When you've been battling the symptoms of a cough and cold all day, all you want to do come night time is crawl into bed and get a good night's sleep in the hope that your symptoms will have miraculously disappeared when you wake up. However, in reality most of us are kept awake half the night spluttering and sniffing with an irritating cough, or a stuffy congested nose, often leaving you, and your partner, feeling much worse come morning!
Why is a cough worse at night? Professor Alyn Morice, cough expert and Head of Cardiorespiratory Studies at Hull York Medical School says; "Throughout the course of the day, your body's natural reaction is to swallow frequently, which helps the nasal mucus to drain down your nose and throat. If you're feeling congested then you will also blow your nose several times a day to clear the airways. However, when you lie down in bed at night to go to sleep, it becomes harder for your body to clear your airways naturally and mucus can build up in your throat."
"This usually forces you to breathe through your mouth, making it dry and irritating the nerves at the back of the throat. The virus deliberately makes these nerves sensitive causing you to cough. Coughing is part of the body's defence mechanism, to clear the airways of mucus and preventing it from going down the wrong way, but the virus hijacks this defence to spread itself about through coughing."
"Another factor that can contribute to you feeling worse come night time is your immune system. When you're ill, your immune system is very active and triggers an inflammatory response. This response increases the blood circulation to the infected area which can worsen symptoms and raise the body's temperature."
So what can you do to increase your chance of sleeping soundly with a cough? Professor Morice shares his top tips:
- Sleep on an incline All the mucus that builds up in your nose or throat while you lay down irritates your throat, so pop some extra pillows under your head and let gravity do its job.
- Take a hot shower or bath Not only will it help you to relax, but the steam will help loosen the mucus and relieve congestion from your nose and chest. Breathe in the steam slowly for a few minutes then try coughing or blowing your nose to break up the mucus.
- Prepare your bedside The last thing you want to be doing in the middle of the night is fumbling around in the kitchen cupboard trying to find some medicine. Make sure you have some water, tissues and cough medicine on your bedside table to help soothe the cough if it starts to irritate you.
- Wash the bedding Dust mites, pet hair and other allergens lurking on your bedding, and if you're an allergic sort of person, could add to the irritation on your respiratory tract. Make sure you wash your bedding at least once a week in hot water.
- Take a cough suppressant to help reduce the urge to cough throughout the night. When mixed with just 15ml of hot water, NEW Covonia Hot Dose Cough & Cold Syrup (RRP £5.49) delivers a unique hot "shot" sized dose for sipping. Its powerful formula provides comforting relief for your symptoms at a time when you need it the most.
- Control the humidity level A humidifier can help you to breathe easier when you're congested and can also stop your throat from becoming too dry while you sleep. Try and keep humidity levels at 50% to stop the air becoming too damp.
- Stay hydrated Make sure you keep hydrated throughout the day by regularly sipping water, which will soothe the cough reflex and also help with a sore throat.
- Avoid laying on your back Although sleeping on your back allows your lungs to breathe and expand, it can also make snoring much worse - especially if you're congested! Try sleeping on your side to avoid your partner angrily waking you up in the middle of the night.
- Relax in a good environment When you're feeling under the weather, a comfy bed, blankets and a dark room will help you sleep better. Make sure you put your phone and laptop away a good couple of hours before you go to bed to help you unwind, and avoid caffeine after 3pm.
- Book a doctor's appointment If you're symptoms persist for more than 3 weeks you should seek medical advice as it could be a sign of something more serious.