The Impact of a Cough or Cold on Sleep

14 Aug 2018

It can seem like a Catch-22. Rest bolsters recovery from a cough or cold, but the symptoms often interfere with sleep. Whether you're hoping to prevent the common cold, or just snooze better once one strikes, make sure getting sufficient rest is a priority. Fortunately, relatively simple steps can help you attain it.

If sneezing, congestion or coughing keeps you awake at night, you're not alone. A 2012 survey investigating the Attitudes of Consumers Toward Health, cough and cOld (ACHOO) found that nearly 60 percent, or two out of three, of the 2,500-plus respondents reported moderate to severe trouble sleeping during a cold. If you're among the one in three American adults already struggling to get sufficient sleep, a cold could make matters worse.

Struggling to sleep isn't only problematic during the night. It can affect your daytime alertness and ability to function normally. Respondents of the survey reported a more than 25 percent reduction in their productivity when they had a cold — with or without a cough. Sleep deficiency can also cause fatigue, irritability and difficulty concentrating.

Getting less sleep can worsen or prolong colds by weakening your body's ability to fight them. A study published in the journal SLEEP in 2012 showed that severe sleep loss — a full day and night without sleep — triggers the immune system in the same way as does physical stress. Sleeping too little in general also raises your risk for catching colds in the first place as your immune system is weakened.

To heal effectively from a cough or cold, rest is important. Use the following list tohelp you get enough rest.
  •  Do your best to manage symptoms with doctor-approved, over-the-countermedications. Avoid those that list wakefulness or agitation as potential side effects later in the day.
  •  If possible, take time off work, school or other obligations that requireintense focus and energy.
  •  Even resting without sleeping can help. While struggling to sleep, considergetting up to engage in a relaxing activity, such as reading.
  •  Stay hydrated and eat nutritious foods. Fixating on your frustration won't help, but R-and-R likely will.
  1. Current Medical Research and Opinion; Consumer Attitudes on Cough and> Cold: US (ACHOO) Survey Results []
  2. Cleveland Clinic: Common Cold []
  3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention: 1 in 3 Adults Don’t Get Enough Sleep[]
  4. National Sleep Foundation: Insomnia Symptoms []
  5. Sleep; Diurnal Rhythms in Blood Cell Populations and the Effect of Acute Sleep Deprivation in Healthy Young Men []
  6. Lack of Sleep Can Lead to the Common Cold []
  7. Everyday Health: Tips to Shorten Cold Duration []
  8. The Atlantic: When You Can't Sleep, How Good Is Lying in Bed With Your Eyes Closed? []

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