2. Brew a Cup of Tea
Hot, decaffeinated tea with a little fresh lemon juice can help reduce runny nose symptoms, Novey says. In particular, ginger tea can help ease muscle aches and generate a feeling of well-being, he says.
Novey’s recipe for a simple ginger tea: Thinly slice a 4-inch piece of fresh ginger root and boil for 30 minutes in a half-gallon of water. Add cinnamon bark and sugar or honey for added flavor. It’s best to sip this brew well before bedtime, as it may stimulate stomach acid and potentially cause heartburn, he says. If the tea upsets your stomach, try eating some toast or a few crackers with it to calm your tummy. Chamomile tea is also a good choice to help you relax.
3. Raise Your Head
Nasal congestion is often worse when you’re lying down, so elevating your head with extra pillows or a foam wedge may help alleviate some cold and flu symptoms, according to MedlinePlus.
4. Open Your Airways
Saline (salt and water) nasal sprays can help with a stuffy nose, according to the Mayo Clinic. You can also try adhesive decongestion nose strips, which widen nostrils from the outside to make breathing easier. If your nose becomes red and raw, a dab of petroleum jelly can soothe irritated skin. (Just avoid using petroleum jelly for more than a few days; it can lead to respiratory problems if used long-term.)
5. Moisten the Air
Placing a humidifier or vaporizer several feet from your bed can help ease nasal congestion by breaking up mucus so you can cough it up. Moist air can also relieve coughing itself. In a child’s bedroom, use only a cool-mist vaporizer, because warm-mist units can cause burns if younger children get too close, says the Mayo Clinic. Be sure to drain and clean the humidifier daily so it doesn’t get moldy.
6. Choose Your Medications Carefully
Some over-the-counter cold and flu remedies should be avoided at bedtime. Steer clear of decongestants because they contain ingredients that are stimulating and can interfere with sleep, says Novey. Antihistamines are sleep-inducing and better choices at night, he adds.
7. Set the Stage for Sleep
Make sure your bedroom is conducive to quality sleep. Sleep Doctor suggests transforming your bedroom for sleep-readiness by making sure it’s quiet, dark, and a little on the cool side.
“If your mind is occupied with something else, it relaxes,” Novey says. He suggests turning on soothing music to help you drift off to sleep. You could also try practicing a relaxation technique like meditation or breathing exercises in bed to help you fall asleep.
“Let each cold or respiratory infection you catch be an inspiration to avoid them in the future,” Novey suggests. That means following basic health habits to keep your immune system strong, including eating well, exercising regularly, washing your hands often, and making sure you get quality sleep on a regular basis.