In the midst of winter, as temperatures plummet, coughs and colds run rampant - and it seems as if everyone is currently run down. The present state of widespread illness prompted the Evening Standard to delve into the question: Why is everyone sick at present? as reported on 9th January. Similarly, Yahoo! Explored the topic in a news article titled Why do colds and viruses seem so bad at the moment?
Last winter, the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, commented on “England’s worst flu season for a decade.” Hopes of dodging a rerun appear to be dashed by Australia’s recent flu season, the bell weather for the Northern Hemisphere.
In the UK, flu season typically runs from October right through to April, peaking after Christmas and New Year when people gather to celebrate.
Amidst this seasonal health challenge, finding effective ways to sleep when under the weather becomes paramount.
Lack of sleep can affect our ability to fight off viruses, while coughs, congestion and other symptoms can keep us up at night and impede our recovery, making quality sleep simultaneously more important, but harder to get.
In particular, dry, tickly coughs and blocked noses can disrupt our slumber, make breathing difficult, and are often exacerbated by a reclined position.
Fever, chills, body pains, night sweats and general or specific aches, such as ear ache, can also add to the nightmare of trying to sleep off a bug. Certain viruses can make sleep more difficult too. For example, Covid is known to cause insomnia and worsen sleep disorders, both in the short and long term.
With any infection, it’s worth resting as much as possible to help symptoms resolve more quickly and fully. Sleep tech firm Simba, has teamed up with sleep expert, Lisa Artis at The Sleep Charity, to find out the best ways to sleep soundly this winter.
“Sleep is an important part of illness prevention and recovery, as it supports the optimal function of our immune system,” explains Lisa Artis.
“Good sleep hygiene is even more crucial when we are sick, which means keeping the bedroom at the right temperature and humidity, and reducing noise and light disturbances. You may even find yourself needing to go to bed earlier than your usual bedtime.
“Napping during the day - especially later in the afternoon - can interfere with our nocturnal rhythm, however, when we are ill, it’s important to get the rest we need. Taking to bed to relax can make a real difference to the way the body copes with a heavy cold or virus.”
Flip your regular sleep position
In moments of discomfort, even the smallest adjustments can make a significant difference in the quality of your sleep. Side sleeping is the most popular sleep position, especially for women, but it can lead to a blocked nose, ears and sinuses. Raised back sleeping - where the upper body is raised higher than the normal, flat sleeping position - is usually the best sleep position to manage head cold symptoms and chesty coughs.
Steam through your bedtime routine
Steam inhalations can be very effective at clearing airways and abating lower and upper respiratory infections. You can buy dedicated devices like facial spas and steam inhalers for this purpose, but it’s just as effective to fill a large bowl with freshly boiled water, add a few drops of eucalyptus oil, cover your head and the bowl with a towel, and take in long, deep breaths.
Keep the fresh air flowing
During the 1918-1920 flu pandemic, fresh air was advised to prevent disease. New York's public health campaigns urged open bedroom windows. The city's heating system, designed for open windows, is still in use, with radiators typically under windows. An open air policy when entertaining can curb winter bug spread.
Given high energy costs, it can seem counterintuitive to keep a window open, yet cooler bedroom temperatures between 16 - 18 degrees celsius are beneficial for deep sleep. However, it’s also important to stay warm when we’re sick, so HEPA air purifiers can help by cleaning the air of viruses, pollution and allergens, meaning you won’t have to open any windows, and thereby keeping the bedroom toasty.
Winter is coming - elevate your mattress and pillow game
Pillows often lose their plump and flatten out over time, leaving us with less support and a very horizontal sleep position, which allows mucus to pool at the back of the throat, nose and sinuses. Raising the head, neck and shoulders when you sleep can help you breathe more easily. This can be achieved with new pillows, a mattress wedge, or by stuffing the underside of the mattress at the head of the bed with extra towels or blankets.
Simba’s Hybrid® Firm Pillow features three interchangeable layers - two Simba Renew fibre layers and an Aerocoil firm layer. The Hybrid® Pillow, meanwhile, includes a supportive inner core of Nanocubes, which are cubed shaped foam structures that can be removed from the pillow.
Both pillows are interchangeable and allow for the height and firmness to be adjusted according to your preference, whilst also maintaining their plumpness. They also feature Stratos® heat control technology, allowing you to stay cool and temper feverish nights, and aid with airflow; the Hybrid® Firm Pillow with its Aerocoil springs, and the Hybrid® Pillow with its Nanocube inner layer.
The Cooling Body Pillow, again with Stratos® technology, can double up as a bolster with temperature-regulating benefits.
Brave a fever with a cooling duvet
Blowing hot and cold? Our body temperature can fluctuate with viral and bacterial infections causing fever, chills and night sweats. Simba’s Hybrid 3 in 1 duvet features a breathable cotton sleep side with Stratos® Heat Control Technology which responds to the body temperature, drawing heat away to provide a cooling sensation, maintain optimum body temperature and keep the sleeper cool and dry. Alternatively, wrap yourself around the Cooling Body Pillow for relief.
Put a humidifier in the bedroom or use a plug-in decongestant
Dry, overheated bedroom air can irritate the chest, throat and airways. A humidifier can put moisture back into a parched atmosphere which can help you breathe more easily at night and even help loosen congestion.
Banish restlessness with a weighted blanket
Tossing and turning is another hallmark of nighttime illness. With a fully washable, pure cotton cover, the Simba Orbit™ Weighted Blanket can help encourage more restful sleep using the gentle pressure of glass nanobeads.
Don’t try and push through
Sometimes, it can’t be helped, but the reality is, unless we take the time our body needs to sleep and recover it will often just prolong the illness.