How to Sleep With the Flu and Ensure You Get a Good Night’s Rest

We’ve all been there, friends: lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying our hardest to fall asleep with heavy chests, burning eyes and blocked noses. The hours pass us by, and no matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to get a single wink of sleep. It can feel like torture, especially if we have to wake up early the next day. The flu is no fun, and while everyone else may think that we’re being dramatic, it can feel like the end of the world.

It’s a known fact that a good night’s sleep can be the key to a healthy mind: without it, it can slowly cause us to lose our minds the following day, especially paired with the dreaded illness. Resting is also the best form of healing while having the flu… but how can we heal if it feels impossible to get some sleep?

So, what can you do about it? How can you ensure that you can get a great night’s rest while suffering?

How to sleep with the flu

We’re here to help you. Keep reading to discover just how you can prevent your symptoms at night, and can give yourself the best head start to finally get some sleep.

1. Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol

It is common knowledge that hot drinks are ideal for getting us through colds and flus, steaming out our sinuses, loosening mucus, and warming our insides. This is definitely true, and it is highly recommended that you make yourself a hot drink before bed.

However, while hot drinks are great for soothing, you should definitely consider avoiding cups of coffee. Caffeine will dehydrate you, and the most important thing you need to do while feeling poorly is to keep as hydrated as possible. Alcohol should be avoided for the same reason, even if it may make you feel better for a small period of time.

The best options for a hot drink before bed, or even throughout the day, is a cup of hot water, lemon and honey: the steam from the liquid will help with nasal congestion, the honey will soothe your sore throat, and the lemon will provide you with the nutrients you will need to build your immune system back up.

Hot water with lemon and honey for better sleep during the flu, person drinking a cup of hot water with lemon

Non-caffeinated tea is also a great option, whereas normal tea can be just as saturated with caffeine as a cup of coffee. My favourite antidote while suffering with the flu is a cup of fruit juice mixed with boiling water: of course, it’s recommended to allow the liquid to cool slightly before consuming so you don’t burn your tongue!

2. Take a Hot Bath or Shower

Along with consuming a hot beverage before your head hits the pillow, it’s also recommended that you have a hot bath or shower before bed. The steam from the hot water will encourage mucus movement, and will help to clear your airways.

A hot bath is ideal before bed as lying down in the hot water for a while will make you feel more sleepy, and the steam will hopefully help you relax for a little while. A shower is also effective, and, in fact, standing up may tire you out even more, especially with your currently low energy levels: try to take deep breaths while standing there, inhaling as much steam as you can. A make-shift sauna will clear your nose, throat and head, releasing tension and hopefully giving you a moment of relief from headaches.

Once you’re finished and ready to get out of the shower or bath, make sure to have a warm, fluffy towel and some comfy pajamas to change into right away. You don’t want to expose yourself to a hard wall of cold air the second you get out, as this will bring back your symptoms much faster. Keep warm and comfortable!

3. Take Cold Medicines

Take cold medicine for flu at night, woman looking at cold medicine

Painkillers are essential while suffering with the flu, even if it won’t solve all your problems.

Two paracetamols may be enough to keep the headaches at bay, and there are plenty of over-the-counter medicines that can be used to treat the cold and flu, helping with your chest and sinuses as well as your head and achy muscles. Fever-reducing medicines will also help, as a high temperature can be the worst while you’re trying to sleep: there is nothing worse than the hot and cold shivers that follow, making you unsure whether you need a fan or a thicker blanket.

Fevers can also cause confusion, and you don’t need anything extra to fill your mind while you’re trying to shut off your brain for the night. If you don’t have any medication at home, and it’s the middle of the night, a rag dipped in cold water draped over your forehead may give you temporary relief.

If you’re lucky enough to have time off work, visit the pharmacy in the morning to pick up the medication you need and take time to have a midday nap. As we said before, resting is the key to getting better, so you’ll need all the sleep you can get!

4. Prop Your Head Up

If you’re lying in bed with only one, thin pillow beneath your head, this may be contributing to why you are feeling so uncomfortable.

Sinus pressure is made worse while you’re lying completely horizontally, as all the mucus builds up in your nasal passages, causing you to become more bunged up and to cough more. Make sure your head is positioned higher by layering a couple of pillows underneath: this way, your head will be tilted slightly horizontally, allowing the mucus to flow rather than being trapped inside your body.

The way your head is positioned during your sleep is a complete game changer, and will provide more relief while you’re trying to nod off. Lying down flat is a complete no-no, and should be avoided at all costs!

5. Take a Walk

This is a last resort if you truly can’t bring yourself to fall asleep. Sometimes, if you’re really struggling, it may be worth getting out of bed and taking a quick walk to tire yourself out.

Now, we’re not saying that you should leave the house: it is very important that you stay warm, and going outside isn’t going to help, although if you do feel that some fresh air may benefit you, make sure you’re completely wrapped up and wearing layers to prevent the cold reaching your body.

It’s recommended that you take a quick stroll around the house, maybe going downstairs to make yourself another hot drink. You could sit down in another area of your home and read a couple of pages from a book: reading will help you unwind, and will hopefully make you more sleepy. Try to avoid using your phone or watching television, as electronic devices are known to trigger parts of the brain that keep you awake for longer. Just try to read something, or listen to some calming music. After a little while, venture back to bed, and fingers crossed, you may be feeling relaxed enough to drift off for a little while.


Thankfully, the flu usually only lasts around a week, with most seriously uncomfortable symptoms residing within two to three days… although, this may feel like a lifetime while suffering from them. It is so important that you get some rest so you can heal faster, so even if you can’t sleep, still allow yourself to relax and rest up for the remainder of your illness.

Hopefully these tips will help along your road to recovery, and you will be back to your usual self in no time.