10 Tips on How to Sleep with a Cold

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Written by: Alex Savy
Read 6 minLast updated on June 16, 2022

Everyone hates being sick.

And everyone gets angry when they can’t sleep well.

Which is a common issue when you have a cold.

But don’t worry, as I’m just about to share with you some tips on how to sleep with a cold. They literally save me every time I get sick, so I hope they will prove to be as helpful to you!

#1 Use Chest Rubs and Warming Creams

In my experience, the best way to sleep with a cold is using a special warming cream or gel before bed. Do you remember how your mom used to do that for you when you were little? Well, this method is just as effective now as it was then.

You see, those rubs and creams have special components that relieve some of the cold symptoms like coughing, chest pain, muscle pain, stuffy nose, etc (1). They often contain essential oils, menthol, tea tree oils, eucalyptus, etc. Not only can they help with cold symptoms but they also make you feel calmer and relaxed.

#2 Use Air Humidifier

Did you know that you have higher chances of catching the common cold or flu virus in the colder months because viruses transmit better in the dry air than they do in the humid air

According to a study performed by the CDC, 70-77% of flu virus particles were able to cause an infection at humidity levels of 23%. But when humidity was raised to 43%, the number of active virus particles dropped to 14% (2).

That’s the reason why using a humidifier is recommended, especially during the cold season. This will not only help you breathe more easily when you have cold but may also prevent you from catching it in the first place!

#3 Elevate Your Head

Your nasal congestions might get more noticeable at night not only because there are no distractions but also because of the changes in our blood pressure (3). When we lie down, the blood flow to the upper part of the body increases, so the blood vessels in our head and nose may swell, causing trouble breathing.

Plus, the gravity impact is less pronounced in the lying-down position, which means the excess mucus will accumulate in the sinuses (3).

To prevent this, try to sleep with your head elevated.

You see, when your head is placed a bit higher than the rest of your body, the pressure in the sinuses drops. This reduces the swelling and allows you to breathe more freely. It will be much easier to fall asleep like that.

#4 Have a Hot Drink Right Before Bed

My mom used to treat me with a milk+butter+honey cocktail (4), which, I believe, has a Slavic origin. It tasted quite nasty to me because I really can’t stand melted butter. And the worst thing was I had to drink it in one go! But it worked magic, and I could peacefully drift off without coughing.

Actually, any hot beverage can reduce the swelling and help you with that nasty dry coughing. A more conventional option can be tea with lemon and honey. Lemon has vitamin C, which is known to strengthen your body overall when it’s fighting a cold, while honey works to suppress coughing (5), at least temporarily.

Another great option is ginger tea. Cut a piece of fresh ginger root about an inch and a half. Mince or finely chop it and put it into a tea strainer. Then, put the strainer into a cup and pour boiling water over it. Let the tea sit for a couple of minutes and then sweeten it with honey. Ginger is rich in active ingredients, and some of them may actually prevent the rhinoviruses from sticking to your mucous membranes (6).

#5 Wear Socks in Bed

Did you know that keeping your feet warm can actually help you sleep better? Wearing socks in bed creates that feeling of coziness and comfort too, which can contribute to your sleep quality greatly.

#6 Take a Hot Shower

Obviously, a hot shower helps you relax before bed.

But it goes beyond that.

Firstly, the steam from the shower reduces the swelling in your nose and throat, thus allowing you to breathe better during sleep (and making your throat less sore). Secondly, hot water helps with muscle pain, which is a common issue for flu patients, especially those who cough all the time and experience chest and abdominal pain.

#7 Try Acupressure

Even though considered a non-traditional form of medicine, acupressure can be very effective in helping you relieve some of the symptoms.

To relieve sinus pressure and swelling, place your index fingers on the base parts of each side of the nose. Hold for a couple of minutes and release.

To deal with headaches caused by a stuffy nose, you can try pressing on the innermost corners of your eyebrows, right where your nose “meets” the forehead. Alternate applying and releasing pressure for a few minutes and see if it works.

#8 Eat Spicy Food

This little trick works great to relieve a stuffy nose temporarily. You see, some spices have a special agent called capsaicin, which is known to have a thinning effect on mucus (7). Typically, hot sauces and meals with chili pepper contain capsaicin. Keep in mind that mucus thinning will make your nose runnier. So, you might want to blow it a couple of times before going to bed.

#9 Rinse Your Nose with Salt Water

You can gargle with salt water too. This relieves throat pain and inflammation (8). Plus, it cleans the nose from mucus nicely. And yes, this method is not the most pleasant one. But it really works.

You need to mix around half a teaspoon of salt with 8 ounces of warm water. Gargle it a couple of times. And to clean your nose, you can use a special Neti Pot or just a syringe (without the needle, of course).

#10 Use Essential Oils

If you can’t stop coughing at night or your nose is very stuffy, you don’t want to spend the whole night using nasal sprays or popping cough drops. What you can do instead is drip a few drops of essential oil on your pillow. You will inhale their subtle fumes during the night, and the oils will work to relieve your symptoms. Menthol, eucalyptus, and tea tree oils work the best for this purpose.

So, what are you willing to do to get relief and sleep well all through the night? What helps you fall asleep when you have a cold? You’re welcome to share your own tips below.

Extra tip: it’s also crucial not only to fight cold symptoms but also to relax properly before bed. After all, being sick can often make us feel frustrated. And naturally, it’s hard to sleep well in such a state. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to wind down before bed. Allow yourself to do something relaxing for at least 30 minutes (but more is better). Try not to use your devices, as the blue light emitted from the screens may affect your sleep. Instead, dedicate some time to your hobbies or self-care, for example. This will help you relax and, potentially, fall asleep easier even while dealing with a cold.


  1. Ian M. Paul, MD, MSc, Jessica S. Beiler, MPH, Tonya S. King, Ph.D., Edelveis R. Clapp, DO, Julie Vallati, LPN, and Cheston M. Berlin, Jr, MD (2010, November 8). Vapor Rub, Petrolatum, and No Treatment for Children With Nocturnal Cough and Cold Symptoms. Retrieved from
  2. Rachael Rattner (2013, February 28). Higher Humidity Lowers Flu Transmission. Retrieved from
  3. Kristin Hayes, RN (medically reviewed by Sania Jelic, MD) (2019, November 21). Why Congestion May Get Worse at Night? Retrieved from
  4. Um Safia (n.d.). Mleko z Miodem — Polish Milk and Honey Bedtime Drink. Retrieved from
  5. James M. Steckelberg, MD (2018, May 2). Honey: An Effective Cough Remedy? Retrieved from
  6. Jung San Chang, Kuo Chih Wang, Chia Feng Yeh, Den En Shieh, Lien Chai Chiang (2012, November 1). Fresh Ginger (Zingiber Officinale) Has Anti-Viral Activity Against Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus in Human Respiratory Tract Cell Lines. Retrieved from
  7. Shannon Wongvibulsin (n.d.). A Guide to Natural Ways to Alleviate Allergy and Sinusitis Symptoms. Retrieved from
  8. Kazunari Satomura, Tetsuhisa Kitamura, Takashi Kawamura, Takuro Shimbo, Motoi Watanabe, Mitsuhiro Kamei, Yoshihisa Takano, Akiko Tamakoshi, Great Cold Investigators-I (2005, November 1). Prevention of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections by Gargling. Retrieved from

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