Want to Know the Best Way to Sleep with a Cough and Cold?

image of someone needing sleep due to cold flue and coughing

It starts with others around you being ill and you are trying desperately not to succumb to the colds or flue they are suffering from.

All goes well for weeks while you care for others. Finally, everyone seems to be getting better. Then “Boom” for you, it starts with a sore gland, then within a couple of hours, you know that you have caught something.

Below are many simple and easy tips that will help you get more sleep while you are ill. The number one tip is the position that you lay in bed which will give relief.

The best position to sleep in when congested or coughing is slightly elevated. The easiest way is to stack pillows up so you are elevated. You must ensure however that the middle of your back is supported so your head doesn’t lean forward placing your upper body out of alignment. This blocks the airways in your neck.

Below are some great tips which will assist you in getting more sleep while you are unwell and coughing.

Why Is My Cough Worse at Night?

When you have a cold and you are in a verticle position the mucus from your nose trickles down the back of your throat and you swallow it without even noticing.

When you are laying flat that same mucus rests on your soft pallet which then triggers a cough reflex. If you are not fully asleep you will notice that you automatically try to sit up to relieve the coughing.

Finding Relief Throughout the Day

Take a shower or bath through the day especially if you need to wash your hair. You do not want to be sitting around or sleeping with wet hair, so get it dry soon after the hair wash.

We always feel better after a good freshen up in the shower. Even if only for a while. The steam from the shower will also help loosen mucus and keep the airways moist. When your throat is dry it can trigger those coughing attacks.

Drink plenty of fluids like water, warm water with lemon and honey, also soups are perfect to keep you hydrated.

Gargling with warm salt water morning, noon and night will offer some relief and kill off some of the bacteria hanging around.

Change your bedding regularly when you are coughing as dust mites can contribute to unwanted coughing throughout the night.

Wash your bedding in hot water while you are ill it will assist in killing off dust mites and unwanted bacteria.

As strange as it sounds if you can stay awake during the day you will be likely to get more sleep at night.

What Should You Eat and Drink When Unwell

What to Eat and Drink

Feeling nauseous while taking the medication required to assist in relieving flu symptoms is not unusual. Eating 15 minutes before taking medication will assist with nausea.

Naturally, you do not feel like preparing food let alone eating a meal while you are suffering.

You absolutely need to keep up hydration and nutritious eating while ill, especially if you are also suffering from a fever.  I have listed some easy go-to foods for when you are feeling unwell are:

  • Pure vegetable and fruit juices. What about a combination of both?
  • High protein shakes or meal replacement drinks. Remember to choose low sugar and high protein options.
  • Decaf herbal teas, add some honey and lemon juice to taste.
  • Plenty of water throughout the day as well as clear hot drinks like teas and lemon juice in warm water.
  • Bananas. What about toast with bananas and honey on top? Both of these foods assist with nausea and diarrhea.
  • A soup such as chicken and vegetables – great for vitamins and protein. Serve with some lovely toast.
  • If you can why not ask a family member, neighbor or friend if the would mind dropping off some homemade soup.
  • A teaspoon of honey has anti-bacterial properties that will soothe your sore throat. The honey helps with swelling and pain by drawing out water in and around the inflamed areas. (Do not give to children under twelve months old as it can cause botulism in infants)

What to Avoid When Unwell

Cutting back on your caffeine intake. This will assist you with relaxing while you are ill. It will also help with the much-needed sleep that your body needs to repair and fight the cold or flu.

Make sure you rest not only at night but during the day your body will repair quicker.

Avoid alcohol your body needs to fight the illness, not the alcohol. In case you did not know the liver will always process alcohol first.

Want to Know the Best Way to Sleep with a Cough and Cold

Getting Ready for Bed

Sip on herbal tea early evening lemon and ginger, lemon and apple so many flavors available I am sure you will find something you enjoy.

Steam it up in the shower to clear your head before bed.  The steam also helps soften mucus so you can rid yourself of some before you head to bed. You should not be sleeping with wet hair while ill. Keeping it dry is as easy as wearing a shower cap.

Herbal tea chamomile and honey before bed.

Make sure you do not take any medication early evening, before bed or through the night that is made specifically for daytime use. For example non-drowsy medication.

Choose your bedding and sleepwear well while ill. You may be tempted to get all fleeced up or wear those fluffy onesies. Don’t do it as you will overheat, dehydrate, have nightmares and eventually wake up. Then your symptoms will be back and you will have to start over to get back to sleep.

Cotton or bamboo bedding and sleepwear will help you get and stay asleep as these materials will help regulate your temperature throughout the night.

Now I know we all feel really cold when we first get into bed so use your fluffy blankets and throws on top of your breathable bedding. You will then be able to throw them off when you start to overheat during the night.

You will also be thankful if you follow the above if you are suffering from fever and chills because you will overheat and become uncomfortable in the night.

Out of the Box Tip for Getting Some Relief from Coughing, Cold and Flu

Nothing new here as is not that out of the box. “Dada” Vicks Vapour Rub it has been around for years even decades. It also now comes in a safe formula for infants, toddlers, and children.

Younger generations may not know of it as it has been phased out by modern alternatives. Which by the way cost a lot more!

So how do you use this Vapour Rub? Simply rub it on your feet and then put on some socks. Preferably natural ones made from cotton or bamboo so you do not overheat while sleeping.

Next, use a little of the vapour rub and rub it on your chest this will assist your breathing throughout the night.

Vicks also have a Vapor Steam product that you can use in a vaporizer. It releases a mist around the bedroom during the night to assist with symptom relief.

During the day you can use the Vapor Rub by putting a little in a steaming cup of water and just sit and breathe the steam in until the steaming stops.

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Getting Through the Night

Bottle or glass of water beside the bed along with any medication you may wake up for during the night

Honey and cough drop with an anesthetic to help numb the throat if it is raw.

Keep your Vapour Rub next to the bed you can reapply through the night if required.

If you suffer from severe coughing at night I would see a doctor as soon as you can.

Sleep Positions to Stop Coughing  – My Top 2 Choices


My first choice is to lay on my back with my standard pillow behind my head. I then place a soft pliable pillow such as a microfibre one under one of my hips. This allows me to lay at approximately a 35-degree angle. So not on my back or on my side.

If I am not too congested it works really well. The nose running and cough does subside. If this position is not verticle enough to relieve the congestion a little try putting a soft pillow (microfibre) between your upper back area.

You might even like to try a triangle pillow. Wrap it around your upper body then place your usual sleeping pillow on top of it.

If the 35-degree angle position does not work for you because of your congestion try piling extra pillows behind you. Being a little more verticle could help and still tilt your body to one side a little.


The second position I have found that works for me when I am really congested is to reverse the position above.

I lay on my stomach and place the pliable pillow under one hip so I am at a 35-degree angle facing the mattress and the side. Works wonders for me there is no scientific evidence to support it. But it is probably that the mucus is not lying my pallet and triggering that coughing reflex.

I don’t believe that sleeping on your stomach for one night here and there will do any damage.

Sleeping Alone

If you or your partner have been coughing for quite a few nights in a row you will both be tired and irritable this causes stress that is not needed at this time.

Easy fix just for a night or two is that either you or your partner should consider moving to another bedroom or the couch. You may even have a recliner at home you could easily set that up slightly inverted this position would relieve coughing as you would be a little more verticle and not lying down.

To Finish – Want to Know the Best Way to Sleep with a Cough and Cold?

Colds and flues sometimes come on so quickly that you may not be prepared with anything you made need to survive the next couple of days.

If you are too ill to get out and get the supplies you will need to make yourself more comfortable please call someone to help you out.

Remember there are delivery services day and night if required.

I hope I have given you a couple of easy useful tips to get a better night’s sleep while you have a cough.

Remember to seek medical assistance if you are severely ill or if the symptoms persist for too long.

As always here’s to better sleep!

By Michelle D.

Meet Michelle, founder of Tip Top Sleep, a website dedicated to helping you achieve the best sleep possible. With over 50 years of combined experience in the realm of sleep, Michelle and her team provide easy-to-follow tips and strategies to help you feel better, function better, and live better through optimal sleep. Let us help you prioritize your sleep and discover the power of a good night's rest.