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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Cold Relief: 6 Sleep Tips to Help You Breathe Easier

Here's how to ease your symptoms, improve your sleep, and help yourself get well sooner.
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Suffering the symptoms of a cold is bad enough by day. At night, it can be worse. Blocked sinuses can make it so hard to breathe that you spend all night in a misery of tossing and turning.

WebMD asked cold and sleep experts around the country for advice on how to breathe easier at night while you’re fighting a cold. Their six tips could ease your symptoms and help you sleep. Plus, they just might help you get well a little sooner.

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1. Use a Nasal Strip

Applied externally to the middle of the nose, nasal strips have an adhesive on one side. "They’re really quite remarkable,” says David Neubauer, MD, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center in Baltimore.

Choose the appropriate size (small, medium, or large) and wash and dry your face before applying.

2. Take a Hot Shower Before Bed

The steam and humidity of a shower cause sinuses to drain and the lining of the nasal passages to constrict, relieving some of the stuffiness of a cold. You can achieve the same effect by sipping a cup of hot tea or having a bowl of piping hot soup.

Chicken soup, the age-old cold remedy, may indeed have special benefits. When researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center tested the venerable cold prescription in 15 cold sufferers, chicken soup proved more effective than plain hot water in clearing out sinuses.

Avoid drinking cold beverages near bedtime, however. The same study showed that they may increase congestion.

3. Use a Saline Rinse

One of the safest ways to unblock congested sinuses and get a good night’s sleep is to use a saline rinse, in either a spray bottle or a neti pot. A neti pot is a small container with a narrow spout that’s used to pour small amounts of saline rinse into the nostrils. The saltwater washes mucus and irritants from your nose and helps the cells that move the mucus.

It's important, according to the CDC, that if you irrigate, flush, or rinse your sinuses, you use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution. It’s also important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave it open to air-dry.

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