Your sinuses: Explainer
You might be surprised at how extensive (and mysterious) your sinus system actually is. Spanning from your forehead to below your nose, the sinuses are a series of hollow, mucus-lined, but mostly empty cavities in the skull.
According to WebMD, the purpose of the sinus system is still unknown, with theories claiming a function in speech as well as conditioning the air we breathe. Sinus congestion occurs when the lining of the sinus becomes inflamed and reacts by increasing its mucus production.
Polluted & dry air
When the cause of morning congestion is not obvious, the culprit is often general air quality. Air that’s too dry contributes to an inhospitable cocktail for your nose and throat, including dehydration, bacteria, and literal damage to the cilia—the filtrating lining of your airways
Sinus surgeon Dr. Garrett Bennett describes dry sinuses as at higher risk of infection, being 50% more likely to attract sinusitis-causing bacteria due to the dry air being a more efficient carrier of debris and allergens.
Forced-air heating systems are regularly behind over-dry air in homes, although changes in weather fronts can also cause abrupt shifts to your indoor climate.
Likewise, polluted air contains a greater amount of inhalable particles and irritants—possibly even providing a vector for bacteria—all increasing the likelihood of a reaction. Even seemingly well-ventilated homes can pool low quality air, meaning that your congestion might be due to a currently unnoticed air quality issue.
Common allergies: Top 5
Sometimes, the cause of morning congestion is more obvious. The presence of allergens in your home can be easily detected through a process of isolation. If your symptoms improve after the removal of one or more of these allergens, consider yourself to have a sensitivity to the following common irritants:
Also consider: Tension headaches
If the sinus issues you’re experiencing are more to do with pressure and stiffness than a runny nose and scratchy throat, then it’s worth considering whether muscle tension might be behind your congestion.
Thanks to hours spent craning our necks at laptop screens or study materials, many of us go to bed having subjected the muscles and tendons in our necks to hours of repetitive postures. Throughout the night, this can cause the muscles to tighten, putting pressure on the head and face, and creating the feeling of sinus pain in the morning.