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sleep / wellness

How to Sleep Better When You're Sick

by BetterSleep
Dec 3 • 4 min read

Flu season has just begun, which means sooner or later you or someone you know will be battling the dread common cold. Rest is important for healing from the flu and other infections, but it’s tough to sleep when you’re busy dealing with congestion, coughing, and a runny nose. It may seem impossible, but the best way to get better faster, is to improve your sleep during an illness.

Make Sleep a Priority

It’s always important to engage in good self-care, but never is this truer than when you’re sick. Trying to keep up with normal activity levels, evening socializing, and chores will only drain your energy and extend your recovery time.

To get better sleep when sick, prioritize it. Limit evening activities and rearrange responsibilities to be able to sleep longer in the morning. Go to bed early and read or meditate to lower stress and get sleepy. Find a soothing soundtrack on BetterSleep to get in the mood for sleep, even if it’s early compared to your normal bedtime routine.

Six potted plants and cactuses with flowers

Manage Symptoms

Of course no matter how early you go to bed, if your sinuses are aching and you can’t breathe or stop coughing, sleep will be difficult. Take steps to manage symptoms in the hour leading up to bedtime:

  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer in the bedroom. Dry air exacerbates symptoms so increasing the humidity will make breathing easier and ease a scratchy throat.
  • Steam your nasal passages. You can also try a steam facial to moisturize dry sinuses and nasal passages and loosen mucus. Simply lean your face over a bowl of steaming water with a towel draped over your head and bowl. A hot shower before bed can have a similar benefit.
  • Try over-the-counter medications. Check with your doctor first, but medication to combat a fever if you have the flu or one that eases decongestion and coughing for a cold can make a world of difference in how you feel and sleep.
  • Elevate your upper body when sleeping. If you can raise up the top part of your bed, your sinuses will drain more.
  • Drink hot beverages or gargle with salt water. A cup of hot tea with honey is soothing and may help relieve a cough before bed, while salt water eases a sore throat.

Preventing Winter Sickness

Of course, the best sleep comes from being well and comfortable, so if you can avoid getting sick, you should. Here are some things to do to lessen the risk of battling a cold or the flu this season:

  • Get the flu shot.
  • Wash your hands often, and avoid touching you face with your hands.
  • Most people with the flu or a cold are contagious for five to seven days, so avoid contact with someone who is sick until that period has passed.
  • Keep up with healthy lifestyle choices, including eating well, getting exercise, managing stress, and of course getting enough sleep.

Sleeping when sick can be a challenge, but it is so important for healing. Give yourself permission to sleep more, and aim for quality sleep in order to feel better sooner. And if you’re having trouble falling asleep, try listening to one of the bedtime stories on BetterSleep.

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