How to Get Quality Sleep When You Have a Cold

woman with cold blowing nose sitting on couch

Ah, the common cold. Easy to catch and hard to get rid of, having a cold or the flu can make catching some much-needed rest feel, well, impossible.

You need more rest than usual when you’re under the weather, but constant coughing, congestion, and a runny nose can leave you tossing and turning all night! 

How to Sleep Better When You're Sick

We’ve compiled a list of tried and tested methods to follow the next time you have a cold so you can sleep better and, hopefully, get well faster, too

Eat Well

Eating can be a hassle when your nose is blocked, and your taste buds fade, not to mention when you don’t have the energy to cook. But eating when you have a cold is really important, not only to keep your strength up but to help you sleep. A full stomach will help you drift off peacefully. 

Not in the mood to eat? Try a warm vegetable soup packed full of onions and garlic (known for their antimicrobial and antiviral properties) and vitamin- and mineral-rich vegetables. The warm soup will soothe sore throats and keep you hydrated.

Shower Before Bed

Are you a morning shower person? Consider showering at night when you have a cold. Not only will a hot shower make you feel better, but the steam will also clear your sinuses and help you breathe easier. A bath works just as well if you need some extra relaxation!

Drink Lots of Liquids

Stay hydrated with both water and decaffeinated herbal teas. Coughing can irritate your throat, so keep it lubricated by sipping on water throughout the day. Herbal teas such as chamomile are great to help you drift off peacefully, with the bonus of steam to clear your airways.

Hydrate the Air

Dry air can further irritate your throat, even if you keep drinking water.

Humidifiers can help moisten the air, soothing your irritated throat and moistening dry nasal passages and dry, cracked lips. Running a humidifier in your room while you sleep could help keep nighttime coughing at a minimum and help you stay asleep.

Caution: dirty humidifiers can quickly breed bacteria and mold and lead to health issues. Change water often, clean your humidifier every 2 - 3 days, and use distilled or demineralized water rather than tap water to keep it clean.

Try Essential Oils

Remember when you were a kid and your mom would apply a mentholated chest rub before you went to bed? That over-the-counter chest rub harnesses the power of eucalyptus to help soothe coughs.

You can get the same cough-soothing benefits with eucalyptus essential oil. And that’s not the only essential oil for coughs: you can also try rosemary, peppermint, oregano, thyme, tea tree, or specialty blends from your favorite EO brands.

Add a few drops of your essential oils of choice to a carrier oil and massage onto your chest and neck before bed to help soothe a nagging cough and help you get better sleep.

Meditate for Sleep

Meditation is a great way to relax and refresh yourself, especially just before bed. Make it a routine to get a 10-15 minute practice before you hit the hay.

If you find yourself wide awake from a coughing fit in the middle of the night, sit up in bed, grab an herbal cough drop, and spend 10- 15 minutes practicing meditation for sleep until the cough drop is gone and you’re ready to settle back in.

Change Positions

Elevating your body from the waist can help you breathe easily. Here’s where an adjustable base comes in really handy! If you don’t have an adjustable base for your bed, try placing something sturdy underneath the legs or under your mattress at the head of your bed for a gentle tilt. Don’t stack your pillows as you won’t get the same result, and you’ll end up with a stiff neck.

Breathe Through Your Nose

Return to nasal breathing as quickly and as regularly as you can. While tricky when you’re totally blocked up, mouth breathing will only make your sore throat worse. Try saline nasal sprays and nasal strips if you're having a hard time breathing through your nose. Nasal strips hold your airways open to allow you to breathe easily. Opt for ones that sit on the outside of your nose. They’re comfortable to wear in bed and don’t have any adverse side effects.

Don’t Stay Up

Even if sleep is difficult, go to bed at your usual time. If you’re struggling to drift off, try to ignore the urge to get back up. The rest will do you good, even if you’re not snoozing.

Check the ingredients in your cold medicine

Not all cold medicines are created equal. Opt for medicine that only treats your symptoms, so you aren’t dosing yourself with unnecessary chemicals. Looking for more specific advice? Avoid pseudoephedrine and diphenhydramine as these can make you jittery.

See your doctor

If your symptoms persist or get even worse, see your doctor. 

Try these cold-busting methods the next time you find yourself red-nosed and reaching for the tissues to help you get the sleep you need to rest up and recover fast.

Once you're well, check our tips for staying healthy during cold season to avoid catching the next one that's going around!