How to Stop Cold Symptoms from Disrupting Your Sleep

Is your stuffy nose stopping you from sleeping? Or maybe a cough is keeping you up at night? After analysing 262,080 Google searches from Brits looking up cold symptoms and lack of sleep, we’ve uncovered how to overcome your symptoms, so you can get back to having a good night’s sleep.

1. Sleeping with a cough

+31,110% interest in winter and +10,930% in spring

With 123,120 searches a year, coughing is the most common symptom which stops Brits from sleeping. If you have a common cold or a sinus infection, your body produces more phlegm or mucus. This causes an unpleasant feeling in your throat, causing you to cough to clear your airways. This is made worse by lying down in bed, which is why you’ll cough more during sleep.

Top tips for sleeping with a cough

  • Sleep with your head elevated using extra pillows to stop mucus gathering in your throat, reducing how much you need to cough.
  • Take soothing cough medicine or a throat lozenge right before bed, as this can stop the cough while you try to get to sleep.
  • Keep tissues, medicine and a glass of water beside your bed so you don’t have to get up in the night for supplies, disturbing your sleep even more.

2. Sleeping with a blocked or stuffy nose

+50,745% interest in spring and +5,800% in autumn

Sleeping with a blocked or stuffy nose is the second most-searched for problem preventing Brits from getting a good night’s sleep, with 62,280 Google searches made a year. Cold or sinus infection symptoms can cause your nasal passages to swell, which makes it hard to breathe and getting to sleep even more difficult.

Top tip for sleeping with a blocked or stuffy nose

  • Keep an aromatherapy oil diffuser in your bedroom, as research shows that eucalyptus has an anti-inflammatory effect and sandalwood can improve sleep.
  • Don’t blow your nose, as this can irritate your nasal passages – try dabbing with tissue instead.
  • Avoid any caffeine and alcohol or alcohol after lunch, as these can dehydrate your body and make you feel worse.

 3. Sleeping with a cold

+2,068% interest in winter and +120% in autumn

With 30,360 online searches a year, many of us can’t get to sleep because of the common cold. With a list of symptoms including a blocked or runny nose, cough and muscle aches, it’s no surprise that having a cold can seriously interrupt your sleep.

Top tips for sleeping with a cold

  • Take a hot shower before bed to help loosen up phlegm, reducing congestion, helping you breathe easier and cough less.
  • Use a vapour rub which includes either eucalyptus or menthol ingredients to make it easier to breathe.
  • Wrap up warm with wool or fleece blankets to relieve muscle aches.

 4. Sleeping with a sore throat 

+255% interest in autumn, +244% in winter and +144% in spring

Staying asleep with a sore throat isn’t always the problem but drifting off is much harder when you’re in pain. We found that 27,600 yearly searches are made by Brits who are looking for the solution to sleeping with a sore throat. The Google searches are also only less popular in summer, suggesting we’re affected by this problem for three quarters of the year.

Top tips for sleeping with a sore throat

  • Before bed, drink hot tea with honey and lemon to soothe your throat before sleeping and give your immune system a boost to fight off the infection.
  • Invest in a humidifier to add moisture to your bedroom’s air, as dry air can irritate your sore throat.
  • Gargle salt water to help clear any phlegm from the back of your throat.

 5. Sleeping with a headache

Equal interest all-year round

13,560 searches for sleeping with a headache, which is a common symptom of a cold or the flu. However, headache problems disrupting sleep are searched for all-year round, which could mean they aren’t just affecting us when we’re sick.

Top tips for sleeping with a headache

  • Drinking lots of water throughout the day, as it’s important to keep your fluids up to help you recover from an illness. Even if you aren’t sick, dehydration can cause headaches, so increasing your water intake might help reduce the pain at night.
  • Keep your phone, tablet or laptop out of the bedroom, as the blue light emitted from your devices can interrupt your regular sleep pattern, keeping you awake for longer.
  • When lying in bed, place a cool, damp towel over your forehead to help dull the pain of a headache before you go to sleep.

 6. Sleeping with a runny nose

+356% interest in autumn

A runny nose is another common irritant stopping us from sleeping, with 5,160 annual searches online, mostly in the autumn months. The excess mucus in your nose can make it hard to breathe in bed, plus your constant sniffing might keep your partner awake, too.

Top tips for sleeping with a runny nose

  • Eat a spicy dinner containing capsaicin, a compound found in chilli peppers which causes heat – this will reduce your runny nose.
  • Before bed, inhale steam using a bowl of boiling water and a towel placed over the back of your head. This will loosen the mucus in your nasal passages. Be careful to make sure you don’t put your face too close to the boiling water.
  • Try a nasal rinse before you go to sleep to wash away the mucus built up in your nose. Combine a small amount of salt and bicarbonate of soda in boiling water, then allow the solution to cool. Rinse your nose with the solution a few times and you should be able to breathe easier.

 What’s the best sleeping position for sleeping with a cold or sinus problem?

The best sleeping position to relieve sinus or cold symptoms is on your back, using multiple pillows to keep your head propped up. This helps to stop phlegm collecting in your throat, so your throat feels less irritated and you’re not as likely to cough. Sleeping on your back can also relieve sinus pressure, which can minimise a headache.

I have symptoms while sleeping but I’m not sick – what’s the problem?

If you can’t sleep because of a sore throat, headache, runny nose or other symptoms, there could be another reason.

Sleep apnoea

Equal interest all-year round

Over 3 million UK searches relate to sleep apnoea, with 1.5 million Brits diagnosed with the condition, according to the British Lung Foundation. Sleep apnoea causes your breathing to stop and start during the night, so while the condition shouldn’t trigger any sinus problems, it can result in headaches and a sore throat. Speak to your doctor if you have symptoms of sleep apnoea.

Top tips for sleeping with sleep apnoea

  • Sleep on your side to keep your airways clear.
  • Limit your alcohol intake before going to sleep.
  • If you wear a CPAP mask for sleep apnoea, try a CPAP pillow to reduce the pressure on your face and minimise mask leaks.


Equal interest all-year round

Dust mites are a common cause of allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose and watery eyes, which can stop you from sleeping well as well as 11,160 Brits looking up allergies and sleep. Because your pillowcase and bedding naturally collect dust mites (plus pet hair), your allergies can feel worse at night.

Top tips for sleeping with allergies

  • Wash your pillowcase and bedding once a week at 60°C to kill dust mites and bacteria, which should reduce allergy symptoms.
  • Keep your pets out of the bedroom to stop their hair getting into your bed.
  • Dust your bedroom furniture weekly with a microfibre cloth to prevent a build-up of dust mites, minimising an allergy attack.

Hay fever

+1,100% interest in summer

Hay fever is a type of allergy caused by pollen, which you’re most likely to suffer from between March and September, according to the NHS. We found 1,440 searches relating to hay fever and sleep, mostly in the spring and summer months.

Top tips for sleeping with hay fever

  • Shower before bed, including washing your hair, to wash away any pollen.
  • Put on a pair of clean pyjamas to avoid sleeping in any pollen which has stuck to your clothes and hair.
  • Invest in hypoallergenic bedding which deters dust mites. If your hay fever is particularly bad, consider a memory foam pillow and mattress, as the material is naturally anti-allergy.

 Find more sleep tips and research in the blog. If you are suffering from any symptoms listed, make sure to check with your doctor or visit the NHS online for more information.


We used multiple research tools to find Google search data, removing any unrelated searches, e.g., if they are specifically for children, or for products not linked to symptoms, e.g. sleeping bags.

Back to news