How to Sleep When You’re Sick – The Best Sleeping Positions

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Let’s face it, it is no easy task to sleep when we are sick. Whether we are dealing with a cold, flu, or stomach problems, it can be so hard to close our eyes and drift off to dreamland.

While proper sleep is always important, it is even more important we are sick. This is because sleep boosts our immune system and allows us to heal more quickly and even stave off future infections and sicknesses.

Anyone who has questions about how to sleep when they are sick should keep reading. We are going to discuss the tricks to getting the best sleep when we’re sick!

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Sleeping With Heartburn

Most of us have experienced heartburn at some point in our lives. Simply put, heartburn feels is an uncomfortable burning sensation in the chest or throat. Heartburn is another term for gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and occurs when stomach acid or bile rises up from the stomach and enters the esophagus. If it occurs more than twice a week, it may also be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a much more serious condition.

According to the American College of Gastroenterology, heartburn affects 60% of Americans every month. And, when all these people struggle with heartburn, it makes it much more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Sleeping With Heartburn

First off, if heartburn is an issue, medical experts recommend staying away from fatty, spicy, and greasy foods. Also, coffee, chocolate, beer, pizza, and others can cause and exacerbate heartburn symptoms. Besides that, it is also a good idea to stop eating two to three hours before bed. There are, of course, heartburn medications such as Prilosec, Zantac, and other quick temporary treatments such as Tums.

If someone is trying to fall asleep and they are struggling with heartburn at the time, they try sleeping with their head elevated six or eight inches. Gravity could help then keep stomach acid and bile from coming up from the stomach.

In addition, people can try sleeping on their left side. According to a 1994 study, when people sleep on their right side, they are more likely to deal with heartburn. Lying in this position, could relax the lower esophageal sphincter and makes it more possible for stomach acid to escape the stomach and move into the esophagus.

Sleeping With A Cold Or The Flu

Colds are associated with a number of symptoms that include but aren’t limited to a runny nose, congestion, sneezing, and coughing. It is not always easy to differentiate between the cold and the flu, but the latter is usually more extreme and can have other symptoms such as fever and body aches.

All of these symptoms can make sleeping a real chore, but there are steps people can take to make it easier on themselves. First off, those who are suffering from a cold or flu should try to clear their airways as best as possible. This could mean using nasal strips or spray or even taking a hot shower right before bed. A humidifier can also go a long way in keeping those airways open during the night.

Humidifier For Better Sleep

In addition, people with a cold or flu can sleep with their heads at an incline of a few inches. This can allow the congestion to drain out of their heads, reducing sinus pressure and making it easier to breathe.

If they struggling with stomach flu, there are also the added symptoms of nausea and vomiting. Anyone worried about getting sick during the night should sleep at an incline and on their side. This will reduce their chances of choking. Also, they should make sure to keep a bucket or some sort of receptacle within arm’s reach.

When dealing with a cold or flu, one cannot really go overboard in making the bedroom as comfortable and conducive to sleep as possible. This could mean using an eye mask, blackout curtains, or a white noise machine. Also, don’t forget to practice good sleep hygiene by keeping the bedroom cool, quiet, and dark.

Sleeping While Pregnant

When a woman is pregnant, her body goes through a number of changes, and this can make it hard to get comfortable and fall asleep. A woman who is used to sleeping in a certain position is going to find it very difficult to find that same level of comfort because of heartburn, back pain, and their growing child.

Sleeping While Pregnant

That being said, most experts agree that pregnant women should sleep on their left side. According to the American Pregnancy Association, this will ensure that the placenta and child receive the most amount of nutrients. Experts recommend that women do not sleep on their back while pregnant, especially in the later trimesters. This can lead to serious discomfort and possible complications with the birth.

RELATED: The Best Sleeping Positions for Different Sleep Problems

When it comes to getting the right amount of comfort, pregnant women can also invest in a pregnancy pillow. These can be placed between the legs, under their bump, or behind their back to help support areas of their bodies that are experiencing extra strain or tension.

Finally, if heartburn or breathing becomes an issue, pregnant women can prop themselves up with a pillow. As we mentioned above, this can cut down on acid reflux and also make it easier to breathe at night.

Final Thoughts

It is so important to get proper sleep when we are sick because we need to give our bodies time to heal. The ironic thing is, the sicker we are, the more difficult it is to fall asleep and stay asleep. Still, taking these steps above can make it possible we get that much-needed sleep and wake up healed and refreshed.

FAQs Regarding Sleeping While Sick

Now, let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions about sleeping while we are sick.

Does sleep help the stomach flu?

Yes, sleep can indeed help with the stomach flu. When we are sick with illnesses like stomach flu, sleep can boost our immune system, allowing us to recover more quickly.

How do you fall asleep when you are sick?

Those who are sick with a cold, flu, or heartburn could benefit from sleeping at an incline. Also, depending on what symptoms someone has, a humidifier can help open nasal passages and keep the throat from drying out. Lastly, keeping the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet can prime the body for sleep.

Is it okay to sleep all day when sick?

While it is not uncommon for people to sleep for a long time when they are sick, it is always good to check in with a doctor if they are experiencing extreme fatigue. People should just keep an eye on their symptoms and talk to a doctor if they have concerns.

Is it better to rest or be active when sick?

This is going to depend on what type of sickness someone has and their own personal health record. For many, rest is more important than being active because it boosts the immune system and encourages healing. However, people can speak with their doctor if they’re interested in being active while sick.

Is it bad to sleep with the fan on while sick?

Sleeping with a fan on won't make you sick, but it could exacerbate your symptoms. The moving air may dry out your mouth, nose, and throat. This could cause your body to produce more mucus, which could lead to headaches, a stuffy nose, and a sore throat.

How should you sleep if you feel nauseous?

You should sleep elevated and on your side when feeling nauseous. While it does not matter which side you lay on, sleeping on your side can reduce your chances of choking if you were to vomit in your sleep.

Gravatar for Marten Carlson

Marten Carlson

Marten is the Lead Reviewer at Mattress Clarity. He is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and covers the mattress industry as well as sleep science news. He is specifically interested in the connection between sleep and overall health. Marten has written for media publications like Consequence of Sound and received a master’s degree in Film Studies from Emory University. He comes from Franklin, Indiana, and spends all the time he can writing, directing, and acting in films.