Last Updated on February 12, 2024 by Louise Carter
Anyone with a common cold, upper respiratory infection, or allergy will find their cough and sore throat worsen at night. Unfortunately, low-quality sleep leads to recurrent immunity deficiency.
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity discuss how respiratory infection is correlated with broken sleep. A sore throat makes swallowing painful, while a constant cough pulls us from regenerative sleep.
Action must be taken to prevent a cough or sore throat from interfering with sleep. A wet cough due to excessive mucus in the chest requires a different approach than 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 The Throat
Avoid tobacco products actively and passively. Breathing in cigarette smoke dries out the throat, with the lack of moisture causing further irritation.
Spicy food should be avoided until you’ve recovered. Spices stimulate the salivary glands and generate excessive mucus, aggravating a sore throat and making swallowing more difficult.
Avoid alcohol consumption. While alcohol is a vasodilator that opens blood vessels and allows blood to pump freely around the body, it leads to a dehydrated mouth and throat.
2/ Clear The Sinuses
Sinus problems 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, because blocked sinuses can lead to a frustrating tickly cough in the back of the throat.
The sinuses create mucus throughout the day. This mucus drops into the back of the mouth, blends with saliva, and is swallowed.
If mucus increases in volume or thickness, it irritates the throat and becomes painful to swallow.
Mucus production usually results from irritation in the sinuses. Your cough and sore throat won’t pass until this core issue is resolved.
Nasal decongestant sprays are the most effective solution, even if your nose isn’t blocked.
Only use a spray for 1-2 days because prolonged usage can aggravate already-irritated sinuses. If more than 48 hours have passed and you still cough at night, use nasal strips.
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 use an expectorant. These medications are made from guaifenesin, which thins mucus and makes it easier to swallow. Mucinex is the most popular expectorant.
3/ Essential Oils
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine explains that essential oils can aid with upper respiratory infections. If you have an oil burner or diffuser, use the following oils:
- Eucalyptus has antibacterial qualities, according to the Alternative Medicine Review.
- Rosemary breaks down excess mucus build-up, according to Cough.
- Peppermint relaxes the throat and reduces discomfort.
- Geranium is an herbal cough remedy.
Essential oils are a natural way to ease respiratory distress at night.
4/ Stay Hydrated During the Day
Stay hydrated throughout your waking hours, consuming 8 x 8 oz glasses of water.
If you remain hydrated, your throat will be well lubricated, which reduces the likelihood of irritation leading to coughing or pain.
Stop hydrating at least 1 hour before bed and avoid caffeinated beverages after 4 PM.
If you need to use the bathroom at night, you’ll likely wake with a dry mouth and throat, leading to more coughing and difficulty falling asleep again.
5/ Honey and Lemon
Honey has antioxidant and antimicrobial qualities, which means 1.5 teaspoons of honey can soothe coughs. Pediatrics recommends buckwheat honey over traditional cough syrups.
Honey will aid with coughing fits and throat discomfort.
Some people also mix 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’s limited evidence to suggest it will resolve the concern.
6/ Gargle Salty Water
If you have a sore throat, consider gargling with salt water. Saline solutions have a numbing effect on the throat, so you’ll likely fall asleep without discomfort.
Pour an 8oz glass of warm water and add half a teaspoon of table salt. Stir the salt and wait for it to dissolve. Gargle with the salty water and spit it out. Don’t swallow, as it’ll make you nauseous.
Repeat the process up to four times, roughly every six hours. This will prevent your throat from becoming excessively sore and help you relax before bed.
7/ Change Sleeping Positions
Adjusting sleep positions to stop coughing during the night may be necessary. While this can take a little getting used to, it’s preferable to losing hours of sleep due 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 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 the head on your back or side with additional pillows or a wedge pillow.
8/ Moderate Bedroom Temperature
You may be tempted to warm your room to feel more comfortable if you’re under the weather.
Resist this temptation because 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. This activity temporarily lowers your body temperature, releasing hormones that prepare you for sleep.
The steam you’ll breathe in from a bath or shower will aid in clearing your sinuses.
9/ Use a Humidifier
Humidity levels can significantly 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 harmful in a bedroom, bolstering the risk of black mold and dust mites, dry air is just as bad. If humidity levels are too low, your throat will become dry.
10/ Wash and Change Bedding
If you have an upper respiratory infection, you likely caught it from someone or something. If you have an allergy, the trigger must be removed from your vicinity, especially at bedtime.
One way to sleep better at night is to wash all bedding and pillows on high heat. This will kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi that may have made you sick or aggravate the condition.