How To Comfortably Sleep With An Ear Infection

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.

So what is the best way to sleep with an ear infection? Lying down with the upper body elevated is the best way to gain comfort throughout the night. 

This may not be a problem if you’re already a back sleeper. But what happens to those who predominantly sleep on the stomach or sides? Well, side sleepers are typically forced to lie down on the opposite side of the infected ear in an elevated position especially for infections characterized by fluid release from the ear.

Unfortunately, stomach sleepers may not get so lucky. The best way would be to adopt a reclining back position temporarily until the infection is successfully treated.

How do you Sleep with an Ear Infection?

bed with pillows and blankets

If this is your first time getting an eye ear infection, it is only right to question why you need to sleep in an elevated position instead of lying down in the usual angle. Sleeping in an elevated position eases the pressure on the infected ears and allows any fluids to drain quickly for soothing relief.

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.

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. These 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.

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.

How to Prevent Ear Infections in the First Place

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.

Keep the Ears Clean: Resisting the temptation of pushing cotton buds or other small objects into the ears especially when it feels itchy can be rewarding. These items may block the Eustachian tubes and increase the risk of suffering an infection.

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.


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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