How To Sleep With Ear Infection? Positions And Remedies For Easier Rest


Ear infections can make falling asleep difficult and disrupt sleep throughout the night. The pain, pressure, and overall discomfort in the ear can keep you tossing and turning. Plus, lying down can aggravate symptoms, making it hard to find a restful position. 

While getting a good night’s rest may seem impossible with an ear infection, there are steps you can take to make sleeping with an ear infection more comfortable. Trying different sleeping positions, using ear drops and warm compresses, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and utilizing pillows and props can help take pressure off the infected ear and enable better quality sleep.

Tips For Sleeping With An Ear Infection

Read on for tips that can aid sleep when dealing with an ear infection. This guide also covers answers to common questions about managing ear pain at night and when to seek medical treatment. With the right strategy, you can minimize discomfort and achieve more restorative rest while recovering.

Tips For Sleeping With An Ear Infection
  • Sleep on the side opposite the infected ear. This prevents direct pressure on the ear and allows drainage of fluid. 
  • Use an extra pillow to prop up the head and keep the infected ear elevated. Keeping the head raised reduces congestion and pressure.
  • Place a warm compress on the affected ear right before bedtime. The moist heat temporarily reduces pain and swelling.
  • Use OTC ear drops containing numbing agents like phenazopyridine before sleeping. They can temporarily relieve pain.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers before bed to reduce inflammation and discomfort. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen sodium can help.
  • Sleep in a cool, quiet room. Both cold temperatures and noise reduction minimize congestion and irritation.
  • Use a humidifier at night. Keeping nasal passages moist can cut down on congestion-related ear pain. 
  • Avoid sleeping on the stomach as this puts direct pressure on the infected ear. 
  • Adjust pillows with one higher under the head to angle the ear up and enable drainage
  • Don’t put objects in the ears like cotton swabs. This pushes wax deeper and worsens irritation.
  • Follow doctor’s orders for prescription antibiotics or steroid ear drops to treat the infection.

By employing these tips, you can take pressure off the delicate ear structures and make falling and staying asleep easier when dealing with an ear infection. Pay attention to which positions alleviate discomfort at night. Get up and reposition yourself whenever needed for relief.


While sleeping with an ear infection can be challenging, making thoughtful adjustments to your sleep position, environment, and use of medication can provide significant relief and help you get proper rest. Keep the infected ear elevated, use warmth and pain-reducers judiciously, and find angles that prevent unnecessary pressure. Maintain follow-ups with your doctor as well.

Pay attention to your body’s signals, and don’t hesitate to adjust pillows and switch sides during the night for comfort. With the right remedies and posture modifications, peaceful sleep is still possible while your ear heals from infection. Just take care not to ignore severe symptoms, as immediate medical treatment is vital in these cases. With patience and proper care, you’ll be back to your normal sleep routine in no time.


1. Is it better to sleep upright with an ear infection?

Sleeping upright can take pressure off the inner ear and minimize pain. Try propping yourself up with pillows in bed or sleep in a recliner. Just avoid sleeping completely upright, as fluid might have trouble draining from the ear.

2. Should I use a cotton ball in my ear while sleeping? 

Doctors generally don’t recommend using cotton balls to plug up the ears during an infection. The cotton fibers can stick to the inflamed canal and worsen irritation. Cotton swabs should also never be inserted into the infected ear.

3. Can I use a heating pad on my ear for sleep?

Applying a warm (not hot) compress right before bedtime can temporarily relieve pain. But don’t sleep with a heating pad on the infected ear as it poses a burn risk. Also avoid ice packs, as extreme cold could damage the eardrum.

4. Is it OK to sleep on my side if I have an outer ear infection?

For mild infections limited to the outer ear canal, sleeping on the side of the affected ear is fine, as long as you’re not putting direct pressure on the tender spot. But if the middle or inner ear is infected, it’s best to sleep on the opposite side.

5. Should I still sleep on my back if it hurts my infected ear?

No, avoid sleeping on your back if this puts uncomfortable pressure on the infected ear. Sleep on the side opposite the problem ear or prop yourself up with pillows. Don’t force a position that worsens pain and irritation. Get up and change positions if needed.

Dr. Jun Ren is a dedicated and experienced registered dietitian and nutritionist who is committed to helping people achieve their health goals through personalized nutrition plans. With a passion for promoting healthy eating habits and preventing chronic diseases, Dr. Ren has been able to assist numerous clients in improving their overall quality of life.

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