When you have an illness, sleeping can help support the immune processes your body uses to fight an infection. You may need more sleep than you otherwise would.
When you’re sick, you may find yourself dozing in bed or on the couch all day. It can be frustrating, but it’s normal to feel tired and lethargic when you’re sick.
In fact, sleeping when you’re sick is essential. It’s one way your body tells you to slow down and rest, so you can get healthy.
Sleep gives your body time to repair itself, which you need when you’re sick. When you get sleepy, it forces you to slow down and give your body the time it needs to heal.
There are also certain immune processes that take place while you sleep that can bolster your body’s ability to fight off an illness. If you get sleepy when you’re feeling under the weather, it may be your body’s way of trying to let those processes kick in.
Fighting an illness also takes a lot of energy, which can make you feel tired and lacking in energy.
Most benefits of sleep when you’re sick are related to helping your immune system do its job and fight your illness. This happens in a few different ways.
First, cytokines, which are a type of protein in your immune system that target infections, are produced and released during sleep. This means that sleep helps jump-start your immune response to your illness.
Your body also has a better fever response — which is another way it fights infection — while you’re sleeping.
Your immune system also needs energy to function. When you’re awake, your body needs to direct energy to activities like thinking or moving around. If you’re sleeping, your body can redirect that energy to your immune system so you can get better as quickly as possible.
Being tired also means that you’re less likely to go out and infect others while you’re sick.
A lack of energy can also help keep you safe. Because your immune system is busy fighting the infection you have, it doesn’t fight as well against any new potential illnesses. So, feeling tired can prevent you from going out and exposing yourself to other germs and diseases.
If you’re sleeping a lot when you have a cold, flu, or fever, it’s because your body needs the rest. Sleeping more than usual is helping your body build up its immune system and fight off your illness.
If you find yourself sleeping all day when you’re sick — especially during the first few days of your illness — don’t worry. As long as you wake up to drink water and eat some nourishing food from time to time, let your body get all the rest it needs.
If, however, your cold, flu, or illness doesn’t seem to get better with time, even with plenty of rest, be sure to follow up with your doctor.
Also, if your illness gets better, but you’re still exhausted or lethargic, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to determine the cause.
Even though being sick can make you tired, it can be hard to get quality sleep when you don’t feel well or have a stuffy nose or persistent cough. In many cases, symptoms tend to get worse later in the day, which can make sleep even more difficult.
If you’re having a hard time sleeping, try some of these tips:
Sleep tips for when you’re sick
- Sleep with your head propped up. This helps your nasal passages drain and reduces pressure in your head. Just don’t prop up your head so high that it makes your neck hurt.
- Avoid cold medications, including most decongestants, that may keep you awake in the hours before bed. Instead, use a cold medicine made specifically for nighttime.
- Take a hot shower or bath before you go to bed. This can help you relax and also break up mucus so you can breathe more easily.
- Use a humidifier in your bedroom to help prevent stuffy, congested airways.
- Try drinking a cup of chamomile tea to help you relax and feel sleepy. Add lemon or honey to soothe your throat. Just be sure to finish drinking your tea at least an hour before bedtime so you don’t wake up to go to the bathroom.
- If you wake up in the middle of the night, respond quickly to whatever woke you up. Blow your nose, drink water, or do whatever else you need to do so you can go back to sleep more easily.
- Be sure your room is set up for optimal sleep. It should be cool, dark, and quiet.
- If you can’t get enough sleep at night, try napping. Keeping your nap to 30 minutes at a time may help you sleep more easily at night.
Sleeping when you’re sick is essential for your recovery. Sleep helps to boost your immune system, so you can fight off your illness more effectively.
Your body knows what it needs, so don’t worry if you find yourself sleeping a lot when you’re sick, especially in the first few days.
If you find that you’re still exhausted and sleeping a lot more than usual after you’ve recovered from your illness, be sure to follow up with your doctor to find out what could be causing your sleepiness.