6 tips to help you sleep better with a cold

How to get quality sleep when you’re suffering with the flu or cold

How to sleep better with a cold, sleep & wellness tips
(Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels)

It’s that time of year where the common cold and flu are running wild, and it seems like everyone is either sniffling or coughing, so we’re all bound to get sick at some point! Cold and flu symptoms are uncomfortable to deal with throughout the day but they can also plague your sleep, with the main perpetrators being congestion, muscle pain, headaches and coughing.

Sleeping can be extremely challenging when you have a cold, but getting a quality night’s sleep is one of the best ways to recover. So, if you’re suffering from the common cold and finding it hard to get some much needed shut eye, here are 6 ways to help you sleep better and get over a cold quicker.

It’s worth keeping in mind that you can take medicine before bed to help you sleep better and ease your cold symptoms, but the following tips cover non-medicinal ways you can get a drift off easier.

1. Have a cup of tea before bed

Before you get comfortable on the best mattress (opens in new tab), start by having a warm cup of tea before bed. Drinking a hot beverage at nighttime is regularly used as a natural sleep remedy and has been credited as helping combat insomnia, stress and anxiety.

When it comes to colds and flu, drinking warm liquids can help soothe sore throats and the steam helps open your airways and ease congestion. Of course, you don’t want to have a hit of caffeine before you go to sleep, so it’s important to pick teas that are decaffeinated and are known for their health remedies – see 7 teas to help you sleep better (opens in new tab) for our top picks. If you’re not a fan of tea, having hot water with honey and lemon is the best choice for fighting infections and helping you wind down before bed.

Sleep better with a cold

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2. Steam your face

Having a facial steam is one of the best ways to relieve your sinuses and painful headaches. The easiest way to steam your face is by filling up your sink or a bowl with warm water before leaning over it (make sure you’re not too close to avoid burns) with a towel over your head to trap the vapour. As the steam builds, inhale through the nose to loosen mucus. To get even more nutrients into your skin and body, you can add a couple drops of the best essential oils (opens in new tab) for a pleasing scent, and you can also take a hot shower before bed to help you feel more relaxed. Not sure which oils to use? Check out how to beat the common cold with these 6 essential oils (opens in new tab).

3. Keep your head elevated

If you’re finding it hard to breathe at night or you’re coughing too much, try elevating your head on the best pillows (opens in new tab) while you sleep. Lying down causes mucus build-up in the throat which can be extremely uncomfortable and leave you coughing and struggling to breathe. By stacking your pillows with a natural gentle incline, you can lie down comfortably while draining mucus and relieving pressure on your sinuses and chest. If your neck or shoulders feel any kind of strain, reduce the height to avoid further pain or injury.

4. Try a saline solution

There are a couple of ways a saline solution or rinse eases cold symptoms. First, mix a ½ or ¼ teaspoon of salt with 8 ounces of warm water and once it dissolves, gargle it in the back of your throat for as long as you can stand it before spitting it out. According to Healthline (opens in new tab), this is a great natural low-cost way to soothe sore throats and prevent infections from getting worse.

If you’d prefer a different approach, you can try a saline nasal rinse to flush out your nasal passages to clear out germs and improve your breathing. This technique is slightly trickier as you’ll need a squeeze bottle or neti pot and sterile distilled water to avoid further infections, so we encourage you to seek advice from a health professional on how best to do this.

Sleep better with a cold

(Image credit: Pavel Danilyuk / Pexels)

5. Purify the air

Preparing your bedroom for sleep is a great way to help you rest better, whether you’re sick or not. By purifying the air in your bedroom, you’re cleansing it from germs, dust and dirt which are all things that can worsen your symptoms and prolong your illness. Using a humidifier or purifier at night can also add moisture into the air which helps you breathe better and soothes your throat and nose. If you use this tip, make sure to change the water in your humidifier every day to avoid mould or bacterial growth.

6. Change your bed sheets

Similar to cleansing the air around you, you should also change your bed sheets to avoid prolonging your illness. Sleeping in dirty sheets isn’t hygienic and if you’re suffering from a cold, all this bacteria will collect in your sheets which can make you feel sick for longer – see what happens when you don’t wash your sheets (opens in new tab) if you don’t believe us. As soon as you start to feel better, change your bed sheets to fresh linens. The best sheets (opens in new tab) will not only feel nicer on the skin, but they get rid of any germs and smells that have been trapped in your bed, which helps you avoid the risk of getting sick again.

Bethan Girdler-Maslen
Acting Wellness Editor & Deals Writer

As T3's resident Shopping Expert and Deals Writer, Beth covers deals, discount codes, how to save money and seasonal holidays, including Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Amazon Prime Day, Boxing Day and Easter sales. Alongside her primary focus of deals, Beth is currently Acting Wellness Editor, covering all things sleep, yoga, relaxation and general wellbeing.


Having always been passionate about writing, she’s written for websites, newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics, from jewellery and culture, to food and telecoms. You can find her work across numerous sites, including Wedding Ideas Magazine, Health & Wellbeing, The Bristol Post, Fashion & Style Directory and more. In her spare time, Beth enjoys running, reading, baking and attempting DIY craft projects that will probably end in disaster!