August 19, 2014

Sleep Tips to Help You Breathe Easier with a Cold

How often do you suffer from a cold? Whether you have a head cold, a chest cold, or a combination sinus and head cold, there are ways to make it more bearable and help with breathing. Most of the time using one or more of these suggestions allows me to continue using my CPAP machine during a cold.

#1. Use a Nasal Strip. Applied externally to the middle of the nose, nasal strips have an adhesive on one side. Choose the appropriate size (small, medium, or large), wash, and dry your face before applying.

#2. Take a Hot Shower Before Bed. The steam and humidity of a shower cause sinuses to drain and the lining of the nasal passages to constrict, relieving some of the stuffiness of a cold. You can achieve the same effect by sipping a cup of hot tea or having a bowl of hot soup.

Chicken soup, the age-old cold remedy, may indeed have special benefits. When researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center tested the venerable cold prescription in 15 cold sufferers, chicken soup proved more effective than plain hot water in clearing out sinuses.
Avoid drinking cold beverages near bedtime, however. I know from experience that even drinking cold water increases congestion. Other cold beverages have the same effect when done within a few hours of bedtime.

#3. Use a Saline Rinse. One of the safest ways to unblock congested sinuses and get a good night’s sleep is to use a saline rinse, in either a spray bottle or a neti pot. A neti pot is a small container with a narrow spout that’s used to pour small amounts of saline rinse into the nostrils. The saltwater washes mucus and irritants from your nose and helps the cells that move the mucus.

It's important, according to the CDC, that if you irrigate, flush, or rinse your sinuses, you use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution. It’s also important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave it open to air-dry. Saline is a safer bet than over-the-counter or prescription spray nasal decongestants. Although topical decongestants effectively reduce congestion, versions that contain pseudoephedrine may cause sleeplessness and agitation. You may be able to breathe easier but not be able to fall asleep.

If you have to use a nasal decongestant, stop after 3 days and throw the bottle away.
Prescription sleeping pills may also be a bad idea when you have a cold. Sleeping pills can exacerbate upper respiratory obstruction in people with sleep apnea, which is a common problem for people who are overweight or obese. If a cold is the reason, you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s far better to treat the symptoms of the cold than take a sleeping pill.

#4. Elevate the Head of the Bed. One common recommendation is to prop your head up on pillows to help sinuses drain more easily. This is bad advice, as by bending your neck at an unnatural position, you can actually make it harder to breathe. Instead, use a large, wedge-shaped pillow that raises the upper body from the waist up. Or raise the head of the bed by placing bricks, books, or a telephone directory under the legs. Don’t raise it more than 6 inches, however, or the tilt will make you slide out of bed. The slight incline causes blood to flow away from the head and thus reduces inflammation of the air passages.

#5. Apply a Mentholated Gel. This is another venerable treatment that remains popular. And it may help, although not the way many people once thought. Studies have shown that menthol doesn’t actually open up the airways. Instead, the cooling sensation it causes makes people feel as if they’re breathing more freely. And let’s face it, that’s what’s important when you’re trying to treat the symptoms of a cold.

This does not often help those using a CPAP machine with nasal pillows or a nasal mask. If you do try this, do not be surprised if it does not help.

#6. Sleep on Schedule. When cold symptoms make it tough to sleep, paying attention to the basic rules of good sleep hygiene is more important than ever.

By now most of us know the basics:
  • Go to bed and wake up on a regular schedule. (That way, when bedtime rolls around, you’re in the habit of going to sleep.)
  • Avoid stimulating beverages like caffeinated coffee or alcohol in the hours before going to sleep.
  • Reserve your bed for sleep, not a place to work, read, or watch TV.
  • And if you do find yourself tossing and turning, get out of bed (and the bedroom, if possible) so you don’t associate bed with insomnia. Do something that you find relaxing until you feel tired enough to go to sleep.

Good sleep hygiene can be as effective as prescription drugs in helping some people sleep.

Getting enough shut-eye may be especially critical during cold and flu season, according to a 2009 study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The researchers enlisted 153 volunteers who agreed to be quarantined and then exposed to the viruses that cause most colds. Those who slept less than 7 hours were almost three times more likely to develop colds than those who got 8 hours of sleep or more.”

2 comments:

Ila East said...

I have to use nasal strips every night any way. So those don't really help me with a severe cold. What has helped me most is the wedge pillow.

Bob Fenton said...

Ila, I can't use the wedge pillow and I have a very light pillow to go along with my air mattress and by lowering the air pressure, I get the elevation I need. I use the saline solution for best relief.