Thirty million people seek medical attention every year for a cough. Since coughing is a typical symptom of the common cold and the flu, it’s possible that many people experience it without seeking treatment. If you suffer from a persistent cough, you may find that it prevents you from getting a good night’s rest. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make it easier for yourself to get the sleep you need.
Why Do I Cough More at Night When I’m Sick?
There are a number of potential causes for nighttime coughing, often known as a nocturnal cough. Coughing is a protective mechanism that helps rid the respiratory tract, larynx, and lungs of mucus and foreign things. A cough at night serves the same purpose as a cough during the day.
Nighttime coughing from postnasal drip is a common symptom of illness. Postnasal drip is the medical term for mucus and other secretions that accumulate in the back of the throat rather than erupting through the nasal passages. This is a common sign of a cold, flu, allergies, or sinus infection. Your nighttime coughing could be a result of postnasal drip, which is exacerbated when you lie on your back.
Can You Sleep Off a Cold?
No cure has been established for the common cold, but doctors do urge rest. Because of the correlation between sleep and the immune system, getting enough of it is associated with a faster recovery time. Because of its influence on hormones and the inflammation response, sleep has been shown to boost immunity.
Getting enough shut-eye before you become sick might be the best defense against catching a cold. Adults in good health require seven or more hours of sleep nightly.
Scientists have shown that those who don’t get enough sleep in the week leading up to their exposure to the common cold virus are more likely to show symptoms than those who do get enough shut-eye. Researchers have found that those who get less than five hours of sleep each night are twice as likely to develop symptoms as those who get seven or more hours of sleep per night. In comparison to people who get eight hours of sleep every night, those who get less than seven are nearly three times as likely to have a cold.
How Does a Cold Affect Your Sleep?
Although it is common to have problems sleeping when you have a cold, more than 40% of people say that sleeping more than usual helps them deal with the illness. Forty-six percent of respondents in a global study said they have trouble sleeping when they have a cold or the flu. Furthermore, 94% said that the symptoms of a cold or flu keep them up at night.
Although a cough is the most common symptom to wake you up at night when you have a cold, you may also have sleep disruption from other symptoms like aches and pains, a sore throat, a runny nose, and the need to sneeze. People with fevers can experience vivid dreams. It’s possible that these disturbing dreams will prevent you from getting any rest when you’re sick.
How to Sleep With a Cough or Cold
Although you may not be able to completely eliminate your symptoms overnight, you may improve your chances of getting restful sleep and speed up your recovery by adopting certain practices. You may need to address your underlying medical problem(s) in addition to your cough if asthma, seasonal allergies, or another illness is contributing to your symptoms.
Honey is a safer alternative to conventional cold remedies for children over the age of 12 months who are suffering from upper respiratory infections. Consuming honey prior to bedtime has been demonstrated to lower the frequency and severity of nighttime coughing in children who are not infants. When a sick child swallows honey before bed, it may help them sleep better and give their parents a break.
Over-the-counter cough drugs pose more hazards to children than to adults, therefore finding an alternative treatment is more crucial for this age group, hence researchers focus their honey studies on children. But honey can also help grownups with their coughs. The antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial properties of honey are well-documented.
Try Cough Medicine
Cough suppressants are often the first thing people seek for when they get a cold-related cough, but research studies show conflicting effects. There is little evidence that cough treatments are any more effective than a placebo, and many of them have unpleasant side effects.
Coughing serves a function in the body’s immunological response. Overuse of cough suppressant medicine, according to some medical professionals, may slow a patient’s recovery.
A variety of over-the-counter remedies for coughing are readily available. For those who find that taking cough medicine before bedtime helps them drift off, doing so in moderation while keeping the possibility for adverse effects in mind may be worthwhile. A lozenge might be all that’s needed to suppress the cough reflex and allow you to get some shut-eye if everything else fails and you have a dry cough.
Try a Nasal Decongestant
Indirectly, nasal decongestants can help reduce nighttime coughing because they contain chemicals that target blood vessels to expand nasal passageways and minimize postnasal drip. Tablets, drops, and nasal sprays all exist as OTC options for treating nasal congestion.
Research on the efficacy of nasal decongestants in treating the common cold has yielded conflicting results, much like that on cough suppressants. Although they may be helpful for some, they often come with undesirable side effects like hypertension, headaches, nausea, dizziness, and sleeplessness. Avoid using them for more than five days at a time, and don’t give them to kids under six.
Drink a Warm Liquid
Home treatments like hot tea and chicken soup are often recommended for relieving cold symptoms, but the efficacy of hot liquids on a cold has not been well examined. Researchers in the 1970s found that drinking hot liquids like chicken soup or hot water helped alleviate stuffiness in the nose.
Recent research has shown that while drinking a hot beverage may make people feel like they can breathe easier, it does not actually improve their nasal airflow. The symptoms of a cold can be alleviated by drinking a hot beverage, but the same beverage at room temperature can have the same effect. In addition, those who consumed the hot liquid noted a reduction in their symptoms of coldness, fatigue, and sore throat. The study’s authors concluded that a hot beverage’s ability to reduce nasal congestion and the placebo effect may work together to alleviate cold and flu symptoms.
When you come down with a cold or the flu at night, try warming up with some tea or soup. Positive benefits, even if they turn out to be from the placebo effect, may help you feel better and sleep better for a little while.
Elevate Your Head and Neck
Oftentimes, lying down exacerbates postnasal drip-related coughs. If lying flat makes your cough worse, consider elevating your head and neck. Make yourself comfortable by lying with your head lifted above your torso using a wedge cushion or extra bed pillows. Therapy of this sort has some promise for adults, but it is not advised for youngsters.
Use a Humidifier
It’s been studied whether or not using a humidifier can alleviate nasal symptoms, and some research suggests that it can.
Keeping the humidity in your bedroom between 30 and 50 percent is ideal, so if it’s too dry, you might want to look into using a humidifier. Humidity levels over 40% reduce the spread of the flu virus and may be helpful in preventing the spread of the virus within the home. However, too much humidity in the home can make breathing difficult for some people who already have problems with their airways.
Keep the humidifier clean and use only distilled water if you decide to use one.
How to sleep with a cold and a stuffy nose
If you have a cold, treating the congestion in your nose before bed will help you get a better night’s rest “Explains Dr. Green. It has been found that using a nasal saline rinse followed by a nasal steroid spray before night can be therapeutic and lessen some of the inflammation associated with having a cold.
Dr. Green suggests taking a nasal decongestant spray like Afrin if you have significant nasal congestion, but he adds that you should only use it for a couple of nights at most.
“Never use those sprays for more than two or three days in a row, as doing so might lead to rebound congestion and dependence on the highly addictive sprays.
How to sleep with a runny nose
Then what if your nose is running, instead? Broken sleep, brought on by having to get up frequently to clear a runny nose, might make you feel even worse the next day.
Dr. Green’s recommended course of action is to first utilize a nasal saline rinse and then a nasal steroid spray (both over the counter remedies). Nasal congestion caused by dryness and irritation can be alleviated with the use of a humidifier at night.
How to sleep when you have a sore throat
If you have a bunch of razor blades lodged in your throat, it’s going to be tough to get any quality shut-eye. The pain of simply swallowing salvia reduces, but does not eliminate, the possibility of a good night’s sleep.
Dr. Green acknowledges, “It is a challenge, for sure.” Reducing inflammation in the throat can be accomplished by rinsing the throat with cold water or ice chips, and throat lozenges may provide some topical relief.
Sleeping with an elevated head of bed has been shown to alleviate nasal and throat congestion. To accomplish this, all you need is a bed that can be adjusted to various heights (simply push a button). When all else fails, we can always resort to piling up our pillows.
Stack your bed pillows to raise your head
Having your head propped up (preferably at 30 degrees or more) as you sleep can alleviate nose and throat irritation. The first benefit is that it helps lower the increased blood flow that often happens there when you lie flat, which in turn reduces the inflammation and swelling.
Second, nasal and throat inflammation and irritation can amplify the severity of snoring and sleep apnea. To lessen this effect and maybe alleviate snoring associated with nasal congestion or URI symptoms, sleeping on one’s side or with one’s head elevated is recommended.
Take a shower before bed and prep your room
The mucus, crusting, and inflammation that contribute to nasal congestion and swelling during a cold can be alleviated by taking a hot shower and inhaling the steam, as recommended by WebMD.
If you’re sick and can’t decide whether to keep your bedroom warm or cool, consider this:
As one of the factors that controls our sleep-wake cycle, our body temperature makes cold, dark locations ideal for sleeping.
While sleeping and throughout the morning hours, your core body temperature should naturally drop to its lowest point of the day. If you want to get a good night’s rest, sleep in a cold room.
How to get your bedroom ready for sleep
Even if you don’t have a cold, Dr. Green says you should sleep better in a room that’s chilly and dark. If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to a comfortable temperature for sleeping (between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit) an hour before you want to go to bed.
The same is true for lowering the brightness of your lights at night; nonetheless, complete darkness is optimal for sleep. A greater probability at sleeping through the night is associated with a decrease in the amount of ambient light in the bedroom.
Make sure your favorite comforter is on the bed and your pillows are plumped and covered with fresh linen to increase your chances of sleeping with a cold.
Some people find that putting a few drops of eucalyptus on their pillowcases helps them breathe better, but before you try this at home, make sure that the pillowcases are safe to use with essential oils by reading the care label.
If you feel that your present bed is preventing you from getting enough restful sleep, check out our best mattress guide for the latest recommendations in beds to fit any budget. We also have a guide to the finest mattress toppers to give your bed new life if it simply needs a little extra comfort.
Take as much time as you need to get well from a cold, and go to your doctor if your symptoms persist or get worse.
When to Talk to Your Doctor
The average duration of a cold and its symptoms, including a cough, is seven to ten days. Get checked out if your cold or cough lasts more than a week or two, especially if it’s really unpleasant. While most healthy adults can easily shake off a cold in a few days, those with weakened immune systems or preexisting conditions run the danger of a more serious infection, such pneumonia or bronchitis, arising from a simple cold.