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There’s nothing worse than suffering from a cold when you so desperately need a good night’s sleep. But if you’re wondering how to sleep better with a cold, wonder no more: we’ve got you covered.
When we’re sick it’s sleep that heals us, giving our bodies time to fight off infection and rejuvenate.
Unfortunately stuffy, runny noses, coughing fits, fevers and sore throats often prevent us from sleeping when we need it most. But help is at hand and there are ways to relieve discomfort and get good sleep.
How Does a Cold Affect Sleep?
Having a cold disrupts the body’s sleep cycle — and your body needs sleep to help your immune system fight off that pesky infection. Talk about a catch-22…
To cope with fighting off the virus, your body tries to raise your temperature by shivering, making life more difficult for the infection to thrive. Unfortunately this defense mechanism disrupts deep sleep and causes your sleep cycle to bypass the restorative REM stage, leaving you feeling groggy and tired the following day.
In addition, the lack of comfort and difficulty breathing that comes with the fevers, coughs and stuffy noses of a cold means that we are restless when trying to sleep, resulting in feeling exhausted in the morning.
This can be a vicious cycle as a general lack of sleep can weaken your immune system further, leaving you vulnerable to further colds and infections.
But don’t worry, there are a few easy methods to getting a good night’s sleep even when you’ve got a cold…
How To Sleep Better With A Cold
Here’s a roundup of the types of medication you can use to ease the symptoms of your illness and improve your slumber.
- Decongestant nasal sprays are one solution to how you can sleep good with a cold. They help unblock the airways in your nose to make breathing easier whilst you fall asleep and help you stay comfortable throughout the night – a few squirts of spray at bedtime is all you need. Bear in mind that overuse of nasal sprays can increase inflammation of your mucous membranes, so try to only use them for a few days if possible.
- Nasal strips are an alternative solution to sprays as they also work to decongest the nasal passages, but they are not quite as effective as a nasal spray.
- Cold and flu medications are taken orally and usually contain decongestants as well as offering pain relief for sore noses and throats. Many also contain antihistamines which can be useful for allergy sufferers. Both night and day formulas are available, and the night formulas typically have a calming effect which can help send you off to sleep. Be aware that some medications contain caffeine which can keep you awake, so read the label carefully.
- Cough syrups. When you have a cold it causes mucus to constantly drain down your throat causing irritation. Cough syrups are designed to either suppress your cough or act as expectorants which encourage you to bring up phlegm. Many can make you feel drowsy and when taken just before bedtime can suppress a cough and ease nasal drips, encouraging you to sleep more soundly.
Improve the Air Quality
Our sleeping environment has a big effect on our sleep — particularly the quality of air that we breathe.
Dry climates and heating systems in our homes can dehydrate the atmosphere and dry the nose, lips and throat, so to ease congestion use a humidifier to help you breathe easier and sleep better.
Humidity in the room where you sleep should ideally be between 30 and 50 percent. Ensure your humidifier is kept clean to prevent germs and mould building up in the appliance.
Get the Temperature Right
Our bodies are particularly sensitive to temperature when we’re ill.
Make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature (somewhere between 65 and 72 degrees) to prevent you waking up shivering or getting so hot you find yourself a sweaty mess.
If you’re still feeling the chill nudge the heating up a little towards the higher end of the scale, but remember to re-adjust the temperature when you wake.
Use the Power of Steam
Another answer to the question of how to sleep better with a stuffy nose is to use steam.
Showers are a great weapon when fighting off a cold, so take a hot shower before bed and breathe the steam in deeply to relieve congestion. The steam will also open up and drain your sinuses, and the hot water will soothe and relax aching muscles before bed.
Another way to benefit from the healing power of steam and unwind before sleeping is to have a hot drink before bedtime. It will help get your fluid levels up and keep you hydrated which helps with decongestion.
Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea as they can keep you awake. Instead try a herbal tea such as chamomile or lemon with honey which will also soothe your throat. Keep the tea beside your bed so you can sip it as you fall asleep.
>> Check out our guide to the best teas for sleeping if you’re interested in getting the best night’s sleep.
Most of us move about when we sleep — even more so when we’re ill and restless.
When you’re suffering from a cold, nasal airways can get even more blocked. To combat this, use pillows to raise the upper part of your body at a slight angle. Try to create a wedge shape that supports your torso and leaves your head elevated about 6 inches from the mattress. This reduces blood flow to your head which keeps inflammation of your nasal passages to a minimum and helps sinuses to drain, letting you to breathe more freely throughout the night.
If you still can’t get comfortable try changing your position to sleep on your side. This should still help keep your air passages open and can be useful for clearing mucus if one side of your nose is blocked.
Trying to sleep with a cold can be stressful – both physically and mentally — and lack of sleep can make cold and flu symptoms can feel worse. But knowing how to sleep with a cold can help you rest easier at night and feel more refreshed in the morning.
Hopefully now you’ll have the knowledge to arm yourself in the war against colds, be rested and well all the sooner.