You are here:

6 Tips to Help You Breathe Easier (and Sleep Better) When You’re Sick

6 Tips for Sound Sleep When You Have a Cold

Jodi Helmer
WebMD Feature

Reviewed by
Melinda Ratini, DO, MS

When you have a stuffy head, runny nose, and sore throat, all you want to do is sleep. But that’s hard if you can’t breathe. Try these six simple tips. They’ll help unclog your nose so you can breathe easier and finally catch some ZZZs.

Soak Up Steam

Recommended Related to Cold & Flu

Flu Shot Failure? Questions & Answers

The CDC reports this year’s flu shot may not protect against a strain of influenza that’s hitting the U.S.

Q. Does this mean the flu shot is useless?

Not at all. Although this year’s flu vaccine doesn’t match two of the three main types of flu strains now in circulation, people who did get a flu shot and catch the flu get a much milder disease. This can make a life-or-death difference to people who are at high risk of flu complications, such as pregnant women, young children, the elderly,…

Read the Flu Shot Failure? Questions & Answers article > >

Take a hot shower before bed, or sit in the bathroom with the hot shower running. The steam will help open your sinuses. It’ll also help drain the mucus so you can breathe easier through your nose. You’ll sleep better in no time.

Slurp Some Soup

You’ve heard the saying, “feed a cold”? It’s true. If you’re sick, have some chicken soup. Some studies have found that it contains a compound that can reduce swelling and help relieve cold and flu symptoms.

Sip Some Tea

It can soothe a sore throat and loosen the gunk in your nose and lungs. Researchers at Cardiff University found that sipping hot drinks can give quick relief from runny nose, cough, and sneezing. “When you’re sick, your body needs more fluid to fight off the infection,” says Amy Kreykes MD, with the University of Michigan department of family medicine.

But steer clear of caffeine and alcohol. Both can dry you out and zap the energy you need to feel better.

Try a Nasal Rinse

It’ll flush out mucus so you feel less stuffed up.

You can buy it at your local drugstore. It comes in a squeeze bottle. Or you can buy a neti pot kit (It looks like a little teapot.). Both have a spout that goes into the nostril to rinse out mucus.

You can also make your own nasal rinse at home. Mix 3 teaspoons of iodide-free salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a container. Scoop 1 teaspoon of the powder into 1 cup of lukewarm, distilled water. Shake or stir well.

Raise Your Head

It’s one of the best things you can do to get some ZZZs fast.

“Keeping your head elevated promotes sinus drainage,” says William Schaffner, MD, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN. “If you sleep with an extra pillow, your sinuses will stay clear and you won’t wake up in the middle of the night unable to breathe.”

6 Tips for Sound Sleep When You Have a Cold


Add Moisture to the Air

Running the heater in winter dries out the air — and your nose. If you breathe through your mouth, you could wake up with a sore, scratchy throat.

Use a humidifier. You’ll breathe easier and sleep better. It might also help keep you well: A 2013 study found that raising humidity levels above 40% helped to lower the risk of getting the flu.

Posted by: Dr.Health

Back to Top