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.
By Colette Bouchez
Reviewed by Louise Chang MD
A hacking cough, a throbbing head, a sore throat, and a nose so stuffed it feels as if you'll never breathe free and clear again. You've got a cold -- or maybe even the flu -- and all you want to do is crawl in bed and sleep.
Until you get there. That's when you realize your symptoms are turning any chance for a solid night's rest into the impossible dream.
"It's true that many cold and flu symptoms seem to get worse at night, and they can interfere with sleep just at the critical time when your body needs rest the most," says WebMD sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD, director of TheSleepDoctor.org.
But how and why does this happen?
In addition to the pure discomfort of the symptoms themselves, Breus explains that increased mucus production, along with overall congestion, forces us to breathe through our mouth instead of our nose. When we lie down, congestion can seem worse.
Tufts University sleep expert Edwin Trayner, MD, explains that mouth breathing also irritates airways, causing us to cough more often, which in turn can also disrupt sleep.