Why Are Colds Worse At Night?


| 6 Comments

It's been a long day and all you want to do is sleep, but as you lay down on your bed, it becomes obvious that sleep will allude you tonight.  How could you possibly sleep when your nose, which has been stuffy and dripping all day, just decided to become infinitely worse. But why? Why, just when you want your cold to get better to sleep, does it get worse?

 

Part of the reason is that when you're trying to sleep, the cold is just more noticeable.  Without the distractions of the day, it is easy to focus on the lack of ability to sleep.  Although this is definitely a contributing factor, there are some real physiological reasons why colds get worse at night.

 

During the day we are almost always vertical, from walking to standing to sitting, our heads remain upright.  This distributes gravity in a normal way in which we are most used to.  However, sleeping in this vertical position would be extremely uncomfortable, so we sleep horizontally.  This position distributes gravity in a different way, causing additional pressure in the sinus cavities which can make the nose be stuffier during night.

 

Additionally, our bodies go through a natural process called a circadian cycle.  During this cycle, different amounts of hormones are sent out depending on the time of day, with less hormones being sent out at night.  These hormones produce antibodies, and because less antibodies are being sent out when we are trying to sleep, it causes the symptoms to become worse. 

 

In order to reduce the severity of the symptoms, it can help to prop your upper body up a little using pillows.  It is important to make sure your shoulders are also elevated; otherwise, your head could fall to your chest, making the symptoms worse. Although the symptoms will still be there, they should not be as bad as if you were sleeping completely horizontally.

 

main-cold-season.jpg

Sources:

http://www.wisegeek.org/why-do-common-cold-symptoms-seem-to-get-worse-at-night.htm

 

http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/sleep-better-when-you-are-sick?page=3

 

http://www.livestrong.com/article/552202-why-does-my-nose-stop-up-when-lying-down/

 

6 Comments

I always thought that my colds got worse when I tried to sleep but it is compelling to see that this is based in actual fact!
The article below mentions that colds can get worse at night because you are inside a dry, indoor area. Apparently, dry air just makes colds worse! They suggest to get a humidifier to offset the effects.

http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-report/cold-and-flu-relief/nighttime-cough.aspx

I have always wondered this. Whenever I'm sick all I want to do is just go to sleep, however once I am finally presented with the opportunity, it seems like the hardest thing to do. It does make sense that their is more pressure placed on the sinuses when one is laying down. I also found the information about the lack of antibodies being released to be very interesting. Here is some tips to help you breathe more easily when you're facing a cold & just can't seem to hit the hay:
http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/cold-relief-6-sleep-tips-to-help-you-breathe-easier

That's really true. This morning as I was going to class I could feel that I had a stuffy nose and a pretty messed up throat, but as I was getting ready for bed tonight, I felt that man, this cold either got really bad or I am just imagining this... Now that I read this post I realize why my colds do get worse at night, Thanks a lot!

http://www.manageyourlifenow.com/10-simple-ways-to-cure-cold/

10 ways to cure cold!

Kathleen,
This article is a very relevant topic! I have always wondered why during the day I feel semi-normal and then as soon as I lay down in my bed I feel like death? The fact that since during the day we are more distracted and are walking upright makes plenty of sense. Another point to be made is that during the day we have plenty of oxygen when were walking around. More air gets into our nasal system so we feel slightly better. The advice that you gave about sleeping upright does help a lot. It made me curious about how medicine like nyquil helps us fall asleep too? This link briefly answers how nyquil falls asleep.

This is such a good topic for this time of year! During the day you're constantly doing things so you aren't thinking about how sick you are, but as soon as you get in your bed it's like your sickness is back full force. Being upright all day makes complete sense to me because if you have a runny nose you're not laying down so it starts to drain itself but when you're laying down it has no where to drain. Whenever I was younger and get sick my mom would always tell me to sleep on my side which always made me feel better. I saw this article and it tells you other ways in which you can sleep better when you are sick,
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=85681&page=2

Thanks for the post! I found the information extremely helpful as I am currently battling a cold! That being said I became interested on weather or not there are other helpful methods to help you fall asleep when sick. I found out that you want to choose the right cold medicine before going to sleep, otherwise the cold could be temporarily worsened.

http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/sleep-better-when-you-are-sick

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