Finding the best position to sleep with a cough can make all the difference in the world if you have a cold, bronchitis, or a medical condition such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). If anyone has ever stayed up all night due to a bad cough, they know that it makes the next day miserable. It’s hard to feel rejuvenated if you can’t get sleep! Keep reading to find out the best position to be in to maximize sleep, feel better quicker, and breathe easier.
Give your diaphragm a breather
The diaphragm is the primary muscle of breathing, but most people barely use it! When activated, it creates a vacuum that allows your lungs to fill up with air. The better this muscle works, the better your breathing is. The first step to learning the best position to sleep with a cough is learning how to activate your diaphragm when you breathe.
The first step when learning how to use your diaphragm to breathe is to lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Then, when you inhale, your belly button should rise in the direction of the ceiling and your lower abdominal region should expand in all directions as much as it can. Keep in mind that your chest, ribs, and sternum should move very little. Take care not to arch your back or allow your ribs to flare during the inhale. As you exhale, your belly will slowly descend back towards the floor. The same principles apply when breathing in standing.
When you breathe with your diaphragm, your core activates and your respiratory rate and heart rate lower. This is especially important when you have bronchitis or a condition that creates a restricted airway. When you have a restricted airway, it is naturally harder to breathe, and your respiratory rate can increase.
However, by breathing with your diaphragm, you improve your body’s ability to breath and ease of which it breathes. Breathing with your diaphragm ensure that your lungs, throat, neck, and inflamed airway aren’t doing the heavy lifting with breathing. An active diaphragm takes the burden off of your lungs and airway so they can heal.
The best position to sleep in with a cough starts with diaphragmatic breathing. Another key component is elevating the head of your bed with a triangle wedge pillow. This position puts your diaphragm in the best sleeping position for breathing difficulties. When you use a 10–12-inch wedge pillow, gravity helps your diaphragm work more efficiently so you can take in a deeper breath without having to work as hard!
Don’t let your sinuses be a drain
What is the best position to sleep with a cough that’s due to sinus drainage? Sinus drainage can irritate the back of your throat while sleeping. Lying flat on your back is the worst position to sleep with if you are having a sinus cough. Sleeping flat allows mucus to pool in your sinuses. This excess of mucous can cause non-stop coughing fits!
The best position to sleep in with a cough due to drainage is to sleep elevated and on your side. This position uses gravity to your advantage by maximizing your body’s ability to clear the mucus out of your sinuses and away from your throat. This means you heal faster and cough less.
You can find a position to sleep in with a cough
The best position to sleep with a cough does depend on the reason for your cough. To combat coughing, you can either sleep elevated on your back, or sleep elevated on your side. Both positions decrease the strain on your respiratory system, and the added modification of side-sleeping can be especially helpful for mucus drainage. Don’t let a cough keep your from sleeping another night!
-Bryan Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy