Ear infections are one of the most common afflictions out there. They can develop quickly and can be painful, uncomfortable, and affect your balance, hearing, and more. And they can make sleeping difficult. In order to sleep with an ear infection it is necessary to treat your symptoms and relieve itching, pain, and discomfort. Only then when you get a good night’s sleep that will also help you heal faster.
We will show you the steps you must take, and the best sleeping position for an ear infection, right here. We will also show you how to prevent ear infections in the future and more!
Disclaimer: Although we share tips here, as always, you must consult your doctor and ask their opinion about what is right for you, as every individual case differs.
But First: What Are the Signs of an Ear Infection
There are many things that can proceed or even cause an ear infection, including allergies, a cold, changing air pressures, smoking, second-hand smoke, and sinus infections.
Symptoms include feeling pressure within your ear, discomfort or pain in your ear, drainage of fluids from your ear, and itching. Often a serious ear infection will also cause a fever, and frequently your balance can be affected. It can feel like vertigo or cause dizzy spells, and as the pressure builds these symptoms tend to get worse.
If swelling occurs around or behind your ear, a headache continues, or the pain becomes severe and then suddenly stops, it is important to seek care from your doctor straight away. The sudden stopping of pain, or blood coming from your ear, can be a sign of a ruptured ear drum that will require treatment.
Pain from an ear infection can become apparent in areas around the ear too, including your jaw, teeth, and sinus areas. The fluid that builds up may increase pressure against your sinuses and the nerves that run along the jaw and towards the teeth. All of that will cause pain in those areas.
In infants and children these symptoms may cause fever and redness of the outer ears. They may cry, seem to be struggling with balance, tripping, or falling over more often. It can also cause children to have an upset stomach. When there is an infection present in both ears the pain will become stronger and be disruptive to both sleep and tasks during the day.
For children or toddlers symptoms may result in crying, fussiness, and they may show ear discomfort by pulling on their ears. You may also notice a loss of balance, they may trip over their feet, and be either sensitive to noise, crying at things that are loud, or showing loss of hearing and needing things to be louder. It is important to address these symptoms to avoid ear infection worsening or even causing permanent damage.
Now you know what to look out for, here’s how to sleep with an ear infection:
How to Sleep with an Ear Infection: The Six Steps You Must Take
There are several things that can be done to ease the discomfort of an ear infection at night, allowing you to get a good night’s sleep.
1) Prop Your Head Up and/or Sleep at an Angle
Propping up your head and neck, propping up the head of the bed, or sleeping in a reclining chair or adjustable bed can help to improve sleep. That’s because this angle will encourage fluids to drain out of your ear and down your throat, relieving pressure and reducing any pain.
It is also necessary to ensure you are wearing comfortable clothes, have a supportive yet soft pillow, and are able to elevate your head. Combined, these will help you sleep well with an ear infection. A memory foam pillow can offer more support and is less likely to allow your head to lower during the night. That will make it easier to sleep and ease pain at the same time.
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2) Use a Warm Cloth
A heating pad or warm cloth can be placed over your ear to help relieve pain, as that will increase the blood that’s circulating around and through your ear. That will then help to improve the healing process. This can be used when your head is already propped up to help ease as much pressure as possible.
3) Take Painkillers
Over the counter pain medications can ease discomfort and relieve pain that occurs with an ear infection. It can ease related headaches too, and reduce any pain that is occurring in areas like the jaw, teeth, sinus area, and more.
4) Drink Water
Prepare for bed by drinking water and having a snack. These activities will encourage movement in your jaw and subsequently in the muscles in your throat, which can then improve drainage in the tubes to your ears. This will in turn reduce pressure within your ear and help to prepare your body for bed.
5) Use Nasal Spray
Nasal spray can also potentially help to release pressure that has built up, by flushing the fluid that has built up through the sinuses and nasal cavities. As fluid is reduced it will help to ease the pressure throughout the area including your ears. A decongestant may also be productive in lowering congestion and fluids.
6) Keep the Same Sleeping Routine
Prepare for sleep as usual. Following a familiar routine can be relaxing and can ease worry over an ear infection. Deep breathing or meditative activities can help to slow thought processes and ease your body into a restful feeling, allowing you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
How to Sleep with an Ear Infection: Treatment at Home
A minor ear infection or irritation can be treated at home, providing symptoms don’t get worse in the following day or two, no fluids are seen leaving the ear, and there is no fever present.
Home treatments include an over the counter pain reliever to ease pain and discomfort. You can also use a warm cloth compressed against your ear to try and help move some of the fluid out. Warm heating pads and cloths can be used on your ear for a short period of time only, though they must be warm and not hot. Alternatively, a warmed rice or wheat pack can be used, or a hot water bottle. The warmth can draw out the fluid and will help ease discomfort by lowering the build up of pressure.
Sitting upright can also help fluid drain down through your throat, which will relieve the build up and pressure within your ear. Other ways to help ease pain includes eating a snack or chewing gum. That’s because having your jaw move will move the muscles around your ears which also helps ease pressure and discomfort.
If symptoms persist, or fluid or puss is leaking from your ear, then it’s important to see a doctor to avoid a worsening infection or hearing loss. They will do a physical exam of your ears, nose, and throat as they are all connected, using a light to look into your ears. They will also feel your lymph nodes for signs of swelling. If an ear infection is diagnosed it will be either an inner ear infection, middle ear infection, or an outer ear infection.
An outer ear infection is the easiest to treat, and can be done with ear drops. This infection is also called swimmers ear. Drops are typically placed in the ear twice a day until the infection has cleared. However, untreated outer ear infections can become more serious middle ear or inner ear infections. So don’t ignore them!
Middle ear infections occur in the middle ear, which starts at the beginning of the ear canal. This infection may be treated with drops or oral antibiotics, and in some cases both may be recommended. The infection will clear up with antibiotics, either orally or with antibiotic ear drops, but medication should be completed as directed even if the pain has decreased or stopped.
Inner ear infections are those that have spread to the inner ear and are harder to treat. These will most often require oral antibiotics and will cause the most severe symptoms. This ear infection is very likely to cause dizziness or vertigo, as well as other discomfort, and may be linked to sinus infection or even an infection in a tooth.
Some ear infections may require tubes to drain the ear and relieve the infection. These tubes are placed during a day surgery where the patient is put to sleep with general anesthesia. A small slit is then cut into the thin separation from the ear drum to the inner ear tubes. A tiny tube is placed in the small incision, and this will drain the fluid from around the ear drum, relieve the pressure, and allow the infection to drain. This can be done in conjunction with antibiotics to clear the infection and avoid any further infections. These are common in children and may need to be done two or even three times. The tubes will remain in place for up to a year and a half and will fall out on their own when the fluid has been cleared out.
Preventing Ear Infections
For infants, breastfeeding can actually help reduce ear infections by providing immunity and the necessary nutrients to the baby. The sucking that they need to do to get milk will also help keep muscles moving in the relevant area and encourage fluid to drain before it builds up and leads to pain. When offering a bottle, ensure that the infant’s head remains elevated slightly so that the formula doesn’t flow towards the ears, but rather down their throat.
Avoid smoking and second hand smoke, as this can contribute to ear infections too. As well, when a cold or allergies occur treat them accordingly. These illnesses can cause congestion and build up of fluids that can create discomfort and lead to ear infections.
Maintaining vaccinations can also reduce illness overall and this can prevent ear infections from occurring too. That’s because illnesses such as the flu, pneumonia, and more, can all cause a build up of fluids, as well as congestion that can lead to build up within the inner ear and the tubes from the ears, causing an ear infection.
Controlling the number of people that are around, including using smaller day homes rather than large daycares, can reduce the number of germs that come in contact with a child or parent. This then decreases the likeliness of getting illnesses and ear infections too.
How to Sleep With an Ear Infection: Our Final Thoughts
Ensuring that all needs are met, pain has been treated, and you’ve created a comfortable sleeping position that is elevated, are all key to sleeping with an ear infection.
Using a nasal spray or a decongestant can also help ease any pressure overnight. However, it is necessary that an ear infection be treated by a medical professional if symptoms remain or get worse over 24-48 hours.
Symptoms in a child may be fussiness, crying, pulling or tugging at the ears, and a loss of balance. They may also show signs of being more tired than usual, and they may experience hearing loss or difficulty hearing things that they can normally hear easily. This can be seen when they are speaking loudly, turning up the television or sitting closer to it.
As an ear infection can occur in either an adult or a child, it is important to watch for warning signs at any age and to treat symptoms as they occur. Treating symptoms when they are mild by using warm cloths, hot water bottles, or other methods to reduce the fluid build up within the ears, nose, and throat, can help to relieve the infection at home without further treatment. However untreated ear infections can lead to ruptured ear drums and loss of hearing that may become permanent.