How to Sleep with Ear Infection: Effective Tips for Relief

african american woman with ear pain

Sleeping with an ear infection can be difficult, to say the least.

Whether you’re a chronic sufferer or recently being diagnosed with some sort of infection of the ears, figuring how to snooze comfortably could improve the situation significantly.

In this article, we will discuss a few helpful tips to make sleeping with an ear infection much more bearable for you.

How to Sleep with Ear Infection?

bed with pillows and blankets

Sleeping with an ear infection can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to make it more comfortable. We will discuss adjusting your sleeping position, managing pain and discomfort, and using a warm or cold compress.

Adjusting Your Sleeping Position

An elevated sleeping position often helps to reduce the pressure in your ear and alleviate pain.

Try to prop your head up with extra pillows or use a foam wedge to elevate your upper body.

Sleeping on your side can also minimize discomfort, especially if the infected ear is facing up.

Experiment with different positions to find the most comfortable one for your situation.

If you already love sleeping upright then you’ll jump at the chance. However, adopting this sleeping position suddenly can be quite difficult.

Here are a few accessories that can make your life comfortable when lying down upright.

Adjustable Beds: Adjustable beds can be heavenly when trying to sleep with an ear infection. Not only do they give you a range of angles to choose but they also provide the ultimate comfort and support. These beds offer the flexibility to watch TV or eat in bed while lying down in the most comfortable elevated positions.

The LUCID L300 Adjustable Bed Base with 12-inch Memory Foam Mattress from Amazon is the highest-selling model online right now. It is easy to assemble even among complete beginners and ships with an adjustable base and 12-inch mattress.

Mattress Elevators: These are inclined pieces of foam tucked underneath the mattress to provide elevation for the sleeper’s upper body. Some elevators also come in the form of incline inserts which can be set up under beds bed to tilt the sleeping area of the mattress upwards. This provides the ability to stay upright throughout the night to ensure maximum benefits such as comfortable sleeping whether you’re suffering from ear infections, sleep apnea, or acid reflux. 

Recliner: These are seats that offer sleepers the chance to lie down in an upright position without compromising on support or comfort. These seats give you the flexibility to adjust across multiple angles to keep the upper body elevated while sleeping comfortably.

The JUMICCO Fabric Recliner Chair from Amazon proved to be the smartest purchase I’ve made in a long time. It features breathable fabric with thick padding for the ultimate comfort throughout the night. It also sports an armrest and footrest for elevating the legs.

Wedge Pillows: Wedges are pillows engineered with an incline that enables the upper body to stay elevated without compromising on spinal alignment with other vital body areas. The good news is that you can play with different angles until you figure out one that delivers amazing comfort throughout the night. Wedge pillows can be a smart option when money is tight since they’re quite affordable.

My nighttime rest quality has improved since I ordered the Relax Home Life Wedge Pillow from Amazon 3 months ago. It is aptly designed for perfect body positioning at bedtime and it is perfect for relieving the symptoms associated with snoring, allergies, and postnasal drip.

Pillow Army: An army of regular pillows may still come to your aid in the absence of any of the options above. Having multiple pillows provides the freedom to prop up the head in a variety of ways. Make sure that apart from the head, the neck and spine are also properly supported to eliminate signs of stiffness and aches in the morning.

Managing Pain and Discomfort

Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help to reduce pain and inflammation associated with ear infections. Be sure to follow the proper dosage instructions, and consult with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or experience severe pain.

  • Keep your ear clean and dry, and avoid inserting objects into your ear. It may be best to use a shower cap while bathing to protect the affected area from further irritation.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, which can help to thin mucus and reduce pressure in your ear.
  • Consider using a humidifier in your bedroom, as this can help to maintain an optimal level of humidity and lessen congestion.

Using a Warm or Cold Compress

Applying a warm or cold compress can be an effective way to alleviate ear pain. Be mindful of the temperature and avoid using extremes, so you don’t cause any additional discomfort.

Warm Compress Soak a clean cloth in warm water, wring out the excess moisture, and place it gently over your affected ear for 10-15 minutes. This can aid in relieving pain and promoting drainage.
Cold Compress Wrap a bag of ice or a cold pack in a clean cloth, and apply it to the affected area for 10-15 minutes. Altering between warm and cold compresses may also be helpful in managing pain.

By implementing these strategies, you can make sleeping with an ear infection more manageable and foster a better night’s rest.

What Is An Ear Infection?

Just like the name sounds, an ear infection is a term that describes any sort of infection in one part of the ear or another.

Causes of Ear Infections

There are several causes of ear infections, but the most common ones are:

  • Bacterial or viral infections, often following a cold or the flu
  • Swimming or showering, which can allow water to become trapped in the ear and provide a breeding ground for bacteria
  • Allergies, which can cause inflammation in the Eustachian tubes and lead to an infection

Understanding what’s causing your ear infection can help you take appropriate measures to treat and prevent future occurrences.

The ear infections come in varying degrees but there are 2 main types including:

Otitis Media

This is the most popular type of ear infection and commonly occurs in kids.

It typically affects the middle part of the ear due to swelling and blockage of the tubes that drain fluids from the ear.

Unfortunately, it can be a significant source of pain that may keep you up at night.

Although the ears may look normal from the outside with no signs of draining fluids or even swelling, this infection may be extremely painful.

The sufferer’s hearing quality can diminish significantly during the period of the infection.

Also, it is not uncommon for one to feel the fullness of the ear or the skin above the ear to feel tender upon touch.

Other signs may include postnasal dripping and even coughing.

Otitis Externa

Also known as the Swimmer’s Ear, this infection affects the ear canal itself. Swimming or water exposure is one of the most common risk factors for developing the condition.

Otitis Externa is easy to identify thanks to the more visible symptoms such as swelling of the ear and oozing of pus. This infection is common among kids but a significant percentage of adults do get it too.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

There are a few common symptoms of ear infections that you should be aware of. These include:

  • Ear pain, which can range from mild to severe
  • A feeling of fullness in the affected ear
  • Fever
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Drainage from the ear

If you suspect that you have an ear infection, it’s important to see a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis. They can evaluate your symptoms, and if necessary, recommend a course of treatment to help you feel better and sleep more comfortably.

What Are The Signs Of An Ear Infection?

The most obvious sign of an ear infection is a sudden jolt of pain in one section of the ear or another. Sometimes, it is easy to dismiss it as something that will go away on its own and pay no further attention to it.

However, the pain usually only worsens over time, especially as bedtime approaches. The level of discomfort can be so sharp that you could end up counting sheep throughout the night even among heavy sleepers who usually drift off without much effort.

Here are a few obvious signs that you have an ear infection:

  • Sharp instant pain or dull continuous pain in the ears
  • Sharp pain with immediate oozing of pus from the ear
  • A feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Hearing difficulties
  • Severe pain from lying down

If you suspect that your child may be down with an ear infection, here are a few signs to confirm the suspicions:

  • Ear Tugging
  • Fever
  • Poor sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ear drainage
  • Crying during sleep at night
  • Restlessness

Home Remedies For Ear Infections 

The body’s immune system may be able to fight the majority of ear infections on its own but there are a couple of remedies that can speed up the process. After all, we all want to sleep better and not have to go about daily duties with pus oozing from our ears or suffering from sharp pain throughout the day.

Here are the best home remedies for sleeping with an ear infection.

1. Over the Counter Pain Killers 

tablets and pills of painkillers

Have a bottle of Aleve or Advil in your bathroom medicine cabinet? Why not pop a pill or two into your mouth and swallow? Taking anti-inflammatories can help you sleep well at night when you’re suffering from an ear infection.

These medications work by reducing the swelling and intercepting the pain messages sent to the brain. Thus, sleep may become possible despite the obvious discomfort being experienced.

2. Allergy Medications

Do you have any known allergies for which you may have been prescribed medications? If the answer is yes, this is a time to double down on taking those medications. Many of us only take allergy medications seriously when we’ve suffered an allergy episode.

However, you should know that allergies may be the underlying factor behind ear infections. Thus, taking your medicines as prescribed can help ease the pain and clear up the signs of the infection. 

The good news is that some allergy medications contain antihistamines – a powerful ingredient that may put you to sleep. Thus, taking them at night can see you drifting off without much effort.

3. Ear Drops

Suffering from unpleasant pain at night due to an ear infection? Ear drops can be a safe remedy particularly when the pain does not seem like going away anytime soon. These drops may contain Antipyrine-Benzocaine Otic, an analgesic that can reduce pain and discomfort in the ear according to Medicine Plus.

Whatever drops you choose, make sure it also reduces the buildup of wax in the ear. Fortunately, these ear drops are available over the counter in pharmacies. However, I prefer to order mine online for the sake of convenience.

4. Cold and Warm Compress

A cold/warm compress can provide soothing relief for all sorts of ear infections by numbing the pain and discomfort. An eye or heat pack may offer miraculous relief when placed on the infected ear for 20 minutes or so. To numb the pain even further, you can alternate between heat and ice packs at bedtime.

However, in the absence of ice and heat packs, wetting a towel or cold cloth with cold or hot water may also work well.

The Rester’s Choice Face Ice Pack from Amazon is an adjustable ice/heat pack that provides hands-free compression for my ears, chin, and other facial areas. It numbs my pain and helps me sleep through ear infections, migraines, and other painful medical conditions in any area of the face.

5. Oils 

Did you know that a few drops of natural oils in the infected ear can offer significant therapeutic effects? That’s right. Many people have reported long-lasting benefits from natural oil drops during ear infections.

This is because essential oils contain natural anti-inflammatory properties that may speed up healing from all sorts of infections. However, undiluted essential oils can be irritating for the ears so make sure to dilute it with coconut oil or another carrier oil before application.

According to Pubmed Central, the best essential oils for ear infections include:

  • Rose
  • Eucalyptus
  • Thyme
  • Bergamot
  • Clove 
  • Fennel

Additionally, a few drops of olive oil in the infected ear may also provide relief, according to many infected parties. That is far from surprising as Olive Oil contains antioxidants that eliminate free radicals from the body and reduce the side effects of the oxidation process.

The Ultimate Aromatherapy Diffuser and Essential Oil Set from Amazon offer me the ultimate degree of relaxation to fall asleep. The sweet-scented aromas reduce anxiety and stimulate the brain to reduce sleep-boosting melatonin. It is highly recommended for everyone with sleep troubles.

6. Continuous Swallowing 

Almost all forms of ear infections are caused by a blockage in the Eustachian tubes. Continuing to swallow food and water can open up those tubes for proper drainage of the pus. Since eating or drinking water continuously for hours is impossible, chewing gum may help open up the blocked tubes.

Eating Melatonin Gummies can also keep the swallowing process active while inducing sleep.

The ZzzQuil Pure Zzzs Melatonin Sleep Aid Gummies from Amazon works best for me whenever I need a natural sleep aid. I eat them like candy which keeps me swallowing for hours at bedtime. Seriously, you must try it!

7. Antibiotics

Antibiotics can serve as a potent line of defense against ear infections. Depending on the degree of the infection, your doctor may prescribe those medications to help ramp up the immune system to fight it off.

Make sure to complete the full course of the antibiotics prescribed and follow the dosage as directed for maximum results.

Additionally, talk to your doctor about any existing medicines you may be taking at that moment as certain antibiotics may react when combined with other medications. Also, stay away from milk, cheese, and other dairy products. This is because they’re known to affect the efficacy of antibiotics, according to Studies.

8. Sleep Aids

If nothing seems to be working when trying to sleep with an ear infection, sleeping pills can serve as the last resort. Also known as sedative-hypnotics, these medications may not only induce sleep but can help you stay asleep too.

Sleeping aids are largely available through a prescription but there are a couple of over-the-counter options as well. You could always have a conversation with your doctor about existing insomnia signs and seek the right sleeping aids.

However, if you’ve suddenly suffered an ear infection, OTC brands such as Benadryl and Unisom can be great options. If you have work in the morning, make sure to avoid options like NyQuil which contain antihistamines that may cause daytime sleepiness.

Preventing Ear Infections

Preventing ear infections can make life easy compared to seeking a solution after the infection has already occurred. Here are a few tried and tested ways to avoid ear infections:

Flu Vaccination

Research has proven that taking the flu vaccine yearly can prevent ear infections especially among children. The vaccine is known for offering protection against bacteria that may cause ear infections.

No Swimming

If you’re constantly suffering Otitis Externa commonly known as Swimmer’s Ear, it’d make a lot of sense to avoid swimming.

Also, make sure to find ways of preventing water from getting into the ears when bathing including wearing swimmer’s earplugs.

Maintaining Good Ear Hygiene

Maintaining good ear hygiene is crucial for preventing ear infections. Here are some steps you can take to keep your ears clean:

  • Regularly clean your ears using a damp cloth, avoiding inserting anything into the ear canal.
  • Resist the urge to use cotton swabs or other objects to clean the ear canal, as this can push earwax further into the ear and potentially cause infections.
  • Consult your healthcare provider if you experience excessive earwax production, as they may recommend specific ear-cleaning techniques or treatments.

Avoid Smoking

Studies have shown that exposure to cigarette smoke may increase the risk of suffering ear infections.

If you smoke, quitting the habit can save your life in many ways, including the prevention of these infections.

Even if you’re a non-smoker, it is important to ditch environments such as pubs and bars where smoking is allowed.

Manage Allergies

Staying away from your allergy triggers can help prevent the risk of suffering ear infections.

Once you experience an allergy bout, make sure to take the medications as prescribed to prevent the worsening of your symptoms.

Avoiding Moisture and Humidity

Excess moisture and humidity can create an environment where bacteria and fungi thrive, increasing the risk of ear infections. To avoid this, follow these tips:

  • Keep your ears dry, especially after swimming or showering. Use a towel to gently dry the outer portion of your ears.
  • Use swimmer’s earplugs to prevent water from entering the ear canal while swimming or bathing.
  • Use a dry environment at home by using air conditioners or dehumidifiers to maintain low humidity levels.

By prioritizing good ear hygiene and taking steps to avoid moisture and humidity, you can significantly reduce the risk of ear infections and improve your overall ear health, leading to a better night’s sleep.

When to Seek Medical Help

While coping with an ear infection, it’s essential to monitor your symptoms and take note of any changes. In some cases, a medical check might be necessary.

Below we will cover three situations in which you should seek professional help: persistent symptoms, complications, and severe cases.

Persistent Symptoms

If your ear infection symptoms persist for more than a week, it’s crucial to consult your doctor.

Continuous pain, swelling, or discharge may indicate a more severe problem and require further treatment.

Your doctor may prescribe different medications or recommend additional methods to alleviate your discomfort.


Pay attention to any complications you might be experiencing, such as:

  • High fever
  • Dizziness or balance problems
  • Unusual weakness or fatigue
  • Loss of hearing

If any of these complications arise, reach out to your healthcare professional as soon as possible.

They can address the underlying issue and help you manage the associated risks.

Severe Cases

In some instances, ear infections can escalate to severe cases, which might pose significant threats to your health. Look out for the following symptoms:

Symptom Description
Facial weakness Partial or complete loss of facial movement on one side
Severe headache An intense, persistent headache that doesn’t subside with over-the-counter pain relievers
Swelling behind the ear A noticeable lump or swelling that may push the ear outward

If you experience any of these severe symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider or visit the nearest emergency room.

Prompt medical intervention can prevent further complications and safeguard your health.


Here’s everything you need to know about sleeping with an ear infection. As long as you get the right treatment to numb the pain, sleep shouldn’t be impossible to come by.

Also, make sure to put in preventative measures that can protect you from the infections in the first place. Have a great night!

Gabriel Smith

Hello, my name is Gabriel and I LOVE to sleep. Okay, you’re right, a lot of people do like sleep. But my passion is actually not sleeping. My interest lies in the “theoretical part”. What to do before bedtime. What a good night’s sleep is. etc. In short, how to sleep well. I hope you share the same interest as me, and enjoy reading everything about sleep.

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