Millions of us miss out on restful sleep due to a deviated septum — and most don’t know it, says Kyra Osborne, MD, an ear, nose, and throat specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. This condition, in which the wall of bone and cartilage that separates the nasal cavities tilts to one side, reduces airflow through the nose.
“It’s worse at night because when you lie down, blood flow increases to the nose, constricting nasal passageways,” explains Osborne. But this way of breathing is “normal” for women who are affected, so they don’t suspect it’s behind their fatigue, headaches, or fog.
Complicating matters: “Irritants like ragweed and dust can cause the nasal lining to swell, making congestion caused by a deviated septum worse,” says Dr. Osborne. And even though it’s easy for physicians to diagnose the condition by looking deep into the nose with a light, many simply misattribute the symptoms to colds, seasonal allergies, or chronic sinusitis.
Doctors often advise surgery, but it’s not always necessary, says Dr. Osborne. Fortunately, the steps below can ease symptoms and restore energy.
Inhaling the scent of essential oils before bed decreases nasal obstruction by 46 percent, plus improves problems like trouble falling and staying asleep by 69 percent, report researchers in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Naturopathic physician Josh Axe, DNM, explains, “The scent of lavender improves sleep quality, and chamomile decreases nasal inflammation — both of which help with sleep if you have a deviated septum.”
Also smart: Sleep with your head elevated on at least two pillows. Dr. Osborne explains, “It decreases congestion so you breathe and sleep better.”
This story originally appeared in our the print magazine for our sister site, First for Women.