Sleep Better When You’re Sick
Cold and flu symptoms can keep you from getting a good night's rest when you need it. WebMD talked to experts for advice on how to sleep better.
Sleep Better in a Better Environment continued...
Breus agrees, but warns us not to simply prop up our head with an extra
pillow. "This leaves the neck area unsupported, allowing your chin to drop
down toward the chest and actually restrict breathing," he says.
His solution: replace your pillow with a foam bed wedge. If that's not
possible, stack your pillows so that you create a wedge, with at least some
lift under your shoulders, increasing elevation as you go towards your
"The idea here is to lift the whole upper part of your body and make it
easier for nasal passages to drain and make it easier to breathe," he
What can also help: Using a humidifier or vaporizer to keep the air in your
sleeping environment moist, which can also make breathing easier and calm a
cough. But Popovich cautions to make certain you drain and clean it thoroughly
every night. "Otherwise you could end up putting some dangerous bacteria
into the air," he says.
You can also give yourself a bedtime steam treatment right in your own
bathroom. Experts say before you're ready to turn in, turn on the hot water in
your shower full blast, shut the bathroom door, sit on a chair or on the toilet
seat, and take in the steam. "You don't want to get wet, you just want to
allow the steam to loosen congestion and hydrate your nasal and throat
passages," says Zafarlofti. After 10 minutes or so, wrap up in something
warm -- like a terrycloth or flannel bathrobe -- and then hop into bed.
6 More Ways to Sleep Better With a Cold
If you're still having problems sleeping during your cold or flu, the
experts WebMD talked to offer six more tips that might help you feel better and
get a better night's rest.
- Drink at least 64 ounces of fluid a day. Popovich says this will help
maintain hydration in the nasal passages and throat, which in turn will help
you feel more comfortable. If your liquids include fruit juices high in vitamin
C, you'll also get a nutritional boost.
- Drink a cup of warm, caffeine-free liquid before bedtime: herbal tea and
honey, honey and warm water, decaffeinated coffee, or clear broth. This can
open nasal passages, soothe a sore throat, and help you sleep.
- Suck on hard candy before bedtime to moisten the throat, and keep a water
bottle in easy reach to help quell a nighttime coughing spell.
- If you must take a medicine for symptoms, opt for single products -- such
as a pain reliever, a decongestant, or a cough medicine -- rather than a
combination cold pill. Popovich says less is more, and many cold remedies have
more than you need.
- Read the labels of any medicines you do take, and make certain there is no
crossover in ingredients. For example, if your multi-symptom pill also contains
acetaminophen, you won't want to take an extra for pain or fever.
- Don't be tempted to take a sleeping pill when you have a cold or flu, even
if you take them regularly. Thorpy says a sleeping pill can make it harder to
get up in the morning. If you are using sleeping pills regularly, never take
them with any cold medicines, particularly those containing alcohol.