Article medically reviewed and fact-checked by Dr. Dimitar Marinov (M.D, Ph.D).
Afrin is a brand name for the drug known as oxymetazoline and is used to treat nasal congestion.
But can Afrin keep you awake at night?
Afrin can keep you awake and contribute to insomnia because oxymetazoline is a direct alpha-receptor stimulator. Activating these receptors has a stimulating effect on the body that can counteract the onset of sleep.
So how can you get to sleep when taking a course of Afrin?
To sleep better when taking Afrin, try using Afrin in the morning and lowering the dose so that the stimulating side effects don’t disrupt your sleep – switch Afrin for a nasal wash that contains saline closer to bedtime to avoid the side effects completely.
The rest of this article explains in more detail how Afrin can disrupt sleep and provides you with 10 ways to sleep better when taking a course of Afrin.
Although this article was written by a qualified and practicing medical doctor, you should consult with a qualified medical professional before making any changes to your dosing.
How Does Afrin Keep You Awake?
Afrin keeps you awake by acting as a stimulant.
More specifically, Afrin is a non-selective alpha-receptor stimulator – which means that in addition to causing vasoconstriction in order to create a decongestant effect, it also acts upon the same receptors that can increase your heart rate; potentially leading to hypertension, headaches, and insomnia.
Afrin causes a tightening of our blood vessels and increases our hearts’ work and oxygen demand.
Therefore, this medication can exacerbate tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) and angina (chest pain) in certain patients.
The vasoconstriction effects throughout our bodies can cause some people to experience blurred vision, dizziness, trembling, and restlessness.
Furthermore, many patients can experience relief from nasal congestion at first when using Afrin but can later develop trouble sleeping due to rebound congestion and blocked airways.
10 Ways to Sleep Better When Taking Afrin
Many patients often experience trouble sleeping as a consequence of beginning or continuing a course of Afrin treatment.
In my professional experience as a medical doctor, the best ways to get to sleep whilst using Afrin are as follows:
1: Use Afrin in the Morning
Afrin should be administered in the morning and/or early afternoon so the stimulating side effects can wear off by bedtime.
2: Reduce the Dose
Taking Afrin less often during the day and/or at a reduced dose can help to mitigate the side effects of Afrin and therefore reduce the chance of experiencing insomnia.
Remember to always consult your medical professional before making any changes, to see if these modifications are suitable for your specific condition.
Your doctor may agree that you can reduce the medicine to just a single dose.
This can significantly reduce exposure to the stimulant effects of this drug.
3: Avoid Caffeine
Coffee consumption should be limited to the morning and early afternoon.
It has been proven that caffeine taken too late in the evening might cause sleep disturbances which can worsen Afrin’s stimulating effects.
Caffeine can worsen tachycardia, hypertension, and vasoconstriction – which are all side effects of Afrin.
I usually tell my patients to avoid caffeine after 3:00 pm to prevent unwanted restlessness.
If you want a warm beverage before sleep, consider drinking caffeine-free tea like chamomile or lavender.
4: Follow a Good Sleep Routine
Sticking to a bedtime routine can help to trigger sleep.
It has been proven that exposure to bright lights such as TVs, laptops, or smartphones can alter sleeping patterns and cause people to become restless.
Try ditching your phone and work-related materials one hour before bed in exchange for reading a book, taking a relaxing bath, listening to soft music, and/or meditating before bedtime.
These activities have been shown to reduce stress and your heart rate – promoting better sleep and mitigating Afrin’s effects.
5: Exercise in the Morning
Maintaining a regular exercise regime is a great way to stay healthy and encourage better sleep.
Exercise helps bring your heart rate up during the day, boosts energy, improves your mood, and can help you rest better at night.
Exercise should be done earlier on in the day if possible to give your body time to settle and relax – exercising too late can make you feel overstimulated.
6: Keep Your Room Clean
Many of the triggers that encourage the constant use of Afrin are due to allergies, sinusitis, and pathogens in the environment that affect your nasal mucosa.
Even though it is not the only cause of nasal congestion, it is important to limit the number of allergens you are exposed to.
Try keeping pets out of your room, use air filters, and regularly clean your bedsheets.
These can decrease your congestion and thus the need to use Afrin.
7: Try CBT
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help to eliminate or reduce OCD thinking and intrusive negative thoughts that may keep you awake at night.
Mental health is as important as physical health regarding sleep patterns, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proven successful at treating patients who suffer from primary and secondary insomnia.
This is a great option for patients that already have sleep problems before taking Afrin.
8: Replace Afrin With Sinus Rinses
Afrin can be used in conjunction with other remedies such as sinus rinses and nasal sprays that use saline as their primary component to avoid the stimulating side effects of Afrin.
Sinus rinses can assist in decongestion by lubricating the nasal lining so that you don’t have to take Afrin as often.
9: Try Natural Sleep Supplements
There are many natural sleeping aids that can help promote better sleep such as melatonin, magnesium, and valerian root.
There are also medications like benzodiazepines that can aid with sleep.
As a medical professional, I don’t recommend benzodiazepines because they can be habit-forming.
This is most evident when the medication progressively loses efficacy after prolonged use and higher doses are needed to achieve the same results, which leads to dependence.
10: Avoid Alcohol
Drinking alcohol may make you feel sleepy at first.
However, alcohol disrupts REM sleep (deep sleep) which decreases the quality of your rest.
This can cause you to feel disoriented, unable to concentrate, and tired the next day.
Alcohol can also make you more prone to sleep apnea and snoring by causing relaxation of the muscles in your throat.
Alcohol also promotes diuresis, which can cause you to wake up multiple times throughout the night.
Conclusion: Limit Afrin Use Near Bedtime
The most effective way to stop Afrin from interfering with your sleep is to only take it in the morning and early afternoon to stop the stimulating effects from keeping you awake.
Always talk to your doctor before changing your dosing.
Sources and References
 Pulmonary Pharmacology & Therapeutics (2008) Mechanism of decongestant activity of α2-adrenoceptor agonists. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1094553907000533
 International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicina (2015) Systemic side effects of locally used oxymetazoline Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4402865/
No part of this article or website offers medical advice – always consult with a medical professional for the best guidance.
Image Attribution and Licensing
Main image: ‘Nose Spray’ by stock_colors (Getty Images Signature) used with permission under the terms of Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement.
Dan is the founder and head content creator at Bedroom Style Reviews.
He has been working as a professional online product reviewer since 2015 and was inspired to start this website when he ended up sleeping on a memory foam mattress that was too soft and gave him backache.
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Dan is a qualified NVQ Level 2 Fitness Instructor with 6 years’ experience helping clients improve their health through diet, exercise, and proper sleep hygiene.
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