How to sleep with a cold

When you've got a cold, getting plenty of sleep can be one of the best things that may help your recovery. But sleeping with a cold isn't always easy.

Your nose might be blocked or you could be suffering from the sniffles, making it seem almost impossible to get comfortable at night.

Thankfully, there are a few things you can try to help you sleep better with a cold:

  • Have a warm drink before bed

  • Use a humidifier

  • Take a decongestant

  • Have a warm shower

  • Elevate your head

  • Take cough medicine

  • Wear a nasal strip

  • Gargle saltwater

  • Stick to a bedtime routine

  • Cut down on alcohol.

10 tips for how to sleep with a cold

1. Have a warm drink before bed

Drinking a warm, steamy drink before settling down for bed can help you get the sleep you need. The warmth can soothe a sore throat, while the steam may loosen up any mucus causing your congestion, encouraging it to drain.

Some great hot drink options before bed include:

  • Decaffeinated tea with honey

  • Chamomile tea

  • Peppermint tea

  • Ginger tea

  • Hot water with lemon juice and honey

  • Warm soup

  • Low-sodium broth.

Try and avoid drinking too close to bedtime though as you might then need to get up in the night, which disrupts your rest. It might be better to aim to have your drink at least an hour before heading to bed.

2. Use a humidifier

Having a humidifier in your bedroom works to add moisture to the air you breathe as you sleep, which can help break up the mucus in your sinuses and nose.

Moist air is also easier on your throat, so it can soothe coughing. Just make sure you drain and clean the humidifier daily to keep it free of bacteria and mould, as this could make your cold worse.

3. Take a decongestant

Decongestants are designed to reduce the swelling in your nasal passages and sinuses that happens when you have a cold. This can also help to reduce the production of mucus in your nose.

This all adds up to helping to make it easier to breathe through your nose, so that you can sleep more comfortably.

You can take decongestants as either:

  • A spray

SUDAFED® Blocked Nose Spray can provide rapid relief on three fronts. It can help unblock your nose, reduce mucus build-up and ease breathing through your nose for up to 10 hours in just one spray to each nostril.

  • Tablets

SUDAFED® Decongestant Tablets contain pseudoephedrine hydrochloride, which provides effective relief from blocked noses and sinus congestion. They get to work by reducing swelling in the blood vessels in your nose to make it easier to breathe again.

  • Liquid

SUDAFED® Decongestant Liquid contains pseudoephedrine hydrochloride for effective relief from congestion, helping you breathe freely through your nose. The active ingredient works to reduce the swelling in your nose, which can rid you of that stuffy, bunged up feeling that often comes with a cold.

4. Have a warm shower

When you have a cold, the heat from a warm shower can help energise you, reduce some symptoms and relax your muscles. Plus, the steam can loosen the mucus in your sinuses and nose to hopefully help you breathe a little easier.

You can get the same effect from standing in the bathroom with the door closed while running hot water, letting the steam build up.

5. Elevate your head

Cold symptoms can be worse at night because lying down can cause the mucus from your nose and sinuses to pool at the back of your throat. This may then lead to coughing fits and a restless night.

You can look to improve your sleep by simply propping your head up at night. In fact, elevating your head is one of the best positions to sleep with a cold. Simply use an extra pillow to lift your head slightly or raise the head of your bed if possible.

6. Take cough medicine

The cough accompanying your cold can lead to a restless night that may leave you feeling drained the next day. Taking an over-the-counter cough medicine could provide some temporary relief, helping you drift off to sleep a bit easier.

Some cough medicines also contain decongestants, pain relievers, and antihistamines. Check that this won't affect any other medication you're taking.

7. Wear a nasal strip

Nasal strips are often used as a handy hack for snorers, but they're also great if you have a cold that's causing a blocked nose.

You place the strips across the bridge of your nose, which helps stretch your nasal passages. While the strips won't break up mucus like some other remedies, they can help widen your nasal passages for better airflow.

8. Gargle saltwater

To help soothe your throat overnight, you could try gargling saltwater before settling down for the night. This can help fight the infection and prevent it from getting worse.

To gargle saltwater:

  • Mix about half a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water

  • Once the salt dissolves, take a swig of the mixture and gargle it in the back of your throat

  • Swill the saltwater around your mouth before spitting it out.

9. Stick to a bedtime routine

Maintaining a bedtime routine can make it easier to get to sleep at night. It might improve your sleep in the long run too.

Try to get yourself into a routine by going to bed at around the same time each night, as well as waking up at the same time every morning. It could improve the quality of your sleep.

10. Cut down on alcohol

Alcohol can make you sleepy, but it’s a good idea to avoid it before bed – especially if you're already having problems sleeping because of a cold.

Alcohol is also a diuretic. This means it suppresses the hormone that normally stops your kidneys from overproducing urine, so you're likely to need the toilet more often. All of this can cause dehydration, possibly slowing your recovery time from a cold even more.

Instead, try and make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day and before bed by drinking plenty of water.


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