Cold and flu season is upon us, which means runny noses and dry coughs become a part of daily life. It also means getting to sleep becomes harder, as you battle to breathe and spend half your night tossing and turning. Ironic really, considering sleep is the one thing your body needs to recover.
But don't despair. There are means and ways to remedy your cold and take the stress out of getting that much-needed sleep. Here are our favourites.
Accept your illness
First things first. Take time off work. No, seriously. Put your health first. Forcing yourself into work not only makes it harder to recover but also risks spreading the misery to other people, so it's in everyone's best interest (including your employer) to stay home and rest up.
Sleep on your side
Staying in one position is going to be difficult, but one of the best things you can do to ease the congestion of a cold is sleeping on your side. This will help to clear your airways on one side so you have a chance of breathing through at least one of your nostrils. Sleeping on your back can give you a not-so-pleasant drip of mucus and tickle your throat, causing a tickly cough that’ll keep you up all night.
We also don’t recommend you prop your pillows up to sleep. While it might give you short term relief, sleeping in an awkward position can cause no end of back problems. Not good for your already achy bones.
Avoid the booze
It’s tempting to reach for the nightcap when you’re feeling less than yourself. But while alcohol might help you drift off, the quality of your sleep will suffer. This is because alcohol has a negative effect on REM sleep, making it difficult for your body to fall into the deep sleep it needs.
Ever wonder why you wake up freakishly early despite one too many glasses of wine? Now you know.
Can’t live without your coffee? Try to enjoy it on a morning instead of at night. While hot drinks are recommended to help you breathe, caffeinated hot drinks will only worsen your sleep woes. Caffeine is a more powerful stimulant than many people realise. Up to a quarter of the caffeine you consume stays in your body for 12 hours. So if you must drink a coffee, make sure it's in the morning.
Drink something hot
This can be soup like the classic chicken soup, or any non-caffeinated hot drink. The steam can help to break down congestion and clear your nasal passages, making it easier to breathe. You can also save money on cough syrup and add a squeeze of honey to your drink for an effective natural remedy to soothe a sore throat and keep your tickly cough at bay.
Hop in a hot bath
Soak in a hot bath for 30 minutes, two hours before bedtime and let the steam from the hot water do its thing. Consider lavender bubble bath or essential oils with their slightly sedative effect. You’ll feel a lot cooler when you step out, and this drop in temperature will prepare your body and mind for sleep.
Darkness is your friend
Melatonin, a hormone that tells your body when to sleep is only created in darkness. This is the main reason why bedtime social media scrolling and Netflix binges can have such a negative impact on your sleep. So dim the lights and switch off all electronics an hour before bed to promote your body's natural sleep rhythms.
Have a time out
Tossing and turning all night while counting down the hours before work is only going to add to your stress and make it more difficult to sleep. If you’re still having trouble, get out of bed, walk to a different room and read a book, listen to a podcast or put the kettle on. Then give it another go in half an hour or when you start to feel sleepy.
Of course, these tips are not guaranteed to work for every person all of the time. The easiest way to sleep with a cold is to prevent them in the first place with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and plenty of sleep.