wikiHow to Go to Sleep when You're Sick

Three Parts:Taking the Right Steps for a Good Night’s SleepCreate a Good Sleeping EnvironmentChoosing the Right Medications

There’s nothing more infuriating when you’re sick than feeling exhausted, but being unable to get to sleep. Rest is a very important part of your body’s ability to fight off the illness, so you should prioritize getting a good night’s sleep when you’re sick. This article will give you some advice on how to sleep well when you’re not feeling well.

Part 1
Taking the Right Steps for a Good Night’s Sleep

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    Don’t take medicine that makes you jittery before bed. If your Benadryl leaves you wired, make sure to take your last dose for the evening a few hours before bedtime. Ideally, you would simply use a medication that didn't stimulate you, but sometimes there are not good alternatives available. The best you can do is hope that your response has calmed by bedtime.
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    Use the right posture for sleep when congested.[1] When you lie down, your blood doesn't have to fight against gravity to get to your nose and inflame the veins and tissues there; this is why it might seem like you have to sit up in bed every few minutes to clear up your nose when you’re congested.
    • Prop yourself up with pillows when you’re trying to get to sleep, and let gravity keep nasal inflammation at bay.
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    Use a nasal spray before bed. A stuffy nose that impedes breathing is a common reason for being unable to sleep while you’re sick. Use a localized nasal spray right before bed, and reuse as necessary throughout the night to keep your nasal passages clear.
    • Decongestant nasal sprays reduce swelling in the sinuses and nasal tissues. They’re available both over the counter and by prescription, but should not be used over a prolonged period of time — three days at the most.[2]
    • Salt-water nasal sprays don’t have compounds that reduce swelling, but are still effective for loosening mucus and making it easier to clear nasal passages through blowing your nose. These can be used as often as necessary.
    • Nasal strips are a good alternative to sprays if you find that the sprays keep you awake.
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    Drink something hot right before bed.[3] Sometimes, an illness makes you feel so bad that you lose your appetite for both food and drinks, but keeping your body hydrated is necessary for a speedy recovery. More important to sleep, though, is that a hot drink right before bedtime can soothe a sore throat, inhibit coughing, and clear up congestive mucus that would otherwise make it hard to breathe.
    • Make sure not to drink something caffeinated, like full-caffeine coffee or caffeinated tea, before bed. Find decaffeinated versions of your favorite hot drink.
    • You can find teas that specifically help your body fight off colds at the grocery store.
    • Drinking a lot of calories at once — with Ovaltine or hot chocolate, for example — can also result in an energy crash if you need to sleep.

Part 2
Create a Good Sleeping Environment

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    Run a humidifier in your bedroom at night.[4] A humidifier is a machine that produces a mist or steam, increasing the humidity or moisture in the air. The moisture in the air keeps your mucus loose, making it easier for air to get through your nasal passages as you sleep.
    • The noise created by a humidifier might keep you awake, though, so look for a quiet machine.
    • Try keeping the humidifier just outside your bedroom door; this way, you’ll still have some moisture in the air, and the noise will be reduced.
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    Set the thermostat to a moderate temperature, but on the cool side. Extreme temperatures — either hot or cold — will keep you from getting a good night’s sleep. Your brain, which regulates your body temperature without you even thinking about it, tries to achieve different internal temperatures when you are awake versus when you’re asleep. Reducing the external temperature slightly will help your body gear down for rest.[5] 68 degrees Fahrenheit is an optimal temperature that will help your body drift off to sleep.
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    Keep a dark bedroom at night.[6] Though you may think that reading a book or watching TV will help you get to sleep, the light from both of those activities will actually keep you awake longer. When your eyes take in and process light, the nervous system stimulates the parts of the brain that control hormones and body temperature. When this happens, your body chemistry stays wired up for consciousness, and you’ll find it more difficult to fall asleep.
    • When it’s time to go to bed, turn off all light sources and cover up any technology that may have blinking lights that will keep your brain engaged.
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    Maintain a quiet, soothing environment. If someone else in your home is listening to music or watching TV with the volume up high, ask them to turn down the volume enough to keep you from hearing it in your bedroom. The less distractions you have, the better chance you’ll have of getting to sleep.

Part 3
Choosing the Right Medications

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    Know how you react to your medication. Even though symptom guidelines are a pretty good indicator of how you will react to a medication, observe your body’s actual response to what you’re putting into your body.
    • For example, Benadryl makes some people sleepy, but leaves other people feeling unnaturally wired.
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    Avoid cold and flu medications that include ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.[7] You might have to read the small print on the packaging to see what’s really in your medication, but avoid these drugs, specifically, if you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep. Although these decongestants make it easier for you to breathe, they are also light stimulants that might keep you awake, if breathing clearly.
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    Decode the medication’s packaging.[8] Over-the-counter medications often make claims on their packaging that are geared more toward advertising for sales than informing for treatment. It’s good to know what the difference between “non-drowsy,” “nighttime” and “daytime” really is.
    • “Non-drowsy” medication simply means that there are no ingredients that are meant to induce sleep. This does not, however, mean that the medication is specially formulated to keep you awake or prevent you from getting drowsy. Don’t assume that non-drowsy formulas will leave you unaffected: for example many such formulas include pseudoephedrine.
    • “Nighttime” or “PM” medication has compounds that are intended to make you sleepy. Be careful about mixing or doubling up on your medications; if your “nighttime” medications already treats fevers or pain, don’t add extra drugs on top of them to target those symptoms.
    • “Daytime” or “AM” medication may be synonymous with “non-drowsy” formulas, or may have caffeine in them to increase alertness. Read the packaging carefully to see what you’re getting. Don’t assume that “daytime” medications are merely formulas that aren’t specifically designed to make you drowsy; if you take one before bedtime, it may well keep you awake.
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    Be wary of “nighttime” formulas in general.[9] Although nighttime formulas may well get you to sleep quickly, the quality of sleep you get from such medications isn’t healing, restorative sleep. Furthermore, the alcohol used in such medications may dehydrate you as you sleep, actually setting your body back in terms of its healing process.
    • Some nighttime medications can become habitual; prolonged reliance on these products to get to sleep can disturb healthy sleeping habits.


  • Do not fight the urge to throw up. Throwing up is your body's natural way of getting that illness out of your system. Once you have thrown up, brush your teeth and/or get a drink of water to clean your mouth.
  • Try reading something to calm your mind, don't read something too scary or too exciting, or it may just keep you awake.
  • Make sure you get a good amount of sleep to allow your body to fight off the sickness. Do not go to bed too late or wake up too early.
  • It might be better if you throw up, if you are really sick, to help to get the sickness out of your "system".
  • If you do throw up, it can help to take a quick shower and brush your teeth before heading back to bed.

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Categories: Better Sleeping