Sleeping While Sick

Updated May 27, 2022

man sneezing

Have a Cold?

During flu season, many people will experience some of the symptoms that go along with being sick. These include sneezing, sore throat, body aches, and other cold or flu symptoms. During this time of year, some people struggle to obtain enough sleep.

While you sleep your body uses this time to heal your body and mind. Even when you are healthy, a good night’s rest is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Failing to obtain healthy sleep on a regular can weaken your immune system and eventually make you sick. When you are fighting the common cold or some other illness, sleep becomes even more important.

Certain immune processes take place while you can sleep which helps your body fight off an illness. If you feel tired when you are feeling sick, it could mean is trying to get you to sleep so it can begin those processes. Your body also uses a great deal of energy while fighting an illness, which can make you feel tired.

Benefits of Sleeping While Sick

As mentioned, your body does its best work to fight an illness while you are sleeping. To fight illness, your body needs sleep for a few reasons.

While you sleep cytokines are released into the body. Cytokines are a protein found in your immune system that targets infections. Sleep helps begin the fight against your illness.

In order for your immune system to perform at its best, it needs sufficient energy. While you are awake and moving around, you are using up energy. Your body needs sleep so it can focus that energy on your immune response. Your body heals you when you are sleeping, for more information check out our page on the science of sleep.

Can You Sleep Too Much?

As mentioned, you might be much more tired than usual if you are sick. In the first day or two of fighting, you might find yourself sleeping all day. This is normal for people to do as long as you keep putting food and water into your body throughout the day.

If after a few days you are not noticing any type of improvement, it may be time for you to see a doctor. Experts recommend adding at least 1 hour of sleep to your usual sleep time. You should also add in a nap or two which will be discussed later.

Tips for Sleeping While Sick

When you are sick you might feel exhausted all day, but when you go to bed, you may have trouble falling asleep. Certain symptoms like a cough, stuffy nose, or headache can cause difficulty sleeping. Below are some tips that can help you get better sleep.

Sleep Elevated

One thing you can do to help clear your nasal passages is to sleep with your head propped up. A good way to do this is to use an extra pillow to prop yourself up. Another solution is to use an adjustable base to comfortably give yourself some elevation.


If you can’t shake your illness, consider using some over-the-counter cold medicine to help relieve the cold symptoms. There are different medications that help with cough, decongestion, or pain relievers to help with the general aches and pains that come with being sick. Experts warn against certain medications like decongestants too close to bedtime because they can keep you awake. For sleeping, look for cold medicine that is designed for sleeping.

Hot Shower

Taking a hot shower can help you relax. The humidity can help break up mucus and clear the airways making it easier to breathe. If humidity helps, use a humidifier to help keep your airways from being congested.

Deal With Disturbances Quickly

If something wakes you up in the middle of the night, deal with it quickly. If you wake up with a runny nose, dry throat, or cough, take the proper steps to fix it quickly so you can go back to bed. The faster you get your tissue or drink of water, the faster you will be able to fall back to sleep.

Prepare a Good Sleep Environment

A proper sleep environment should be essential for any night’s rest, but it is most important when you are sick. Keep your room as dark and quiet as possible. Keep a variety of blankets nearby to prepare yourself for a night of chills and/or fever depending on your situation.

Take a Nap

If you struggle to sleep at night, try taking naps throughout the day. Experts recommend only taking around 30-minute naps during the day. Sleeping too much during the day could potentially sabotage your ability to fall asleep at night. For more tips on taking a nap, check out our page on the benefits of napping.


Sleep is essential for good health. It is also essential for fighting off any illness. Sleeping allows the body to engage in certain immune processes which are vital to restoring your body’s health.

Sleeping ensures that your body is not wasting energy on something else when it needs to fight off a virus. If your illness is bad enough there is really no such thing as sleeping too much as long as it is not interfering with nighttime sleep. Take proper precautions at night to give yourself the best chance of overcoming whatever is bringing you down.

About the Author Steven Bieber

Steven Bieber HeadshotSteven is a content writer who recently broke into the mattress industry. In his free time, he enjoys watching football and listening to music.

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