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How To Sleep With An Ear Infection? [Top 10 Health Hacks]

By: Susie
Updated On: October 26, 2023

Dealing with an ear infection is challenging enough, but trying to find a comfortable sleeping position while you're suffering?

That's a whole new level of complexity. If you're on the hunt for ways how to sleep with an ear infection?, you've come to the right place.

Having an ear infection can make even the simplest tasks difficult, especially when it's time to lay your head down for some restful sleep.

Let's face it: those few hours of peace at night are crucial for your body and mind to function effectively during the day.

So, how do we combat the discomfort and get that all-important shut-eye? It’s not as daunting as it sounds, and with some helpful strategies and remedies, you can navigate through this discomfort-filled terrain.

What are the Symptoms of Ear Infection?

What are the Symptoms of Ear Infection?

Because ear infections can significantly impact your daily routine, identifying the symptoms early is essential.

We delve into detailed explanations of common signs of an ear infection. Recognizing these can aid in seeking timely medical attention and managing the discomfort.

  • Ear Pain: Often the first and most noticeable symptom, ear pain or "otalgia," can range from mild discomfort to severe gripping pain that's hard to ignore. It might exacerbate when lying down as the increased pressure can intensify discomfort.
  • Hearing Loss: Temporary loss of hearing or muffled sound in one/both ears could be due to fluid buildup or excessive wax. This auditory loss caused by an infection typically resolves with treatment.
  • Fluid Drainage from the Ear: A clear, white, or yellow fluid leaking from your ear signifies severe infection. You might confuse this symptom with otorrhea, but it often indicates eardrum rupture and necessitates immediate medical attention.
  • Tugging or Pulling at the Ear: In children especially, pulling at their ears frequently may imply an infection. Although not definitive proof (children often play this way), coupled with other symptoms, it could lead to a diagnosis.
  • Fever: As your body battles bacterial or viral infections in your ear, you may develop a fever above 100°F (38°C). Not all individuals may witness this symptom.
  • Irritability: Changes in mood or increased crankiness signify discomfort – another sign of possible infection in children as they find it hard to pinpoint their unease.
  • Loss of Appetite: The connection between eating and ear discomfort when you're chewing could make you lose your appetite temporarily.
  • Dizziness & Nausea: An inner ear infection might tamper with your balance and cause dizziness or vertigo—a feeling that either you or your surroundings are spinning.
  • Ringing in the Ear: Also known as tinnitus, this symptom can be quite aggravating, leading to sleep deprivation and elevated stress levels.
  • Swelling Around the Ear: Edema (swelling) and erythema (redness) near the outer ear or ear canal signify inflammation due to an infection.
  • Fullness or Pressure in the Ear: The sensation of "fullness" or constant pressure within your ear is usually caused by fluid accumulation in the middle ear region.
  • Trouble Sleeping: Ear pain often escalates when lying down, causing frequent waking and ruining your healthy sleep cycle.

Please note these symptoms can resemble other health problems, too. Always consult a healthcare provider for accurate information.

Let them know if you've had a cold, asthma, allergies, or a respiratory infection recently. These can also cause symptoms similar to an ear infection.

A prompt diagnosis can help alleviate these symptoms faster and prevent the potential spreading of the infection.

Also Read: How To Sleep With Intercostal Muscle Strain? 2023 [15 Tips]

Causes of Ear Infection

Causes of Ear Infection

Understanding the causes of ear infections can help you take preventative measures to mitigate the risk. There's a range of reasons why your ear might succumb to infection. Let's break down these causes one by one and explore why they can lead to ear trouble.

  • Bacteria: Perhaps one of the most common causes, bacterial infections often occur when germs enter the body through a weakened immune system or via a wound. Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae are bacteria typically associated with ear infections.
  • Viruses: Colds and other viral illnesses can sometimes cause an ear infection as the virus can reach parts of your middle or inner ear.
  • Sinus Infections: Your ears, nose, and throat are interconnected. A sinus infection could cause fluid buildup, formulating an ideal breeding ground for bacteria in your middle ear, leading to an infection.
  • Colds or Respiratory Infections: Due to their interconnection, the inflammation caused by colds or respiratory infections can prevent proper drainage in your ears. This fluid buildup results in bacterial growth that triggers an infection.
  • The buildup of Wax in the Ear: When wax accumulates in your ear canal, it may prompt an infection by housing bacteria and preventing necessary drainage.
  • Infected or Swollen Adenoids: Adenoids (tissue clusters behind the nasal cavity) can become infected or swollen due to bacteria/viruses and block Eustachian tubes, causing trapped fluid in ears and resultant infections.
  • Allergies: Something as common as allergic reactions could lead to swollen tissues,, which might obstruct drainage from your middle ear, thereby fostering an environment for bacterial growth.
  • Tobacco Smoke: Exposure to tobacco smoke can irritate and cause swelling in Eustachian tubes, leading to further complications like fluid accumulation and, consequently, an infection.
  • Upper Respiratory Infections: These typically cause mucus overproduction that can obstruct eustachian tubes, causing an ear infection.
  • Fungal Infections: Fungi inhabiting your outer ear canal, if unchecked, can spur an infection known as Otomycosis.
  • Foreign Objects in the Ear: Unintentional or intentional introduction of foreign objects (like cotton swabs or hairpins) can scrape the ear canal, making it susceptible to infection.
  • Trauma to the Ear: Any injury to the ear, even from cleaning too vigorously, can rupture the eardrum and introduce bacteria, resulting in infections.
  • Changes in Air Pressure: Rapid changes in air pressure during flights can create a blockage in your Eustachian tubes by creating a vacuum in the middle ear that sucks fluid and germs into the area, thereby setting up conditions for an infection.
  • Moisture Trapped in the Ear: Excessive moisture from swimming or showering might not drain correctly and lead to "swimmer's ear," a type of outer ear infection.

Everyone's body is uniquely wired. What triggers an issue in one person might not do so in another. It's about knowing your body well and monitoring symptoms closely.

Knowledge is power; keep yourself armed with information to stay ahead of potential health problems like these.

Understanding and acting promptly on underlying causes keeps you one step closer to speedy recovery.

It's essential to consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience symptoms of an ear infection. Compact treatment could mean avoiding complications such as hearing loss or the spread of infection.

To reinforce prevention measures, focus on maintaining good hygiene habits, avoid exposure to second-hand smoke, and keep common allergens at bay.

How To Sleep With An Ear Infection: 10 best tips

How To Sleep With An Ear Infection: 10 best tips

Learning to adapt your sleep schedule when dealing with an ear infection is essential. The throbbing discomfort can interfere with your nightly routine, leading to inadequate rest or even insomnia.

Here, we’ll cover a step-by-step guide with ten practical tips on how to get a good night's sleep amidst this predicament.

Elevate Your Head With Extra Pillows

To reduce the pressure on your infected ear, it's beneficial to raise your head and upper body as you lay down. This potentially lessens the pain and provides a more comfortable position for sleeping.

  • Use Two or More Pillows: If you typically use one pillow, try adding one or two more. Alternatively, consider using one thick pillow to prop up your upper body.
  • Reclining Position: By slightly sitting up in a reclined position rather than laying flat, gravity can help fluid drainage from the infected ear.
  • Adjustable Beds: If you have an adjustable bed, it can be an ideal solution as it lets you control the elevation angle for ultimate comfort.

Remember, everyone has unique comfort levels and body postures that aid their sleep quality. Play around with different elevations to find what works best for you.

Read More: 10 Best Pillows for Jaw Pain To Relieve Tension 2023

Use a Warm Compress on the Affected Ear

Applying heat around an infected ear allows better blood circulation and soothes pain by relaxing local muscles – offering some moments of relief before bedtime.

  • Warm Cloth Method: Dampen a washcloth with warm water (not too hot), wring out excess moisture, fold it into a square, and gently hold it against your sore ear. A little tip: ensuring the cloth's temperature before applying will safeguard against burns.
  • Heated Gel Packs/Heat Pads: These maintain their warmth longer than wet cloth compresses do but ensure they are not scorching hot before usage.
  • Rice Sock: Put uncooked rice into a clean, thick sock; tie the end and microwave for less than a minute. Once cooled to a safe temperature, use this as your DIY warm compress.

Take Prescribed Pain Relievers

If you've been diagnosed with an ear infection, your healthcare provider will likely prescribe pain relievers to help manage the discomfort.

These medications are usually taken orally and can significantly reduce the severity of making it easier for you to sleep.

While everyone's medical journey is unique, here are some general things to bear in mind:

  • Always follow your doctor's instructions on how frequently to take these medicines and for how long.
  • Don’t increase the dosage without consulting your physician.
  • Note any side effects and report serious ones immediately.
  • It's essential not to mix different types of pain relievers unless directed by a medical professional.

Key Points:

  • Follow all medication instructions carefully to ensure effectiveness and reduce the risk of side effects.
  • Never exceed the recommended dosage—this can lead to complications. Consult your healthcare provider for any concerns about dosage or if the pain persists despite regular use of medication.

Use Over-the-Counter Ear Drops If Recommended

Over-the-counter (OTC) ear drops can often help alleviate symptoms associated with ear infections, providing immediate relief. However, always consult a healthcare provider before self-medicating.

Useful pointers when using OTC ear drops:

  • Make sure your hands and the dropper top are clean before use; also, don't let the dropper touch anything other than its cap.
  • Tilt your head or lie on one side so that the infected ear faces up, and squeeze an appropriate number of drops into the ear without letting the dropper tip touch the inside of your ear.

Key Points:

  • Always clean dropper tips after each usage. This prevents bacteria buildup, which could initiate or further worsen an infection.

Stay in a Quiet, Dark Room

Creating a quiet and dark environment is a helpful way to promote better sleep when dealing with an ear infection. Such surroundings can encourage relaxation and make sleeping easier.

  • Eliminate Noise: Remove potential sources of noise in your bedroom (e.g., phones on silent mode, set TV or devices to 'night' setting). Using earplugs in the unaffected ear can also help.
  • Darken Your Room: Utilize heavy curtains or an eye mask to shield against light. Electronic devices should be turned off or away from the bed, as they emit light even when switched off.

Key Points:

  • Noise and light elimination help in creating the perfect environment for restful sleep.
  • Making these simple changes can improve not just quantity but also the quality of sleep on difficult ear infection nights.

Avoid Sleeping on the Infected Ear

Choosing your sleep side consciously seems unusual. However, if you have an ear infection, such adjustments can offer significant relief. The trick is to avoid sleeping on the side that houses the infected ear.

Sleeping with a throbbing ear face-down on a pillow could exacerbate symptoms and pain due to pressure and friction caused by this position.

Lying on the uninfected ear keeps your aching ear relatively untouched. As a bonus, this minimizes fluid accumulation in the infected side—a major source of discomfort.

The main points include:

  • Avoid Making Contact: Try as much as possible to keep your sore ear off the pillow or any surface that could apply pressure to it.
  • Lie on Your Healthy Side: If only one of your ears is affected, sleeping on your unaffected ear can help with pain management.
  • Use Soft Pillows: A pillow that's too hard can cause additional discomfort when coming in contact with your sore ear. Opt for softer pillows or special therapeutic ones designed for people suffering from chronic pain.

Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule

When dealing with an ear infection, sticking to a regular sleep schedule becomes more critical than ever. A consistent sleep pattern not only improves overall sleep quality but also aids in faster recovery as your body repairs and regenerates while you're effectively resting.

Here's how maintaining a consistent sleep routine helps:

  • Improves Circadian Rhythm: Our bodies are wired according to an internal clock known as the circadian rhythm, which manages our sleep-wake cycle. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day will enhance this rhythm, leading to better rest.
  • Promotes Better Sleep Quality: A consistent schedule can increase both the amount and quality of your rest by solidifying your internal body clock's routine.
  • Boosts Immunity: Lack of sound sleep weakens your immune system, leading to slower recovery. Regular sleep strengthens it to better fight infections.

Key points to remember:

  • Stick to a Specific Bedtime: Choose a specific time to go to bed each night and ensure you follow this routine, even on weekends.
  • Wake up at Same Time Every Day: Similarly, waking up at the same time each morning promotes more synchronized sleep patterns.
  • Avoid Long Naps during the Day: Long naps or those taken late in the day can disrupt your nighttime sleep. So restrict power naps to 20 minutes and take them earlier in the day if needed.
  • Create a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual: Adopt calming pre-sleep rituals like reading, light stretching, or listening to soothing music. This aids in transitioning from wakefulness to sleep.

Remember that while home remedies can provide temporary relief, always consult with your healthcare provider promptly if you suspect an ear infection.

Stay Hydrated

Hydration is essential for the everyday functioning of your body, and it becomes particularly significant when you're dealing with health issues like an ear infection. Keeping your body well-hydrated can indeed speed up the recovery process.

When you are well-hydrated, your body can more efficiently produce the mucus your ears need to protect against infection.

Adequate water intake can help alleviate congestion and keep your eustachian tubes clear. Moreover, fluid balance is critical for maintaining normal bodily functions and drinking enough water may lessen some discomfort associated with ear infections.

Be mindful of these points:

  • Drink regularly: Your daily water consumption should be consistent; don't wait until you feel parched.
  • Hydration isn't just water: Soups, broths, fresh fruits and vegetables also contribute to hydration levels.
  • Limit dehydrating drinks: Alcohol and caffeine tend to dry out the mouth and throat, avoid excessive intake during ear infections.

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Consult a Doctor for Proper Treatment

While using tricks to aid sleeping with an ear infection is handy, remember that they aren't replacements for professional medical treatment.

Ear infections are usually bacterial or viral in nature; only a trained medical professional can accurately diagnose the root issue.

They'll likely conduct a thorough examination of the infected ear using an otoscope or other tools as necessary.

After diagnosis comes treatment. This may include prescription medications such as antibiotics (for bacterial infections), pain killers (for managing discomfort), corticosteroids (to reduce inflammation), or ear drops (to soothe irritated skin/tissues). In severe cases where repeated infection occurs or if standard treatment methods fail to provide relief, surgical intervention may be required.

Keep these pointers in mind:

  • Don't self-diagnose: Symptoms can often imply other underlying conditions; professional medical advice ensures accurate treatment.
  • Follow prescribed medication regime: Your doctor’s instructions regarding medication (dosage and frequency) should be strictly followed.
  • Report side-effects: Should you have any adverse reaction to prescribed medications, or if symptoms persist, let your doctor know immediately.
  • Prompt treatment equals faster relief: The sooner you get medical help, the quicker the recovery with less chance of complications.

Getting a proper sleep while dealing with an ear infection can indeed be tough. However, these tips and recommendations might help you in achieving it.

Your health should always take precedence; consult your healthcare provider for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.

Home Care for Ear Infection

Home Care for Ear Infection

Having an ear infection can be incredibly uncomfortable. Luckily, some remedies you can administer at home may help ease your symptoms.

Here are some practical tips to help make dealing with this common condition a little bit more bearable.

Keep Ear Dry

It's essential to keep your ear dry when you've got an infection. Too much moisture can worsen the inflammation and make it more difficult for your ear to heal.

Avoid getting into swimming pools or hot tubs until your ear is back to normal. Also, take precautionary measures during showers and baths.

Plug your infected ear with a cotton ball or use a waterproof earplug – anything that can prevent water from getting inside the ear canal.

Avoid Inserting Objects Into the Ear

As tempting as it might be, try not to stick anything in your affected ear while it’s healing! Cotton swabs, fingers, or other objects can push the infection deeper into your ear canal or possibly injure it, both of which may lead to further complications.

Instead of trying to deal with the infection yourself, rely on over-the-counter treatments or visit a healthcare professional if needed.


Just like any other health issue your body goes through, having proper rest is key in helping overcome an ear infection. Sleeping gives our bodies time to heal and recover faster from illness.

Try avoiding strenuous activities as much as possible and make sure you're getting good quality sleep each night – even during daytime naps!

Avoid Known Allergens

Certain substances such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, etc., could aggravate your symptoms if you're prone to allergies.

It's best practice during recovery from an infection (or generally speaking), not just in cases of people who suffer from chronic allergies - try avoiding exposure all these common allergens!

Consider Herbal Oils

Various herbal oils have been suggested by natural health practitioners for ear infections, such as tea tree oil, garlic oil, and olive oil.

These oils contain antiviral and antibacterial properties that can help alleviate some symptoms associated with ear infections.

It’s best to consult with a healthcare provider before using herbal oils, especially if you don't know what the potential side effects will be.

Chewing to Relieve Pressure

Sometimes, an ear infection can result in a buildup of pressure in the affected ear. This can be particularly uncomfortable when changes in body altitude happen rapidly like during a plane ride. One simple way to relieve this pressure is by chewing gum.

That's right - the act of chewing helps to open up your Eustachian tubes (the small channel that connects your throat to your middle ear), reducing the discomfort significantly.

Also Read: 10 Best Mattress Toppers for Arthritis [How To Choose In 2023]

FAQs about 'how to sleep with an ear infection?'

What's the most effective sleeping position for an ear infection?

Elevating your head and avoiding the side with the infected ear can help reduce discomfort.

Can noise or light exacerbate an ear infection during sleep?

Yes, a quiet, dark room can be beneficial as it promotes better sleep and potentially less discomfort.

Is it safe to use over-the-counter medicine to alleviate ear infection pain for sleep?

Yes, but always follow package instructions and consult your healthcare provider if necessary.

Can the use of headphones worsen my ear infection?

Yes, they potentially can, especially if they're used at high volume or for an extended period.

Should I refrain from swimming if I have an ear infection?

Yes, it’s advisable to avoid swimming or getting water in the infected ear until completely healed.


Navigating through the discomfort of sleeping with an ear infection may seem daunting initially. With these simple strategies, you can ensure a restful night's sleep while your body heals.

Remember to stick to these tips and not hesitate to consult your doctor if symptoms persist or worsen. Your health always comes first - no ear infection should stand in the way of a good night's sleep.

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