On average, schoolchildren get three to four colds each year, while adults suffer almost as many. As well as feeling unwell, this often leads to restless nights that affect the whole family's routine and your ability to stay on top of things the following day.
How a cold affects sleep for children Night-times are even more troublesome for small children as they find it hard to clear stuffy noses when lying down, they have their sleep disturbed by a cough and are more likely to run a fever. And when your child is not sleeping from a cough or cold, the whole family knows all about it! That's when it's handy to have decongestant products in your medicine cabinet to help the whole family relieve their nasal congestion before bedtime.
Parenting expert Wendy Dean Deacon explains: 'One bad night's sleep won't do any harm, but if your child's sleep is disturbed by coughs or colds for several days, then you have an overtired and fractious child to cope with during the day.'
Why sleep for children (and their parents) is important when you're ill
- It allows the body to rest and recuperate.
- Not sleeping can affect the immune system.
- Without being properly rested, even those who are well find it hard to get their day sorted - forgetting or being unable to achieve tasks or organise their family as well as they would like to.
Understanding common cold symptoms
- cold lasts on average seven days but common cold symptoms can last up to three weeks.
- First signs of a cold include: a sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing and streaming nose and watery eyes.
- Three or four days into the life of a cold our nose can produce mucus. Nasal congestion is caused when large veins lining the nasal passages swell. The swelling increases at night when lying down, which can make it difficult to sleep. Nasal congestion can also cause snoring, leading to a poor night's sleep for your partner too.
Cold remedies - Be prepared for the cold season
- As well as syrups to relieve coughs, keep a suitable decongestant and other cold remedies in your cabinet so you're ready to treat the whole family.
'The first measure should be to relieve nasal congestion with a suitable decongestant so everyone can sleep well at night,' says Wendy Dean Deacon. 'Make sure you have an effective remedy in your house as it's not always possible to get to a pharmacist at bedtime.'
Savvy tip - More ways to treat a cold
Practise good hygiene. Stop the spread of the cold virus by using disposable tissues and throwing away. Wipe down kitchen surfaces and door handles. By treating the night time sniffles you'll soon all be sleeping soundly and waking up to a good morning.
Top tip - how to ease common cold symptoms 1. Raise the head. Use extra pillows to help the congestion drain down. Make sure the head and shoulders are raised up. For infants DO NOT use pillows. Instead, raise the top end of the cot with something solid like wedges (make sure the cot is stable).
2. Keep the room cool.
3. Choose nasal decongestants and mentholated rubs to clear congestion in adults (ask your pharmacist). Medicated vapour rubs or a few drops of eucalyptus oil on a handkerchief are good for both adults and children over two years. A salt water nasal spray or nasal drops can clear noses for children under two.
4. Warm drinks, such as a warm honey and lemon, will soothe sore throats in adults. Anyone with a cold should drink plenty during the day to replace lost fluids. Good choices for children are water, juice, diluted squash, jellies, lollies and soups.
5. Bring down a high temperature and ease aches and pains with an anti-pyretic medicine (e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen...). Speak to your pharmacist about suitable products for you and your child and other ways to treat a cold.