Man wearing bathrobe looking sick in bed with thermometer in mouth.

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Sleep Away the Common Cold

· Article

Sleep Away the Common Cold

People do all sorts of things to treat a cold: Some Russians like to make a drink out of an egg yolk and a teaspoon of honey or sugar, topped off with milk and butter, while one Chinese remedy involves burning the dried leaves of the plant Ai Ye, according to Healthline.


But the common illness the CDC says plagues millions each year may have a much simpler remedy. A study published in the journal Sleep found that—yes—it’s sleep.


Researchers tracked the sleep of 164 healthy men and women over a week. Then, they gave the study subjects some nasal drops contaminated with a cold virus.


Those who logged less than 6 hours of sleep each night were more likely to catch a cold than the ones who got the recommended 7 hours each night.


“We found that those who slept 6 hours per night or fewer were roughly four times more likely to develop a cold when compared to those who slept more than 7 hours per night,” says study author Aric Prather, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Weill Institute for Neurosciences at the University of California, San Francisco. “The study provides further evidence of the importance of sleep on our immune system,” he says.


Not only can the lack of sleep influence your susceptibility to colds, but it can also decrease the release of valuable infection-fighting proteins called cytokines, and infection-fighting antibodies and cells, according to the Mayo Clinic.


For those who do catch a cold, the stuffy nose, watery eyes, and sneezing attacks can make sleeping difficult, if not impossible. Here are some things you can do to be more comfortable and get the rest you need:


Elevate your head


Let gravity work. Positioning your head higher than your body can make breathing easier and help your sinuses to drain, says Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine at the University of Southern California. A good way to do this is to make a wedge with a few pillows, he says. Our FlexFit™ adjustable base is another option.


Get steamy


Breathe in steam from hot soup or drinks and your dried-out nasal passages will thank you by surrendering some mucus. A hot shower or bath before bed can help, too, says Dasgupta.


Steer clear of alcohol


Although it can make you drowsy and maybe even drift off to sleep, alcohol can cause you to wake throughout the night, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Booze can also make your sinuses swell, dehydrating you and interacting poorly with many cold or flu medicines, he says.


Drink plenty of fluids


Water, juice, warm water with lemon and honey are all soothing and can help loosen congestion and keep your throat and nasal passages from drying out, says the Mayo Clinic. (Just make sure not to drink too much too close to bedtime, so you limit the urge to wake at night to use the bathroom.)


Add moisture


A humidifier or vaporizer can help loosen and break up mucous, which tends to be very thick, especially in the winter when the air is drier. The moist air can also help alleviate irritated tissues in your nose and throat and give you some pain relief as a result, say experts at Brown University, who also recommend inhaling the steam from your shower or a sink filled with hot water.


Don nasal strips


It’s not the sexiest look, but these sticky strips, which run across the bridge of your nose, can help open up nasal passages, making breathing easier.




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