woman sick in bed

How To Sleep When Sick (Complete Guide)

There are lots of exciting things about winter and the Christmas period, but getting sick isn’t one of them. Unfortunately, colds and the flu spread like wildfire, and it’s only a matter of time before one of them strikes. Of course, prevention is important, yet it’s also essential to have a backup plan, such as knowing how to sleep when sick.

Sleep is the body’s natural recovery method; however, it isn’t easy to get 40 winks when you’re stuffy and feel queasy. Counting sheep doesn’t work when you’re in a pinch. With that in mind, below are the tricks anyone can use to reset your factory settings this festive season and any season you are under the weather.

How To Sleep When Sick – Bedtime Advice

Go To Bed Early

Everyone heads for the comfort of their bed when they’re ill, so this may seem like an obvious piece of advice. The thing is that the majority of men, women and children don’t try to sleep straight away, at least you do things which keeps you awake for longer. The more time you have in REMS, the more time the body has to recover and fight the invaders. So, as well as going to bed as early as possible, it’s crucial to avoid technology as it will keep you awake. Chilling with Netflix is relaxing yet it’s ultimately unhealthy, so peel yourself off the sofa and turn off the lights ASAP.

And Stop Sharing

Sharing a big double bed is fantastic when you’re healthy – it’s not great when you’re ill. Firstly, the lack of space prevents sleep, only worsening the symptoms of your illness. Secondly, you may pass on your cold to your partner, who passes it back and starts a vicious cycle. Use the guest room or sofa until you feel better for everyone’s sake.

Don’t Work In Bed

Stress will lead to anxiety and weaken your immune system further, so try and avoid stressful activities such as working or paying the bills. Not only does it stop you from sleeping and recovering, but you also won’t be able to complete tasks effectively. Leave it to the next morning or ask a partner or family member to take a look if it’s urgent.

Create A Healthy Sleep Environment

Your bedroom may look like a picture and relaxation, but it’s probably not conducive to sleep. For people who are sick, they only intensify the problems. Start by blocking out any sliver of light as your body will assume it’s morning and time to get up if it senses a glow from outside or inside. Close the window dressing as tightly as possible, and consider switching to curtains if you have blinds. If there is any light coming from other areas of the house, use a towel to block the door cracks.

Next, switch off any electronic devices even if you’re not using them. That includes the TV, especially if it’s on standby as the radiation impacts your ability to sleep. For those who are unsure, you can remove them from your bedroom entirely and make it a technology-free zone. Quiet also matters, which is why you should invest in a quality pair of earplugs. Sometimes, white noise can help you fall asleep, so using calming music is an alternative. There are also white noise machines that block out loud, annoying sounds.

Lastly, you should consider the temperature. Although 65 ̊C sounds chilly, research suggests it’s the perfect ambient temperature for inducing sleep. A cool trick to control your body temp is to swap one heavy comforter for several thin ones. This will help you to regulate your temperature when you’re feeling too hot or too cold. 

Elevate Your Head

Nasal congestion will interrupt your sleep patterns even if you clear your passages before you sleep. The buildup of mucus and phlegm only comes back with a vengeance. A fantastic pre-bedtime routine is to elevate your head. Why? It’s because a raised head position keeps the nasal passages open and prevents them from getting blocked while you’re snoozing.

Let Gravity Do The Work

If you’re unsure on the best way to elevate your head, it’s simple: position your pillows strategically. Piling them up is a straightforward method for keeping your head raised and letting gravity do the hard work. Remember that mucus collects when you lie horizontally and the blockage makes you feel worse by encouraging coughing and a sore throat, so propping yourself up stops this from happening. A wedge-style pillow may be more comfortable if stacks of pillows are too ungainly. 

Use A Dehumidifier

The dry air is what stops you from fully recovering, which is why you need to add moisture into the air. A dehumidifier is an excellent way to do it, but you should beware aware of the side-effects. The main one is regular maintenance. Dehumidifiers that aren’t cleaned consistently will breed bacteria that leads to mold, and the bacteria will get into your lungs. Wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe and remove dust and dirt from the filter.

Prepare Your Nightstand

You’re finally about to nod off only to realize you’ve left your medication or glass of water downstairs. Getting out of bed is only going to keep you awake for longer, which is why it’s vital to stock your nightstand with all the essentials. It also helps if you wake up during the night and need to drop off quickly. The essentials include:

  • Water to stay hydrated
  • Tissues for a stuffy, runny nose
  • Honey to ease a sore throat
  • A magazine in case you can’t sleep as reading should make you tired

How To Sleep With A Cold – Health Advice

There are ways to help your body tackle an illness. Continue reading to find out more.

Skip The Meds

When you consider how to sleep when sick, you’ll instantly think about popping a pill. Although pharmaceuticals are effective in some instances, they can be a hindrance due to the ingredients they contain. For example, pseudoephedrine is a decongestant found in various medicines that makes some people hyper. Diphenhydramine, meanwhile, can encourage drowsiness, but it may also have the opposite effect depending on how your body metabolizes it. Unless you know your body inside and out, the safe option is to avoid medication. If you feel you desperately need it, opt for acetaminophen as experts believe it has fewer to no side-effects and fights pain, headaches and fever.

Opt For Saltwater

How are you supposed to ease your symptoms without meds? An excellent natural remedy is a saltwater solution. From a congestion perspective, warm saltwater is thought to be better at removing blockages than sprays because it doesn’t dry out your nose. To snort the solution or pass it through your nostrils, you can buy a neti pot, a teapot-like tool that lets you pour it into your nose.

Saltwater isn’t only helpful with congestion – it’s handy for coughs, too. The natural salts ease the bumpiness and scratchiness to make your throat less irritable. Mayo Clinic experts recommend gargling eight ounces of warm water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Don’t worry if you can’t stand salt because there are organic remedies that are as effective. Black tea is one – it contains theobromine, which is proven to suppress coughing – as is honey. The sweet stuff coats your throat to the extent it is thought to be better for coughs than standard drugs.

Sip Chicken Soup

When dealing with how to sleep with a cold, the old-fashioned methods are the most useful. Although it sounds like an old wives’ tale, chicken soup does have properties that fight illnesses. To begin with, research shows that this staple meal of the sick contains anti-inflammatories that ease cold symptoms. Also, the broth is mainly water and maintains hydration levels, while the steam naturally clears blockages and congestion. It turns out Mom was right all along!

A tip: pack your soup with garlic. A study out of the University of Florida indicates extract from a bulb can limit the impact of a cold. It may not be fully proven, but it’s worth a try when you’re suffering from a cold or the flu. The canned variety works as well as a homemade batch, too, so you can stock up the next time you go grocery shopping.

Take A Hot Shower

Another supposed myth is taking a hot shower. However, similar to eating chicken soup, it isn’t merely folklore. The hot water produces steam that aids congestion, for instance, increasing your ability to breathe properly. Plus, the warm H2O is perfect for easing joint and muscle pain as it gets deep into the body’s tissue. Try adding eucalyptus or lavender oil as they boast antiviral ingredients and the scents encourage relaxation. Last but not least, the drop in body temp as you get out the shower makes the mind and body sleepy. If you feel as if you’re too weak, close the bathroom door and run the shower and the steam will still have a similar impact. Below are a few additional benefits of a hot shower 

  • Relaxes your mind and muscles for better sleep
  • Helps wash away germs to avoid spreading
  • Relieves headaches by dilating blood vessels

Try Again In 15 Minutes

Forcing it will only lead to frustration and high-stress levels, both of which aren’t good for deep sleep. Rather than tossing and turning, do something else for 10 or 15 minutes and try to nod off again later. The key is not to get too excited, so reading, drinking herbal tea or meditating are brilliant aids. Listening to relaxing music is another excellent technique.

The How To Sleep When Sick Don’ts

If you want to sleep while sick, don’t do the following:

  • Share a bed: As mentioned before, sharing limits the amount of space you have, reduces your movement, and increases the chances of passing on your illness. The latter is vital to avoid as it will inhibit your ability to recover fully and make you sick for longer.
  • Lower your room’s temp: Lowering the temperature feels good at first, yet it bites you on the backside in the middle of the night. Lots of people tend to wake up freezing as their body temp plateaus and can’t get back to sleep. You should consider turning up the thermostat a little to maintain a cozy temperature, and close the windows. As well as making you feel cold, an open window or fan remove the moisture from the air. For a sound night’s sleep, you need to keep your bedroom warm and steamy.
  • Drink alcohol: Alcohol can make you fall asleep quicker, but it doesn’t last as it leads to nasal blockages and sinus swelling that are notorious for keeping the body awake. Also, alcohol reacts poorly with medication, so it’s best to take a few days off until you’ve recovered.


Sleep deprivation isn’t a badge of honor. So, It’s essential to follow these sleep tips when you’re feeling sick to help you wake up feeling better. Why? It’s because missing out on a restful night could prolong cold and flu symptoms. When this happens, you’re cheating yourself of a healthier, more alert, more productive you as sleep and mood are closely linked.

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