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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 head.

"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 says.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
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Reviewed on November 14, 2007

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