The Nasal Cycle: The Real Reason You Get Those Annoying Blocked Nostrils

You may have noticed that when you have a cold, one of your nostrils always seems to be more blocked than the other. It has recently been proved that this isn’t just in your mind, but that there is actually a scientific reason behind it.

More than ever, with the coronavirus spreading, it is the right time to know the real reason you get those annoying blocked nostrils. This is something that we will all have definitely experienced in the past. When we’re ill, we tend to get the sniffles and always need to be blowing our noses. But it always seems that one of our nostrils is stubbornly more blocked than its neighbour. And this isn’t just in your mind, it’s a fact! As it turns out, there is actually a scientific reason to explain why this annoying and unpleasant phenomenon occurs.

Nasal cycles

You probably don’t notice it, but on a day to day basis, your breathing rhythm alternates, switching from one nostril to the other over the course of the day and the night. Your nasal cycle lasts on average two and a half hours and is controlled by your automatic nervous system, which is also responsible for controlling other body functions such as your digestive system and heart rate.

The art of nostril turgescence

In order to partially close off one of your nostrils, your body sends a flow of blood to this area. This is done in a similar way to when the blood rushes to your intimate areas when you are aroused. This blood flow causes the blood vessels in your nose to swell up and restrict airflow, which results in what is known as a turgescent nostril, more commonly referred to as a blocked nose. According to some researchers, this combination of your active nostril and turgescent nostril sharpens your sense of smell so that some smells are more easily identifiable via a rapid air flow and others via travelling through the nose at a slower pace.

A break for your nostrils

This nasal cycle allows half of your nose to take a break, stay moist and avoid drying out. In addition, it could also explain why you are constantly tossing and turning at night while you sleep. To prevent your dependent nostril from also becoming congested and blocked, your body needs to kept upright so that the blood is only able to flow to your blocked nostril. After all, your body is a well-oiled machine, but it can be quite annoying and unpleasant when you have a cold.

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