American Sleep Association

COVID-19 and Sleep

Although not everything is known about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), taking precautions to prevent contracting the illness is vital.

The need for sleep to boost your immune system

One of the best things you can do if you do get sick with COVID-19 or any virus is to get plenty to sleep. Your body needs sleep to fight the infection if you are ill and help prevent the infection if you are not.

Although there are still some unknowns, it is thought that the majority of people who get COVID-19 will only develop a mild illness. Keeping your immune system as healthy as possible helps your body fight the infection.

If you do not get enough sleep, it lowers your immune system. When you sleep, your immune system releases cytokines. Some cytokines play a role in how your immune system functions. According to research in the peer-reviewed journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, lack of sleep may alter cytokines and affect the immune system response.

The exact amount of sleep a person needs to boost their immune system may vary. But according to the Mayo Clinic, most adults need seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night. Teens and school-age children need about 10 hours.

Sleep tips with the flu

Since getting good sleep is so vital to speed up recovery from COVID-19 or any infection, there are things you can do to promote quality sleep. Consider the following tips:

Take a warm bath: A warm bath may ease muscle soreness. It is also a nice way to relax before trying to sleep.

Go to sleep a little earlier: Now is not the time to skimp on sleep. Try to get another hour or two of sleep each night. Also, if you need a nap during the day, take one.

Use a humidifier: Place a cool-mist humidifier in your room to add moisture to the air. The increased moisture may help decrease congestion and ease coughing.

Elevate your head: If you have congestion, placing a few pillows under your head to prop yourself up may decrease stuffiness.

Create the right environment: The right environment helps promote sleep regardless of whether you are sick or not. But since getting enough rest helps your immune system, it is even more important to get the sleep you need. Most people sleep best in a dark and quiet environment that is not too warm.

Relax before going to sleep: With all the current uncertainty in the world, it can be hard to quiet your mind. But taking some time before you try to sleep to relax is helpful. Put aside your phone and log off social media. Instead, find something that helps you unwind, such as listening to music, reading, or doing deep breathing exercises.

Creating a sick room to avoid infection spread

But if you or a loved one do become infected, it is essential to try to prevent others in the household from becoming sick. This is especially critical if you have someone living in your home that is at high risk for complications.

While social distancing is recommended when you go out, it is difficult to do when you’re at home. But it is important to try to create a sick room if someone in your family has tested positive for COVID-19.

It appears COVID-19 is spread through contact with droplets from a sneeze or cough of an infected person. In addition to breathing in droplets, you can also contract the disease through contact with a surface contaminated with the virus. It is possible to get the infection by touching the surface and then touching your nose, eyes, or mouth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), setting up a sick room may help prevent others in the home from getting sick.

Whether it is a bedroom or guest room, select an area in the home, which is preferably near a bathroom. Make it a space set aside for your sick family member. Other family members should avoid the room. If it is your partner, try to sleep in another room.

Place everything the person needs in their room, such as the following:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Towel
  • Glass
  • Water
  • Tissues
  • Trash can
  • Blanket

Try to have the person that is infected stay in the room as much as possible to prevent spreading the infection throughout the family.

Preventing transmission in your home

In addition to setting up a sick room for someone that is infected with COVID-19, there are other things you can do to avoid the transmission of the virus in your home, including:

  • If possible, try to have only one caregiver for the person that is sick, instead of multiple people coming in contact.
  • Wash bedding every day in hot water and dry on high heat.
  • Frequently clean surfaces and objects that are touched a lot, such as toilet handles, doorknobs, and kitchen counters.
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly. Use soap and warm water and wash for a minimum of 20 seconds.

Creating a sick room may be a little inconvenient for others in the home. But the short-term inconvenience can help prevent spreading the infection to others in your household. Remember, we each can do our part to slow the spread of infection.

Irwin, M. (2002). Effects of sleep and sleep loss on immunity and cytokines. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 16(5), 503-512.
Lack of Sleep: Can It Make You Sick? (2018). Lack of Sleep FAQ
The Flu; Caring for Someone that is Sick. (2010). Influenza Home Care Guide


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19 comments on “COVID-19 and Sleep”

  1. This article ‘Covid-19 and Sleep’ expertly provided suggestions that can make it easier for you to fall asleep, and/or stay asleep.

    Certainly, it may not be easy to sleep at night during the current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic; however, it is during these unprecedented times that obtaining enough quality sleep is important.

    The things you do, or not do, during the day and before bedtime can prevent you from falling asleep at night. In addition to suggestions provided in the article, other tips that can help improve your sleep are the following:

    Practice good sleep hygiene

    As the article pointed out, being consistent is the key. Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time each day. Being consistent in your sleep and wake times can make it easier for you to drift off to sleep at night.

    Digital Curfew

    As mentioned in the article, avoid electronic devices — cell-phones, televisions, tablets laptops, desktops, gaming devices, e-readers — at least 1 to 2 hours before bedtime. The blue light shining in your face from these devices can prevent you from getting good, restful sleep.

    Keep a Clean Environment

    De-clutter and clean your bedroom to create an inviting and relaxed space so you can focus on getting the sleep you need.


    Exercise can reduce anxieties and stress – common causes of difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep – and improves your overall mood, health, and well-being.

    Stay connected with Family and Friends

    Maintain human connections. Connect over videoconferencing, phone calls, Skype, Zoom, and social media.

    Relax before bed

    Read a book, soak in a warm bath, listen to relaxing music, or meditate.

    Thank you for allowing me to contribute to the discussion of your article on the importance of sleep and tips to improve sleep when times are tough.

    Good sleep matters!

  2. I am having the same problem. I have tried melatonin and I still cannot stay asleep. I’m up about 4 hours, then sleep about 2 hours, round the clock. I am still symptomatic and have an active case. I really hope this is not my new normal!

  3. Since having COVID-19, has anyone noticed that they cannot stay asleep anymore? Before covid, I slept 8 hours a night straight through. I could even sleep for 12 hours if I had the time to! Now I wake up every 2-4 hours, it’s nearly to the minute. Is this from the covid 19 virus? Or from the stress?

  4. Sleep IS vital for recovery. I sleep 7-8 hours a night and still feel the need to nap for 1-3 hours during the daytime. No guilt here! This is what my body is telling me to do to fight off this horrible virus ((Covid) so take a warm bath then sleep, sleep, sleep.

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