Please note, we are proudly supported by our readers. The product links are referral based and if you purchase an item we make a small commission. For more information please see our disclosure page.
The only thing more common than the common cold, is not being able to sleep while you have it. When you’re sick, people will hand out advice like they’re Kleenex, but rarely will they include tips on how to sleep better. And why not? Isn’t sleep what you need most? The truth is, as badly as you want to sleep when you’re stuck with the cold or flu, sleeping can seem next to impossible.
However, amongst all the old wive’s tales, one thing is true: sleep is the best medicine. So, if you’re desperately searching for the right dose, continue reading to learn about the do’s and don’t’s of sleeping while you’re sick, and you just might get some shut eye for once.
It’s true you crave sleep while you’re sick, but even more importantly, you need it. Sleep is truly the best way for the immune system to battle illness, they key is, it needs to be restful. According to an MD at New York University School of Medicine, several of the molecules and substances that circulate without the body overlap between function and sleep. This means that the two are bound to affect each other.
Another incredible way that our bodies fight infection is surprisingly through fever. Fever is our body’s own internal way of fighting infection, and during sleep, our fever response is even higher. Overall, sleep helps your body fight off infection before it can be truly rehabilitating, and allows you to bounce-back faster. Makes sense why we need more sleep to get better, right?
Runny nose. Sore throat. Headache. Maybe even hunger. The list goes on. There are countless ways why you can’t sleep while you’re sick, and seemingly next to none to help you fall asleep. Everyone recommends you sleep and stay in bed, and you’re not one to argue, but sleeping while you’re sick can sometimes feel more like a punishment than a reward.
If you’ve ever felt like your cold and flu symptoms are worse at night, that’s because they are. These symptoms are confirmed worse at night, during the critical time when your body needs rest the most; that’s why you can’t sleep.
However, restful, recuperative sleep isn’t impossible. There’s just more to it than simply laying in bed and expecting a miracle. If you want to achieve the sleep you’re craving when you have a cold or the flu, these tips and tricks are sure to make a difference.
You might think you’ve heard them all, but we’re sure you haven’t. Fortify your body with the sleeping do’s before you lay in bed, and you just might fall asleep and enjoy it. Just imagine if you tried all of these remedies for sleeping while you’re sick, it could be the best sleep you’ve ever had.
Let’s start with the obvious. Cold and flu medications exist for a reason. Over the counter medications are specifically labeled so that you can match your symptoms right up. Better yet, nighttime medications exist to help you fall asleep, even a little bit. On the other hand, be sure to avoid daytime or non-drowsy medications that could have ingredients to specifically keep you awake.
This remedy is as old as time. If you’re not eating or drinking something warm before bed, you’re probably not sleeping at all. It’s incredible what a little bit of steam can do for the body while your sick. The steam from hot foods and beverages can ease your dry nasal passages, loosen mucus, ease a sore throat, and overall make it easier to breathe.
Tea with honey is especially recommended. It’s the best of both worlds; hot tea with the natural soothing effects of honey. Honey can actually as as effective as a cough suppressant when you’re sick- now you know.
There’s a reason doctors are always propping the patients up in movies. Let gravity do the work for you and if you feel like you can’t fall asleep, stop laying horizontally. When you’re horizontal, post nasal drip builds up, which creates that scratchy throat and cough that’s keeping you up all night.
On the contrary, sinus pressure gets better when your head is held up high. Sitting up whole you sleep may seem a little odd, but when it comes to the sleep you’re longing for, the payout is well worth it.
Warmth and steam are two critical components to feeling better and sleeping better. In addition to your steamy foods, taking a hot shower or bath, or using a humidifier or vaporizer, gives you all the steam you need. The same way that foods clear your nasal passages, so can a steamy shower. It can help loosen up mucus and truthfully, is an excellent way to relax the body before you wind down.
Humidifiers and vaporizers can be your best friends because they keep the air moist all night long. Be sure to follow the directions carefully, and clean and check your humidifiers/ vaporizers regularly for proper use.
Now more than ever, when you’re sick it is extremely important to create an ideal space to fall asleep and stay asleep in. Ideally you want dark, cool, and quiet surroundings, with all the comfort you need. Check and adjust your mattress and pillows as needed to create ultimate comfort, not let them work against you.
Even with a peaceful space established, you still may not fall asleep, and the truth is, don’t force it. If you’re tossing and turning trying to get some shut eye, change it up. Get up, sit in a chair, read a book, listen to music- after 15 to 30 minutes, then try sleeping again. The longer you lay there tossing and turning, the more uncomfortable you could get.
Every once in a while the moment finally happens and you fall asleep. Inevitably while you’re sick, this still means you’ll wake up in 30 minutes with a runny nose. You know you need a Kleenex, so don’t hesitate to get one.
The faster you respond to your needs, the faster you can fall asleep again. Better yet, go to bed initially, stocked with all the things you might need throughout the night: Kleenex, a glass of water, some soothing VapoRub perhaps. Convenience is key.
Of course, just because you arm your body with the good stuff; a steamy shower, a warm cup of tea, a relaxing space, doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want and still expect to sleep. If you’re sick and trying to achieve a good night’s rest, there are certain things to avoid at night.
But it makes you drowsy right? Sure, maybe at first, but throughout the night, alcohol actually keeps you awake. In addition can dry our your nasal passages, swell your sinuses, and of course react poorly with your cold and flu medication. Your body clearly needs a day off, that includes from alcohol as well.
For a number of reasons. First, you really don’t want to spread your sickness to your partner. That just increases the chances that you’ll both be sick, for even longer. Second, sleeping alone let’s you cough, sniff, sneeze, blow your nose, and get out of bed as many times as you please without feeling guilty for disturbing the other person. Sleeping alone while you’re sick might be your best bet, but that doesn’t mean you have to be the one to sleep on the couch.
Sure, take your medicine, but take them with caution. Some of the side effects that come with medications can actually keep you awake. Decongestants for example, are known to make you feel jittery. Don’t take medications with a decongestant too late in the day, or it could negatively impact your sleep. If you want relief, try a nasal spray with a decongestant instead, which will still provide relief, but without the other side effects.
Or use a fan. And don’t do anything that could cause you to dry-out. Dry air from an open window or fan are especially known to dry out your nasal passages. Stick to warm and steamy for the best night’s sleep.
So, you’re sick, but hopefully your sleep doesn’t have to be. It’s a fact that sleep helps a sick body heal faster. Having a cold or flu is bad enough, and having it at night can often be worse. Don’t let your symptoms take over, combat against no sleep by trying the number of remedies listed above.
When it comes to your sleep, you can’t overdo it; so there’s no harm in combining a hot shower, with a warm meal and some medication. In fact all of these should put you to sleep that much faster. Even if the only one to take care of you is you, these tips and tricks are exactly what the doctor ordered.