The Sleep Advisors

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Last Updated on August 1, 2022 by Peter

How To Sleep With A Cough & Get Enough Sleep?

There aren’t many things as frustrating as a nighttime cough. If you have coughed during the day, it is almost certain that the symptoms will worsen at night. Then the question arises how to get enough sleep with a cough.

Cough is among the top 10 most common reasons why patients decide to visit a doctor. We can conclude from personal experience that a large number of people also decide not to seek a doctor’s advice for coughing, but to just wait for it to pass on its own.Β 

All this leads us to the conclusion that there are tens of millions of cases of coughing annually in the UK and this is not surprising because every cold and flu can lead to irritation of the throat or airways.

In some cases, the cough is very mild and we barely notice it. In some other cases, coughing attacks can be so strong and uncontrollable that they interfere with daily activities. Then, of course, you will seek the help of a doctor.

But what to do when coughing during the day is not a major problem, but when you go to sleep it starts to get worse and impairs the quality of your night’s sleep? The Sleep Advisors have all the answers you need about how to sleep with a cough & get enough sleep.

Table of Contents
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    The possible causes of cough

    There are so many different circumstances and conditions that cause coughing that it would be impossible to mention them all. Some of the most basic daily activities such as drinking water or eating food can be one of the possible causes. Of course, we will not focus on such causes, but on the following ones, which are very common like upper respiratory infections.

    An image of a man coughing.

    Once you determine which one of them the culprit of the cough, it will be much easier for you to address the issue. When you don’t know why you cough, then it is very complicated to conclude which symptomatic therapy could help you.


    Asthma is usually associated with children, but there is also adult-onset asthma. It is a lung condition that is manifested by narrow and swollen airways, which leads to breathing difficulties. Logically, the body tries by coughing to open the airways and get rid of the extra mucus that the lungs produce due to asthma. Some of the other symptoms are wheezing when breathing, rapid breathing and chest pain, but an uncontrolled cough is almost always present.

    An image of a young woman suffering from asthma.


    According to the National Health Service (NHS) and other relevant institutions, approximately 1 in 4 adults have an allergy at least once in their life. Allergies are on the rise due to many factors. The most common causes of allergies are dust, pollen, sun, nuts, eggs and animal dander. Runny nose, coughing and sneezing are the first signs of most allergic reactions.

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    Smoke is very harmful to our lungs and if a large amount of smoke is inhaled, the outcome can be fatal. Whether you are a smoker or not, when you inhale tobacco smoke, your first reaction will be to cough. Likewise, if there is a fire nearby, the smoke will irritate the airways. Try to avoid smoke always and don’t stay in room saturated with tobacco smoke.

    Postnasal drip

    Postnasal drip is probably the most common cause of nocturnal cough. Mucus is a natural thick substance that moistens the nose, throat and airways. Mucus is therefore very important. But when you are sick or have an allergy, the body will produce extra mucus in response. You will feel it in the back of your throat and it is called postnasal drip. You will expel part of the musk through your nose, but not all of it. That is why you will have the feeling that you constantly need to clear your throat, but in fact the postnasal drip never stops, at least until the acute problem passes.

    Viruses & colds

    Viruses and colds are closely related to the aforementioned postnasal drip. But postnasal drip is not the only culprit. Often at the same time the throat will be too dry and the general discomfort you feel in that area will lead to a stubborn cough.

    a woman in pajamas next to cold medicine

    Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder

    Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that most often affects smokers and people who worked in the chemical and petroleum industry. COPD is treatable, so the patient’s quality of life can be fine. Treatment is also important to prevent the development of other diseases such as heart problems and cancer. If left untreated, COPD will become worse over time. Since the cause of COPD is very clear, it is important to work on prevention.

    Cystic fibrosis

    You can’t do much or, more precisely, anything to prevent cystic fibrosis because it is a hereditary disease caused by a mutation in the CFTR gene. If it is discovered in time, survival is estimated to around 40 years, which is twice as long as a few decades ago. Therefore, if someone in the family has cystic fibrosis, consult a doctor as soon as possible. This disease primarily affects the lungs, which is why the cough occurs. Digestive and endocrine organs are also affected.

    Whooping cough

    Whooping cough medically called pertussis is quite rare bacterial infection of the lungs. It is highly contagious. It is often referred to as 100-day cough because the cough can last up to 3 months. The irritation is so strong that there have been recorded cases of patients breaking their ribs from coughing. As a vaccine became available, the number of cases and deaths decreased significantly in the 21st century. Antibiotics are used for treatment. Incubation period is up to 10 days and patient is not contagious anymore after approximately 3 weeks.

    How to calm a wet cough?

    Cough is divided into three groups – wet, dry and tickling. Certainly approach is not the same when you want to calm down wet and dry cough. Wet or productive cough helps you get rid of excessive mucus. Productive cough usually appears in the final stage of a cold or flu. It should not be stopped during the day because the mucus needs to leave your lungs and throat. But you don’t want to wake up every few minutes during the night and these are effective ways to stop it or reduce the intensity.

    Keep your head elevated

    If you only use one pillow, and especially if it’s a flat one, you’ll want to raise your head and neck more when you cough. In this way, you will prevent mucus from accumulating in your throat, which will lead to constant coughing. Of course, you still need to achieve spinal alignment and avoid putting yourself in an uncomfortable position because then your night’s sleep will suffer because of neck pain.

    An image of a woman elevated head in bed.

    Swallow a bit of honey before sleep

    Honey has proven to be a great home remedy for cough. A spoonful of honey before bed will reduce throat irritation and help you sleep better. There are no peer reviewed studies on this topic, but experience has shown that honey is very helpful especially for children.

    Have a warm drink before sleep

    For many, this is a favorite way to loosen up mucus before bed. Our recommendation is to drink hot tea or warm water with citrus, but if you prefer hot chocolate, that can also be a good option. Adults can add a little cognac or whiskey to the hot chocolate. Hot chocolate must be made from dark cacao without added sugar. Make sure to drink beverage around hour or hour and a half before bed to avoid side effects of caffeine.

    Hot shower

    After a hot shower, you will feel completely healthy and your airways will be clear. It is short-lived feeling, but it will definitely help you breathe easier and loosen up mucus. Of course, you can combine all these methods, so a hot shower followed by a hot beverage is a great way to ensure a restful sleep.

    An image of a beautiful young woman taking a shower.

    Use expectorant

    Expectorant is a type of cough medicine that will make the cough more productive because it will thin the mucus and then you will be able to expel it more easily. The expectorant will also reduce the secretion of mucus so that it is effective in multiple ways. It is used for pneumonia, cold and bronchitis. Check out the expectorants on the UK market, and there are herbal expectorants that are also effective, such as Prospan, which is OTC. You should not take expectorant after 5 PM.

    How to calm a dry cough?

    Dry cough may be related to asthma, but like wet cough, it may be related to postnasal drip, cold and flu. It can often be harder to suppress a dry cough than a wet one, but it is certainly not impossible.

    Use a decongestant

    When the nose is stuffed or blocked, decongestants are nothing short of a lifesaver. Decongestants reduce the swelling of the blood vessels and thus help you breathe normally for some time. Their effect is not long-lasting, but it is enough to help you fall asleep. They can be in the form of nasal sprays, tablets, drops, etc.Β 

    An image of a woman using a decongestant.

    They are generally safe, but you should not use them for more than a week because they can lead to atrophy of the nasal mucosa. They are also not recommended for children under 12 years of age, and diabetics and others with chronic diseases should consult a doctor.

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    Cough suppressant

    The use of antitussives is not recommended for wet cough, but is very effective with dry cough. Cough suppressants block the cough reflex and until their effect wears off, you will not cough. Take it half an hour or an hour before going to bed. Most of antitussives are over the counter medications.


    You can find lozenges or pastilles in every store and pharmacy. Most have a very pleasant taste. They can help calm the cough by reducing throat irritation, sore throat and open up sinuses, which will stop postnasal drip. Some of the lozenges also have added vitamins that will boost your immunity when you are sick. Keep in mind that they can potentially be a choking hazard.

    Stay hydrated

    Every adult should drink at least two liters of fluid a day. Often the amount of liquid you need to drink is higher than that. If you are sick or if it is very hot outside, increase hydration. Only if you stay hydrated you are going to prevent dry cough from appearing.

    An image of a young woman drinking water during the workout.

    How to calm a tickling cough?

    There are not many things that are as annoying as a tickling cough. All allergy sufferers know very well what we are talking about. When spring comes, problems with tickling cough begin. Here is what you can do to make night’s sleep even possible since tickling cough can keep you awake.

    Get a humidifier

    The air in the UK is not dry, but it can certainly become dry indoors, especially in winter when the central heating is on. Very dry air will almost certainly trigger a cough. That’s why you need a humidifier. Be sure not to make the air too humid because it is bad both for you and for your home. Walls can become dump and humid air attracts various pets, like dust mites.

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    An image of a dehumidifier.

    Keep the bedding clean

    Bedding is probably not the first thing that comes to your mind as the culprit for tickling cough. But if you don’t change your bedding regularly, it becomes a source of many allergens. Dead skin cells and other things left behind when you get up attract allergens. Therefore, wash your bedding at least once a week at a temperature of over 40 degrees Celsius. If the pet sleeps with you, then wash it every 2 to 3 days.

    When should you see a doctor?

    Persistent cough is not something to be ignored. Although we often decide not to go to the doctor because of a cough, it can potentially be a bad decision. If you know you have allergies or have a mild cold, it is not necessary to go to the doctor. But if your cough keeps you awake, if you have a fever or if you feel weak, it’s time to see a doctor. Don’t try to be a doctor and take different antibiotics or other prescription drugs because it can do more harm than good. Your general practitioner will assess whether he can help you or whether you need a pulmonologist.



    Sleep enthusiast & researcher Sleep is a crucial for a healthy life, in every sense. TSA gave me the place to express my feelings and opinions about the state we spend one third of our lives. In free time - a huge fan of dreams and lucid dreaming. Even started making own dream map
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