Anybody that struggles with a common cold, upper respiratory infection, or allergy will likely find their cough or sore throat worse at night. This can be frustrating, as Family Practice explains how a lack of quality sleep is often linked to the recurrence of immunity deficiency.
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity discuss how respiratory infections go hand in hand with broken sleep and difficulty dozing off. This is expected, as a sore throat can make swallowing painful, while a constant cough is distracting and pulls us from a pre-sleep state.
This means that action should be taken to prevent a cough or sore throat from interfering with sleep. The first step to this is determining the cause of the infection. For example, an allergic reaction requires different solutions to a bacterial infection.
Equally, the manner of the cough that interferes with your sleep must be taken under advisement. A wet cough, caused by excessive mucus in the chest, will benefit from a different approach to a dry, hacking cough and sore throat.
How To Sleep When You Have A Cough And Sore Throat
While a cough and sore throat are never welcome, they’re especially problematic when the symptoms keep you from sleeping.
There are steps you can take to get a good night’s sleep with a cough and sore throat, including:
1/ Avoid Further Aggravating Your Throat
You should have an established sleep hygiene routine at bedtime.
Steps to take here include avoiding tobacco products actively and passively. Breathing in cigarette smoke dries out the throat, with the lack of moisture causing irritation.
Spicy food should be avoided until you stage a full recovery. Spices stimulate the salivary glands and generate excessive mucus that aggravates a sore throat and makes swallowing more difficult.
Avoid consuming alcohol. While alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning that it opens blood vessels and allows blood to pump with greater freedom around the body, it’ll also dehydrate the mouth and throat.
2/ Clear the Sinuses
Problems with the sinuses are commonly linked to cold and flu-like symptoms, most notably a dripping nose. If your nose is dry, this doesn’t mean your sinuses are clear. Blocked sinuses can lead to a frustrating tickly cough in the back of the throat.
The sinuses create mucus throughout any regular day. This mucus drops into the back of the mouth, blends with saliva, and is swallowed. If this mucus increases in volume or thickness, it irritates the throat and becomes painful to swallow.
Usually, the production of mucus results from irritation in the sinuses. Your cough and sore throat won’t pass until this core issue is resolved. In the meantime, you can relieve pressure on the sinuses at bedtime and bolster your chances of a good night’s sleep.
Nasal decongestant sprays are the most effective solution, even if you feel that your nose isn’t blocked. Sprays immediately work on the sinuses, ensuring that you can quickly fall asleep rather than waiting for conventional medicine to take hold.
Only use a spray for a day or two, as prolonged use can aggravate already-irritated sinuses. If more than 48 hours have passed and you are still coughing at night, pick up nasal strips from a drug store.
Nasal strips are a low-cost and drug-free solution to irritated and blocked sinuses. They work by fastening to the bridge of the nose and lifting tissue around the nose, making breathing easier. For this reason, nasal strips are often marketed as remedies for snoring.
You could also try an expectorant. These are medications made from a drug named guaifenesin, which makes mucus thinner and thus easier to swallow.
Mucinex is the most commonplace and popular expectorant on the market.
3/ Essential Oils
If you prefer a natural remedy, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine explains that several essential oils can aid with upper respiratory infections.
If you have an oil burner or diffuser, consider applying some of the following oils to your bedroom to ease your symptoms at bedtime:
- Eucalyptus has antibacterial qualities, according to Alternative Medicine Review.
- Rosemary breaks down excess mucus build-up, according to Cough.
- Peppermint relaxes the throat and reduces pain, according to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
- Geranium is an herbal cough remedy according to Complementary Medicine Research.
Essential oils can be a natural way to ease the symptoms of a respiratory infection at night, especially when paired with natural sleep aids, such as lavender.
4/ Stay Hydrated During the Day
Sometimes, the most effective remedy to coughing and a sore throat at night unfolds during the day. Stay hydrated throughout your waking hours, consuming around eight 8 oz glasses of water per day.
If you remain hydrated, your throat will be well lubricated, which reduces the likelihood of irritation leading to coughing or pain. Just remember to stop hydrating at least an hour before bed and avoid caffeinated beverages for several hours before this time.
If you need to use the bathroom at night, you’ll likely wake with a dry mouth and throat. This will invariably lead to more coughing and difficulty falling asleep again. If you remain asleep without interruption, you can begin your cough remedies again in the morning.
5/ Honey and Lemon
Honey has long been lauded for its antioxidant and antimicrobial qualities, which means that a teaspoon and a half of honey is ideal for soothing coughs. Pediatrics recommends the use of buckwheat honey in children over traditional cough syrups.
Some people also like to mix their honey with warm lemon water due to citrus fruits’ high Vitamin C content, which has long been believed to aid respiratory infections. However, The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews disputes the effectiveness of this remedy.
There may be a positive placebo effect to consuming lemon water when coughing or living with a sore throat. There is limited evidence to suggest it will resolve the concern, though.
However, honey will aid with coughing fits and throat discomfort.
6/ Gargle Salty Water
Many people gargle mouthwash at night as part of an oral health regime.
If you’re suffering from a sore throat, consider using salt water. Saline solutions have a numbing quality on the throat, so you’re likely to fall asleep without discomfort.
Pour a traditional 8oz glass of warm water and apply half a teaspoon to table salt. Stir the salt and wait for it to dissolve. Once this process is complete, gargle with the salty water and spit it out. Don’t swallow, as this will likely make you feel nauseous.
For the greatest impact, don’t limit this activity to once a day, immediately before bed. Repeat the process up to four times a day at varying points. This will prevent your throat from becoming excessively sore and help you relax in the build-up to bed.
7/ Change Sleeping Positions
It may be necessary to adjust sleep positions to stop coughing during the night. While this can take a little getting used to, it’s preferable to losing hours of sleep to a tickly throat.
Prevent coughing at night by sleeping with the neck and head elevated. If you lie with your head and lungs level, mucus builds and accumulates in the windpipe, triggering a coughing fit. Elevating the head ensures a steady flow of mucus from the sinuses to the throat.
You can elevate your head while lying on your back or side. Just stack additional pillows or get a wedge pillow. Conduct a little trial and error to find a position that you find comfortable.
If you strain your neck, you may not cough but will still struggle to sleep.
8/ Moderate Bedroom Temperature
You may be tempted to warm up your room to feel more comfortable if you’re under the weather. Resist this temptation, as the warmer the ambient temperature, the drier and more irritated your throat will become. Don’t allow your bedroom temperature to exceed 72 degrees.
Taking a bath or shower before bed can benefit your sleep cycle. Engaging in such an activity lowers your body temperature temporarily, which releases hormones that prepare you for sleep.
Lowering your body temperature may sound unappealing if you have a respiratory infection. The steam that you’ll breathe in from a bath or shower will aid in clearing your sinuses, though, making a good night’s sleep likelier.
9/ Use a Humidifier
Humidity levels in a home can substantially impact our ability to breathe freely. If you have a hygrometer in your bedroom, it should measure around 50% humidity.
While damp air can be dangerous in a bedroom, bolstering the risk of black mold and dust mite infestations, dry air is just as risky. If humidity levels are too low, your throat will become dry and irritated. Coughing will follow.
Getting a humidifier can keep bedroom air at an appropriate level. As a result, you’ll likely doze off faster and remain asleep overnight.
Just ensure you regularly clean your humidifier. If you allow bacteria to breed within, you will inhale these microbes while you sleep. A new respiratory infection will rapidly follow.
10/ Wash and Change Bedding
If you have an upper respiratory infection, you likely caught it from somewhere. If you have an allergy, the trigger must be removed from your vicinity, especially at bedtime.
One way to sleep sounder at night is to wash all bedding and pillows. Use an antibacterial wash to eradicate any germs and bacteria. By the time you replace the bedding, it should be clear of infection.
Don’t suffer needlessly if you’re struggling with a cough and sore throat at night. The more rest you enjoy, the likelier you are to make a rapid recovery.