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Sleeping Better When a Cold Gets You Down

It’s cold and flu season, so what steps can you take to help you sleep better? And sleep, of course, is a natural remedy for seasonal viruses and nasal conflicts — the better the sleep, the better the rejuvenation.

The influenza is more serious than a cold, for sure, so that usually means you should see your doctor immediately, but for the common cold, some home steps and remedies can help you sleep better.

First, try using a dehumidifier to moisturize the air, which in turn will clear your nasal passage and perhaps even ameliorate your sore throat. A hot shower before bed will also help clear you up, the steam from the water doing much the same as the dehumidifier but on a more temporary basis. Having a hot shower and jumping into a colder bed, of course, is always a good sleep-inducer, sick or not.

If you take an over-the-counter medicine, remember that some decongestants will tend to keep you awake, while antihistamines will make you drowsy. If you’re being treated for hypertension, however, you may want to avoid this step entirely.

Decongestant nasal sprays can temporarily open up your nasal passage, but using them more than three days in a row, paradoxically, can have the opposite effect. Use them short term only.

Sore throats can be treated with lozenges or by gargling with warm salt water, but if your sore throat is particularly severe or long-lasting, it could be due to an infection. In that case, visit your family physician.

Nasal strips, little things that look like bandages that stretch over your nose, will help open up your nasal passage but won’t do anything for mucous. Nasal strips can also be useful when you’re cold-free but have trouble breathing at night.

Raising your head to help drain your sinuses can also work, but many doctors recommend against using extra pillows to do this because it makes breathing more difficult at times. Instead, they recommend that you put something between your two mattresses to raise the head of the top mattress itself (or buy one of those adjustable mattresses if you can afford it).

Finally, for good sleep hygiene and health’s sake, stick to your regular sleep schedule. Most of all, don’t let the cold keep you up later than usual. In general, stick to the same sleep schedule year-round, regardless of daily challenges, including sickness.

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