It doesn't feel like there's any mucus in my nose, it feels literally like the nostril itself has constricted.

Now, I think it happens most during the summer, and I'm almost certain it has something to do with drafts. For instance, if there is a fan blowing on me, it's almost certain to happen. Yet, while trying to minimize drafts helps, it doesn't prevent it.

Does anyone have any idea what this is, and what I can do to help?
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  #2  
Old 05-31-2007, 02:41 AM
pbbth pbbth is offline
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Either allergies or nose trolls. Both can be problematic in the summer months.
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  #3  
Old 05-31-2007, 04:30 AM
Defective Detective Defective Detective is offline
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It happens to me every night of the year, sometimes it's worse and sometimes it's better. I met a nose doctor who said there is a little piece of cartilage in the bridge of my nose that is too soft (or too thin). It is supposed to hold the airway on each side of my nose open but is not quite up to spec, that's why this problem is usually only noticeable when I'm breathing very heavily (i.e. distance running) or lying on my side.
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  #4  
Old 05-31-2007, 07:59 AM
corkboard corkboard is offline
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You have a deviated septum. See an allergist or an E/N/T.

Last edited by corkboard; 05-31-2007 at 08:00 AM..
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  #5  
Old 05-31-2007, 08:40 AM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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Have you tried those BreatheRight strips? They're supposed to hold your nose open from the outside.

Failing that, yeah, an ENT is the gal to go to.
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  #6  
Old 05-31-2007, 09:52 AM
Dragwyr Dragwyr is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McNew
You have a deviated septum. See an allergist or an E/N/T.
I have had this happen to me ever since I can remember. I few years back I went to an ENT for persistent sinus infections. I had a deviated septum which was fixed. The infections stopped, but the one-nostril-breathing-during-the-night STILL continued.

What's strange about my issue with it is that if I turn over, it will eventually plug up the opposite nostril. I usually go through the night having both of my nostrils alternately plugged up a few times each night. On days when my allergies are acting up it tends to be worse.
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  #7  
Old 05-31-2007, 10:08 AM
Hampshire Hampshire is offline
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I always thought it was just mucous from allergies way up in your sinuses. If you lay on your left ear everything should flow to the left of your head and clog your left nasal passage. If you switch to laying on your right ear everything should slowly flow back to the right side of your head and block your right nasal passage.
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  #8  
Old 05-31-2007, 11:12 AM
Frylock Frylock is online now
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There was a thread around here somewhere where this came up. To my recollection, the answer ended up being that it's not mucous, but rather, just a swelling of some membrane or other due to bloodflow.

Sorry, that's all I got.

-FrL-
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  #9  
Old 05-31-2007, 11:23 AM
lexi lexi is offline
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I used to have that issue - which ever side I was sleeping on would get plugged. My issue was persistent sinus infections due to blocked sinuses which was caused by polyps - I went to an ENT and they took them out, and now I have no problems.
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  #10  
Old 05-31-2007, 11:27 AM
KP KP is offline
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While you should consult a physician if it causes you discomfort, you should also be aware that it can be normal for the airflow through one nostril (they alternate) to be limited at any given time, especially during sleep. If you sleep on one side, the nostril on the side you are lying on will usually have less airflow -- or at least the cycle will start on that side. You may be able to observe this yourself as you settle in for your next nap. Try it on both sides. (Back off, Boss, this is *science*! Hold my calls.)

I haven't read any literature on this in decades (and precious little then), but based on my informal observations the timing, magnitude and exacerbating circumstances vary a fair amount between individuals, and may be partly a matter of (unconscious) personal habit or genetics.
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  #11  
Old 05-31-2007, 11:32 AM
ethelbert ethelbert is offline
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My issue was chronic perennial rhinitis due to allergies and I often had the same symptom, although it would often get worse and plug up both nostrils. I take an antihistamine every night and use Flonase.
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  #12  
Old 09-24-2011, 03:02 PM
Lartharee Lartharee is offline
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Hi Im new to Straight Dope. And I tell you I have been searching for the answer to why my nose stops up at night on the side that Im laying on and when I turn over to the other side it will stop up , when the one that was stopped up clears. I have been dealing with this for years and it is kind of annoying. I snore really bad because of this. Do anyone have any remedies?
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  #13  
Old 09-24-2011, 03:19 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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I find that high humidity helps loosen it up enough that you can blow it out. While you're awake, put a big pot of water on the stove (make sure to turn it off before you go to bed), and drink lots of hot liquids.

Last edited by Chronos; 09-24-2011 at 03:19 PM..
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  #14  
Old 09-24-2011, 03:36 PM
Ambivalid Ambivalid is online now
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Originally Posted by corkboard View Post
You have a deviated septum. See an allergist or an E/N/T.
Yep, this is what I was going to say. I had the exact same symptoms, and I was diagnosed with a deviated septum. I decided to have outpatient surgery to correct the problem. Unfortunately, I was headbutted (the only time in my life) just after the surgery right in my nose, and now my septum is more deviated than it was prior to the surgery.
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  #15  
Old 09-24-2011, 03:59 PM
sunstone sunstone is offline
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If the stuffed nostril shifts depending on which side of your head is on the mattress, the cause is blood flow....meaning that more blood is going to the down side, and causing the mucus membranes to swell and limiting blood flow. You can flip your head so that the clogged side is up and it will open up as the down side now blocks off.

As an additional note, normally your nostrils go through a blood flow cycle regardless of your position; as I recall, the cycle takes about 20 minutes. So more blood flows to one side for a while, and then the increased flow switches to the other side. When you are standing you don't normally notice (unless you have a compromised nasal passage like a deviated septum). This keeps your mucus membranes in both left and right passages moist as fluid leaves the blood vessels and seeps through the mucus membrane. As the mucus dries, it forms "boogers"

Among other things mucus is necessary for maintaining healthy membranes and sinuses, trapping germs and other material, and carrying it to either the back of your nasal passages to be swallowed, or to the front. This flow is created by ciliated cells in the mucus membrane, and is known as the "Mucus Train"

Odor molecules also get trapped in the mucus membrane, and those that are in the patch of sensory organ react with the nerve endings and allow you to sense odors.

Ahhh, mucus.

Don't even get me started on how it is needed in the reproductive tract, or a number of other places in the body.
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  #16  
Old 09-24-2011, 04:20 PM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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Originally Posted by sunstone View Post
known as the "Mucus Train"
I'm pretty sure I commuted to work on that when I lived in south London.
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  #17  
Old 09-24-2011, 05:59 PM
Arrendajo Arrendajo is offline
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As sunstone and other posters have noted, it's a matter of blood flow to the mucosa of the nasal passages. There may be some excess mucus production, but mostly it is due to engorged nasal mucosa on the down side of your head. Switch sides, and the plugged side clears and the other side starts to fill up. I have had this problem for many years. It can be treated with nasal steroid sprays, like Flonase, or oral antihistamines or decongestants, or, as a last resort, nasal spray decongestants like oxymetazoline or phenylephrine, but beware: they are notorious for rebound congestion.
The mucus of your respiratory tract, both in the nasal mucosa and in the lung, is composed of two layers: a thin layer in which the cilia of the mucosal cells whip, and a sticky layer at the surface. The sticky layer traps particles from the atmosphere. The cilia move the layer of mucus in an orad direction - towards the mouth. So the mucosa in your nose moves back towards the throat and the mucus of the lungs moves toward the glottis, and from there your throat, so it all gets swallowed eventually. This is called the mucociliary escalator. What fun.
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  #18  
Old 09-24-2011, 07:15 PM
Nametag Nametag is offline
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasal_cycle
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  #19  
Old 09-24-2011, 08:08 PM
Hermitian Hermitian is offline
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IANADoctor, but I am a mini-expert on this.

As some have mentioned, your problem is either deviated septum, or congestion because of swollen nasal tissue, or (most likely) a combination of both.


These areas of nasal tissue, called turbinates, fill with blood and swell up. For some people there is too much tissue there so that it swells up too much when they lay down.


When you are standing, your head has lower blood pressure because of its height over the rest of your body. As your head gets lower with respect to the rest of your body the blood pressure in your nasal tissues increases and swell, which cause congestion.


If your congestion is
always one sided, then a deviated septum is likely also in play. This means that the bone that goes down the center of your nose sticks out too far on one side, causing it to be too cloggy.

There are surgeries to fix both of these, turbinate reduction and septoplasty, but look at other options first.

1. As others have mentioned, seasonal allergies can make things worse, so see an ENT. They may be able to fix it with some prescription nose sprays.

2. On the non-prescription side, there are pills with pseudaphedrine (Sudafed and others that you have to buy from behind the pharmacy counter). These are non-addictive, and work well, but they keep some people up at night (they are a stimulant).

3. There are also non-prescription nose sprays that work really well, but these can only be used for a few days as they are very addictive. After the spray wears off, you get what is called “rebound,” where you will get congested again because of the nose spray use. This makes you want to use the spray again, and after that you get rebound, and….around and around you go until you get addicted. If you get addicted to them, then your nose will always be stopped up. Bad Stuff.

As always, see a doctor (ENT) and he/she will be able to help you with treatment options.
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  #20  
Old 09-25-2011, 03:51 AM
VOW VOW is offline
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The 12-hour nasal sprays are the absolute worst for rebound effect. The very first 12 hours are really the only uncongested time span you'll ever know. Most people will just give the nose another squirt when the congestion returns. Pretty soon, though, you'll find you've got the nasal spray bottle in one hand all the time, squirting that stuff up your nose.

The ONLY thing you can do at that point is to STOP, cold turkey. No nasal spray, no drops, no NOTHING. You can TRY to use plain saline spray, but your nose is so congested, the saline will just run down your face.

Sleeping that first night after quitting nasal spray is AGONY. Honestly, it feels like all your sinus tissue has swollen up, and poked out of your nose, and is hanging in front of your face like demented saddle bags. You might have two or more nights of strangling while trying to sleep.

If I'm really, truly desperate to unblock my nose so I can get to sleep, I have a large bottle of saline nose spray that I've added a half-dropperful of 1% Neo-Synepherine nose drops to. It's a very, very weak solution, and I will only use it one time.

Diluting the Neo-Synepherine and only using it once or twice a month helps me to avoid the rebound effect of nasal sprays. And I refuse to use the 12-hour sprays any longer.

I've had to quit cold turkey far too many times, and I won't go through that again!


~VOW
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  #21  
Old 09-25-2011, 08:23 AM
Cayuga Cayuga is offline
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I had the same horrible experience as VOW back in the 80s, with an over-the-counter product. For the past few years, though, prescription nasal steroids have solved the nighttime clogging problem with no ill afteraffects.
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  #22  
Old 09-25-2011, 10:47 AM
Digital is the new Analog Digital is the new Analog is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gitfiddle View Post
This thread is a long time coming. For years now..
<snip>
Fact check: OP from 05-31-2007 02:10 AM.
Our rating: True.

I'm impressed! A properly self-predicted, albeit accidental, zombie!

-D/a
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  #23  
Old 09-25-2011, 03:05 PM
Hyperelastic Hyperelastic is offline
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Originally Posted by WhyNot View Post
Have you tried those BreatheRight strips? They're supposed to hold your nose open from the outside.

Failing that, yeah, an ENT is the gal to go to.
80% of otolaryngologists are male.
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  #24  
Old 09-25-2011, 03:35 PM
Bam Boo Gut Bam Boo Gut is offline
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Originally Posted by Lartharee View Post
Do anyone have any remedies?
Consider trying a neti pot. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neti_pot There are threads about them here .... somewhere ...
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  #25  
Old 10-02-2011, 05:40 AM
Sheppy93 Sheppy93 is offline
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i KNOW the answer. It's not anything uncommon. It's unhumid air. That's why it's worse in the summer (not as much moisture). Or when a fan is on, which makes it cooler and more active. The membranes in your nostril get dry, so mucous comes to moisturize it, simple as that! Get a humidifier in your room. It pumps humid air into the room. My cousin has severe nose issues and uses one and it works great for him. My nose gets plugged every night too, mostly because I sleep with a fan on. It's just really annoying/frustrating/uncomfortable. But it's not unhealthy! Try sleeping on your stomach with your chin over the pillow so gravity pulls the mucous down and out of your nose. Have tissues ready and blow it out! That's what works for me hope this helped!!
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  #26  
Old 10-02-2011, 07:46 AM
JBDivmstr JBDivmstr is offline
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One side gets clogged up with snot.
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  #27  
Old 10-02-2011, 07:50 AM
JBDivmstr JBDivmstr is offline
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Originally Posted by Sheppy93 View Post
i KNOW the answer. It's not anything uncommon. It's unhumid air. That's why it's worse in the summer (not as much moisture). Or when a fan is on, which makes it cooler and more active. The membranes in your nostril get dry, so mucous comes to moisturize it, simple as that! Get a humidifier in your room. It pumps humid air into the room. My cousin has severe nose issues and uses one and it works great for him. My nose gets plugged every night too, mostly because I sleep with a fan on. It's just really annoying/frustrating/uncomfortable. But it's not unhealthy! Try sleeping on your stomach with your chin over the pillow so gravity pulls the mucous down and out of your nose. Have tissues ready and blow it out! That's what works for me hope this helped!!
(emphasis mine)

Well, all that's gonna do, is cause an extremely snotty pillow!
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  #28  
Old 10-02-2011, 08:56 AM
astro astro is online now
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I've found that nasal irrigation using a netipot type device during the summer months tends to thin out mucus and reduce sinus clogging while sleeping.

Here the one I use. Works great!
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  #29  
Old 04-04-2012, 08:02 AM
mrsquics mrsquics is offline
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i've had similar problems ...

Not sure what i have got, but definately been waking up with a blocked nose (usually one nostril in particular) & subsequent dry mouth and/or sneezing ... will will often drag out into the day, this has been happening before the change in season so i don't think it's pollen related, eased a little after a super-hoovered but still there - could be mold caused maybe. I did a change of season basic March detox, whereby i stayed off alchol & tea for 2 days then continued to do this & slowly drank the following: 100ml of freshley squeezed lemon juice - which is about 3 lemons - into 150ml of room temperature water with a bit of fresh ginger & a very small garlic clove whizzed up in it, first thing on waking, followed by a 15min gap & a peppermint tea before having my breakfast - did this for 5 days ... on the 4th day my symptoms had vanished - breathing was easy through both nostrils (also on this day i'd spent most of the day out in the sun in the country, so that may be a variable involved, but that isn't totally unusual for me). It's been about 2 weeks since symptoms 'vanished', had a bit of sneezing here & there, a bit of a blocked nose now & again but they are so much better - i can always breathe through my nose without needing to open my mouth (something we really don't appreciate until we find we can't do that!), not been waking up with a dry mouth & don't feel like i've always got a cold. So impressed with the lemon concoction, i've continued to squeeze half a lemon into some room temperature water and drink first thing every morning, from things i've read since lemons are suppose to be good for respiratory system & they have an 'alkalising' effect on the body reducing general inflamation. I've also read some stuff about Vitamin D3 being good for people who have autio-immune problems (which i also have), sinus infections (& much more) ... so maybe the day in the sun helped too! Just wanted to share this as didn't come across the lemons or D3 when i was googling: 'wake up with blocked nose', 'wake up sneezing', 'one nostril always blocked'... hope it helps.
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  #30  
Old 04-04-2012, 09:41 AM
johnpost johnpost is online now
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double zombie or no

turbinates can be unequal. the narrower one can swell shut before the other as mentioned above.
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  #31  
Old 04-04-2012, 09:44 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by Dragwyr View Post
I have had this happen to me ever since I can remember. I few years back I went to an ENT for persistent sinus infections. I had a deviated septum which was fixed. The infections stopped, but the one-nostril-breathing-during-the-night STILL continued.

What's strange about my issue with it is that if I turn over, it will eventually plug up the opposite nostril. I usually go through the night having both of my nostrils alternately plugged up a few times each night. On days when my allergies are acting up it tends to be worse.
Me, too. Every night. Back and forth between the left and right side while sleeping.
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  #32  
Old 04-04-2012, 11:58 AM
LouisB LouisB is offline
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I had the same problem when i smoked; after i stopped smoking, the problem disappeared. Now that i have begun smoking cigars, the problem has reappeared. When I tell this to doctors, most of them look wise and say, "Interesting."
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  #33  
Old 04-04-2012, 07:45 PM
cuberdon cuberdon is offline
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Originally Posted by VOW View Post
Sleeping that first night after quitting nasal spray is AGONY. Honestly, it feels like all your sinus tissue has swollen up, and poked out of your nose, and is hanging in front of your face like demented saddle bags.
Nasal hemorrhoids?
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  #34  
Old 09-30-2012, 10:36 PM
skizzies skizzies is offline
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Turbanite Reduction

I was allergy tested (negative) and then had turnbanate reduction surgery (which was the worst 5 days of my life afterwards having that crap packed up my nose...for someone who has anxiety about not being able to breathe, this was akin to waterboarding for me) But now, I still have half a nose shutdown each night. Need to find a new ENT I guess, but very frustrated for sure.
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Old 10-01-2012, 12:58 AM
nion nion is offline
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Originally Posted by Hyperelastic View Post
This is why I love this website.
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  #36  
Old 10-02-2012, 03:06 AM
BigT BigT is online now
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Is this really something so bothersome that you need to start using medical solutions? I mean, it happens to me sometimes, but it's just a minor annoyance. It's not even enough to make it hard to go back to sleep if I wake up during the night, as I can just roll over and it will clear up, and the other nostril doesn't have time to feel clogged before I get back to sleep. And, in the morning, it lasts maybe to the time it takes me to get to the toilet. By the time I could squirt something up my nose, it's gone.
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  #37  
Old 10-02-2012, 06:38 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is online now
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Originally Posted by sunstone View Post
....As an additional note, normally your nostrils go through a blood flow cycle regardless of your position; as I recall, the cycle takes about 20 minutes.
This strike me as odd (although far be it from me to disparage Darwin). What other paired organs are perfused alternately?

Quote:
This flow is created by ciliated cells in the mucus membrane, and is known as the "Mucus Train"
I didn't know mucous cells (is this a correct way to say it?) had cilia. If they had a race with sperm, who would win?
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  #38  
Old 06-19-2013, 05:46 PM
Canucksgirl Canucksgirl is offline
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I have the same issue... If I lay on my left, the left side is clogged. If I lay on my right, the right side clogs. If its really bad, then BOTH nostrils are blocked and I can hardly breathe. I doze off and wake up with horrible dry mouth and it feels like everything around my nose and eyes are swollen. Apparently I also snore when its like this... It could be allergies, but this also happens YEAR round and not just in the summer. Oh, and if I get up to blow my nose, nothing happens. There's nothing to blow out.

So I did go see an ENT. What a joke that was! He told me that EVERYONE has this problem EVERY night, and basically told me I was wasting his time. Sheesh! This is the same guy who put a scope up my nose to look at my sinuses and said they looked inflamed and then said they were fine... Really? Inflamed is "fine"?!?

I know this is an old thread already, but its been of some solace to know that I'm not the only one who sees this constant battle as an annoying problem! I've heard some horror stories about Turbinate Reduction Surgery, I have no idea if I have a deviated septum (as I stormed out of the ENT's office), but I NEED some relief.

Any other advice would be greatly appreciated.
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  #39  
Old 06-20-2013, 02:04 PM
Hermitian Hermitian is offline
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Canucksgirl, my post earlier in the thread is a good one for you. The reason it swaps nostrils is because of the blood swelling your turbinates on the lowest side. There is nothing to blow out because snot has nothing to so with it. If you have a substantially deviated septum, one side will always be more clogged than the other.

It sounds like you need a new ENT. That is all I can say about that.

Last edited by Hermitian; 06-20-2013 at 02:05 PM.. Reason: Spelling
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  #40  
Old 07-03-2013, 02:08 AM
chrisb101 chrisb101 is offline
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I've had this problem for as long as I can remember, keeps me awake for nights at a time too I have found that cool air helps to relieve it, and holding an ice pack to the afflicted side, but after a while it just comes back again.....
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  #41  
Old 12-27-2013, 09:07 PM
Charlie Wayne Charlie Wayne is offline
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One thing that may interest you is that when you lie on your right side, your body regulates your breathing so that you breathe through your left nostril.

When you lie on your left side, the opposite is true. It takes a few minutes for the change to take place. Maybe around 5 minutes.

I don't know why this happens. It may have something to do with the fact that there tends to be more oxygen in the higher levels in a room. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and tends to sink to the bottom of a room. So your nose gets more oxygen if you breathe through your top nostril when you lie down on one side or the other.

This is only my own theory. I know that my body does change my breathing to breathe through my top nostril. But I have no idea why. I'm just guessing about the oxygen thing.

Last edited by Charlie Wayne; 12-27-2013 at 09:08 PM..
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