sleeping when you have a cold

Sleep is the best medicine - but sleeping well when you have a fever, a cold or a strong urge to cough is not that easy. Find out here how you can sleep restfully despite an acute cold and support your immune system in the fight against pathogens.

Table of Contents

  1. Cold & sleep
  2. How cold symptoms disturb sleep
  3. Tips for a good night's sleep despite a cold
    1. Optimal sleeping conditions
    2. The right sleeping position
    3. Rest & Relaxation
    4. Preparation & preparation for sleep
    5. Exercise, fresh air & daylight
  4. Tips for the immune system during sleep
  5. Conclusion

1. Cold & Sleep

Especially in the cold, wet winter months, bacteria, viruses and other pathogens have an easy time and we suffer more from colds or flu-like infections. So time to ensure a strong immune system in order to remain healthy and efficient even in the dark winter. In order to develop a strong immune system, it is important to get enough and good sleep. Especially in the deep sleep phases that occur more often at the beginning of our sleep, the natural number of defense cells in the body increases and the immune system works at full speed to render invading pathogens harmless. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, is bad for your health. So the saying "sleep is the best medicine" is no coincidence!

Schlaf & Immunsystem: Steigendes Krankheitsrisiko bei Schlafmangel

Of course, we can't always prevent catching a cold or flu. When we suffer from classic cold symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, sore throat or fever, it is often impossible to think about the much-needed sleep. Blocked airways, coughing or pain stimuli make breathing difficult and mean stress for the body and brain. Falling asleep becomes a challenge, or we keep waking up from sleep during the night - although this is urgently needed to strengthen the immune system and speedy recovery. So what can we do to sleep well despite the annoying cold symptoms?

2. This is how cold symptoms disturb sleep

The most common complaints include impairments to breathing and the respiratory tract, for example due to a runny nose, cough and sore throat, irritation of the mucous membranes or mucus formation in the respiratory tract. Especially in winter, the dry heating air damages the mucous membranes of the nose, mouth and throat and inhibits their natural defense mechanisms, so that bacteria and viruses can multiply more easily. It also dries out already irritated tissue or increases mucus production, which in turn clogs the airways and makes it difficult to breathe during sleep. It can be difficult to fall asleep, snoring is encouraged and sleeping through the rest of the night can be prevented by breathing pauses or a dry cough.

But increased body temperature, headaches or body aches as well as mental stress due to exhaustion or overtiredness can also stand in the way of restful sleep during a cold. Because fever or chills irritate the nervous system, body aches prevent a relaxed sleeping position and the famous merry-go-round of thoughts disrupts the process of falling asleep.

3. Tips for a good night's sleep despite a cold

#1 Suitable sleeping conditions (room climate)

A cool room temperature between 16 and 18 degrees Celsius and a humidity of 40% - 60% are considered the optimal sleeping climate. Before going to bed, try to air out extensively or increase the humidity by using humidifiers, water bowls or diffusers. Certain fragrances or essential aromas, such as chamomile, eucalyptus or lavender, can also have a calming effect on the mucous membranes and contribute to a pleasant sleeping environment that supports sleep.

Schlafklima: Düfte und hohe Luftfeuchtigkeit im Schlafzimmer

#2 The right sleeping position

Especially if you have a bad cold or a dry cough, you should try to raise your head a little higher at night and sleep more on your back. This reduces pressure on the chest and sinuses and allows nasal mucus to drain, preventing pressure-related headaches and easing breathing during sleep.

#3 Rest & Relaxation

Our body needs a lot of energy to fight the pathogens inside - this not only leads to mental but also physical stress and prevents peaceful sleep. Rest and relaxation are therefore more important than ever to calm the nervous system, which is always active and overstimulated, and to enable restful sleep. Accordingly, avoid particularly strong, demanding activities and strong distractions and also avoid strong visual stimuli such as television or computer games before going to sleep.

#4 Preparation for sleep

Junge Frau atmet Wasserdampf gegen Erkältung

Get ready for sleep not only mentally, but also physically. A warm shower or a hot bath before going to bed not only has a relaxing effect, but also signals the body to prepare for sleep by lowering the body temperature. The rising warm, moist water vapor also has a positive effect on the respiratory tract by promoting blood circulation and moistening the sensitive mucous membranes. You should also make sure that you drink enough fluids during the day. But be careful: Slowly reduce the amount you drink before going to bed so that you don't wake up at night with a strong urge to urinate and your sleep is also disturbed.

#5 Exercise, fresh air & daylight


a lot of rest and a lot of sleep does not mean keeping strict bed rest. Exercise, sufficient daylight and fresh air help to stimulate the circulation and metabolism and supply the respiratory tract with fresh air. It is also important to consume enough daylight to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle and not only to make it easier to fall asleep in the evening, but to improve the overall quality of sleep. A walk in the fresh air can also work wonders mentally and thus make a decisive contribution to sleeping well and overcoming a cold quickly.

4. Tips for the immune system during sleep

Colds, corona or other nasty infections can quickly cause sleep problems, even though our bodies urgently need rest and recovery then. For a good night's sleep, you should of course pay attention to good sleep hygiene and ideally also follow our sleep tips for a strong immune system. For example, our diet plays a key role in healthy sleep and a strong immune system. A balanced diet and certain nutrients, especially vitamins and amino acids, can provide additional support for your body and sleep, especially during an acute cold or flu. You can find out more about this in the following articles in our sleep magazine.

To the article Vitamins for a good night's sleep

To the article Amino acids & sleep

5. Conclusion

  • Cold symptoms such as a runny nose, cough or fever disrupt sleep, reduce the quality of sleep and prevent the formation of a strong immune system.
  • An appropriate room climate (16-18 degrees Celsius, 40%-60% humidity), sufficient relaxation, an adapted sleeping position with your head raised or a hot shower alleviate insomniac complaints and help you to have a peaceful, restful sleep.
  • Exercise, daylight, fresh air and a diet rich in vitamins make it easier to sleep and support the body in the fight against pathogens.

Greetings and see you soon!

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