Why Do Colds Get Worse at Night?

Being sick with a cold is never fun, but have you noticed that your cold symptoms almost always get much worse after the sun goes down? There’s a reason – actually, a few reasons – why colds are more difficult to live with at night, and this article explains why! Better yet, it gives advice on how to relieve your symptoms and get a better night of sleep with a cold.

Why do Colds Get Worse at Night?

How to deal with cold

Cold symptoms are annoying. From the runny nose and congestion that comes with earlier stages of a cold, to the cough that comes later on in the cold’s progression, no one enjoys being sick with a cold, no matter what time of the day it is. But why do colds get worse at night? There are three main reasons:

1. Gravity Isn’t a Big Help at Night

Think about it: during the day, we stand and sit in an upright position, so gravity helps us by draining mucus down our nose and throat. At night, however, most of us – unless you’re a workaholic or insomniac – will spend the majority of time lounging or lying down. The simple position change of your body results in the mucus flow changing. Instead of draining down, it collects in your throat and can become stuck in your airways, causing nighttime nasal congestion! Then, when you become congested, you breathe more through your mouth. This causes your throat to become dry more quickly, making you more susceptible to having those terrible coughing fits!

2. Your Immune System Is Working Overtime

A semi-comforting thought you can have when you ask yourself, “Why do colds get worse at night?” is that your immune system goes into overdrive at night when your body is less active. In the end, that’s a great thing – it helps you fight off whatever bad thing invaded your body in the first place!

However, this heightened immune system response does make your cold symptoms worse. The inflammatory response makes congestion and headache symptoms worse, and if you have a virus, the immune system will raise your body temperature more so at night in an attempt to kill it. This may result in a fever, chills, and hot flushes. It’s all for your health, but the symptoms are definitely not fun to deal with!

3. You Have More Time to Think and Worry

During the daytime, you’re distracted with your day to day activities. At night, we tend to wind down from our busy everyday lives. We do less, both physically and mentally. This gives us more time to think and ponder things, such as how sick we’re feeling or how bad our cold symptoms are. The more we worry and think about being sick, the less easily we fall asleep and get rest, which in turn results in less sleep and more sickness! Overthinking the question of “why do colds get worse at night?” doesn’t help at all! It’s a cycle, and the best thing you can do is to calm down and try not to think about your cold symptoms.

4. You Need More Humidity for Your Room

When the air is dry, cold symptoms such as cough would get worse because your nose and throat are already irritated. Breathing may also be affected.

How do I Relieve My Colds?

Having a cold is a process – there’s no single cure-all medicine you can take to instantly get rid of it. (Antibiotics help fight bacteria, not the viruses that cause colds!) Here are ways to relieve your cold symptoms while your body fights off the virus:

  • Keep HydratedHydrate hydrate hydrate! Yes, your mother was right. Drinking lots of fluids always helps. All cold symptoms get worse if you’re dehydrated, so be sure to drink enough fluids before going to bed. Drinking water, juice, or any clear liquid keeps your immune system prime and helps loosen up congestion. Keep a tall glass of water by your bed so that you can combat dry mouth and throat throughout the night! Stay away from alcohol, caffeinated sodas, or coffee – they only make dehydration worse!
  • Elevate your upper half: This will help with the gravity issue! By elevating your upper body, your mucus will be able to drain more easily out of your head space. Do this by arranging pillows to slightly raise your head and neck.
  • Get to bed earlier. Your body needs time to recuperate and heal!
  • Soothe your sore throat. Gargling salt water (you can make it yourself at home) will help make an itchy or sore throat feels better. Warm liquids also help, and they help mucus flow more easily too.
  • Add moisture to your air. A vaporizer or humidifier may help loosen congestion.
  • Relieve pain. For symptom relief for adults and children older than five years old, there are many over the counter remedies (pain relievers, decongestants, etc.) that work. For babies and children, consult a doctor about what you can give for pain relief.
  • Support your immune system. It can always use a bit of extra help! Taking herbs and vitamins known to support immune system health won't hurt.
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