Why Does My Throat Hurt When I Wake Up?

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Why Does My Throat Hurt When I Wake Up?

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You might be asking yourself, why does my throat hurt when I wake up? Most sore throats upon waking aren’t typically anything to be overly concerned about, unless you are suffering from other symptoms that are considered more serious. If you feel you have difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, painful swallowing or concurrent persistent ear infections or sinus infections it may be a sign of something more sinister. Typically anything lasting for more than a week if worth investigation also.

Why Does My Throat Hurt When I Wake Up?

Breathing-related sleep issues (Sleep apnea)

Snoring as a result of Central, Complex or Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to a recurring sore throat. The constantly flowing air that doesn’t make it down the airways, this drys your mouth and makes the mouth dehydrated. Snoring may also affect the tissues and muscles around your neck. The affected areas may then result in a sore throat or throat discomfort the following day. Snoring is a common problem with sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that occurs when you repeatedly stop breathing when you sleep. Recent research shows dry mouths are clinical hallmarks of OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea), which is the most common form.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

GERD can also affect throat pain, when you wakes after a night of sleep the throat may be dry or sore. This can occur when stomach acid returns through a tube that links your stomach to your throat. GERD may cause chest discomfort that may have an affect on the neck, ear and throat. You can also suffer from vomiting, nausea, breathlessness, and tooth eroding. Acid reflux can affect sleep and lower your quality over time.

GERD treatment options may include:

  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which block acid production and heal the esophagus

  • Antacids, these neutralise stomach acids. These are composed of calcium carbonate.

  • Histamine blockers, these lower acid production. They don’t work as quick as antacids but they do work for longer.

  • Changes in diet, reducing acidic foods to prevent acid reflux

  • Reduction in medications that affect the stomach acids, i.e. Ibuprofen

If medication is ineffective, your doctor may recommend a LINX device, Fundoplication or Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication.

Dry air

If the air in your room is too cold in the cooler seasons, then your throat is prone to drying out at night. This can lead to a sore throat, irritation of the nasopharynx or oropharynx. A group of researchers published a study in 2013, which took a group of 45 participants that had cold dry air delivered to their throats and found an increase in the irritation of the area. Unfortunately, the cold and dry air can cause waking through out the night and potentially make falling asleep more difficult. However, it may be possible for some people with non infectious sore throats to modulate the room temperature over these seasons to ensure their throats aren’t susceptible to irritation.

Allergies

The agitation caused by house dust, mould, seasonal allergies or environmental allergens can cause sleep disturbance. The most common symptoms of allergic reactions including itchiness and coughing. You may find you have watery eyes, dry throat or a runny nose, as well as occasional sneezing. These symptoms and cause sleep disruption and increase your risk of waking up with a throat pain or sore throat symptoms. Hay fever is a common issue over the spring and can cause irritation of many areas including the throat.

Allergic reaction to chemical exposure or prescription medications may also trigger a sore throat in the morning.

Air Pollution

Similar to allergic conditions, air pollutants including passive smoke from cigarettes and automobile exhaust can contaminate your nose and throat and create a sore throat upon waking. According to the EPA 67 million tons of air pollutants were emitted into the atmosphere in the US in 2021, over the last decade air quality has improved dramatically. However, despite the progress being made 102 million people nationwide still lived in counties with higher pollution levels recommended by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). In some cases, breathing in polluted air is liable to cause an increase in symptoms, leading to a sore or scratchy throat. It may even cause a chronic stuffy nose, swollen lymph nodes or hoarse voice.

Dehydration

When consuming too much alcohol during the day, you may find you wake up with a dry mouth and throat after sleeping, which may persist into the next day. Your brain produces more saliva during the day and this may be decreased throughout the night.

If you find you are sweat excessively at night, the body can lose its moisture and cause dehydration. If you wake up with smelly sweaty sheets, this may be a contributing factor to your issue. It can often leave the bed sheets smelling like sweat! Night sweats can be caused by alcohol, lack of sleep, menopause, anxiety, various autoimmune conditions and even something as simple as hot evenings. These can all lead to dehydration and potentially a sore throat in the morning.

Smoking

Smoking has been associated with throat pain either due to the lack of saliva caused by nicotine products or due to the heat produced by the cigarette or cigar. The term used often is cottonmouth, this is caused by the above factors that dehydrate the mouth and throat. These symptoms may persist for several hours after waking. Smoking can have an increased likelihood of asthma and pulmonary infections as a result. It’s hard to sleep if there is pain in your throat and this may be a causative factor and you may need to quit smoking to see a tangible change. Secondhand smoke may cause similar symptoms in non-smokers.

Viral infections

Various infections including measles, chicken pox, croup and rhinovirus affect throats. You may feel flu like symptoms, which may include a little tingling, scratchy throat or high fever. It may be irritable, swollen or uncomfortable when swallowed due to the swollen tonsils or mouth swollen lymph nodes. Depending on the type of viral infection, it is possible to get other symptoms. For viral infections such as measles and chickenpox, you may experience blisters and swelling. It is best to seek medical attention from a doctor or relevant medical professional, if you feel you have any form of highly contagious respiratory disease.

Bacterial infections

Bacterial throat infections like Strep throat can cause sore throat symptoms. This may occur at anytime, including during sleep! Usually the most common cause of a sore throat is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. This can occur in people of all ages, from kids to adults. Common ages are between 5 and 15 years old. This can be spread via coughing, sneezing or sharing eating utensils with people who are suffering from a current Strep throat infection.

Whooping cough is another potential cause, this is caused by Bordetella pertussis bacterial infection. The common symptoms in the early stages of whooping cough are very similar to a common cold, this could mean runny nose, sore throat, red and watery eyes, and a slightly raised body temperature.

Throat cancer

Various cancers around the throat may cause consistent sore throats. This may be accompanied by other signs such as, painful swallowing, trouble swallowing or obstruction of breathing depending on the location. If the sore throat persists and you have tried remedies, it may be worthwhile investigating further. A doctor will be able to guide you in the process of elimination for varying conditions. Cancer is always your last or lower down in priority of your differential diagnosis, due to the lower prevalence of the issue.

How can I stop waking up with a sore throat? What is the fastest way to cure a sore throat?

A cost effective way is to suck on frozen ice chips for a soothing throat effect. Alternatively there is the option of eating hard candy and lozenges. However, make sure you do not sleep with a lozenge in your mouth, as you may choke. Gargling salt water on the tongue to relieve throat irritation also. Ensure your water supply is clean and fresh. Honey can help relieve coughing, it increases the saliva production and hydrates the mouth and sore throat. These are good home remedies that can play a role in managing the sore throat.

If the bedroom is dry you may want to try a humidifier! The warmer weather or dry heat climates may contribute to this but a room humidifier can be a simple fix.

Medications can be used to decrease inflammation if that is the cause. You can take Acetaminophen or NSAIDS like ibuprofen can help take the edge off possible infection. Lozenges or throat sprays sometimes contain over the counter ingredients, such as lidocaine. However, it is advised to use these as depicted on the box. If you are thinking it’s related to hay fever, then antihistamines may be your best bet.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day, this will help prevent dehydration at night. Especially if you are someone who suffers from recurrent night sweats and wake up with your throat sore.

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What drink helps a sore throat?

Drink water or tea (herbal or decaf), broth or soups. Hot tea is also useful in removing the irritation but may be short lived if it’s due to viral or bacterial infections. Adding honey to the tea can be very useful. Manuka honey is a useful addition due to the proposed healing benefits of the honey. I have found it can be very soothing and the added flavour to the tea is amazing. Tea also contains a rich source of flavonoids. The unique amino acid, L-theanine can also help with anxiety you may be feeling due to your issue.

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The summary

Waking up with a sore throat may not be concern for alarm, however you may want to know why and how to fix it. Most reasons takes time to heal a sore throat but doing all the right treatment to help fix or prevent it is the best way to find success. If you feel you are suffering for extended periods or you aren’t getting good quality sleep. It may be worth investigating or having a sleep study done with your doctor. However, 9 times out of 10 it is due to the most common causes and it is a simple solution with no need for concern.