What To Do About Sleep When A Cold Strikes

What To Do About Sleep When A Cold Strikes

Unusual Ways to Get Babies to Sleep Reading What To Do About Sleep When A Cold Strikes 3 minutes Next 6 Sleep Innovations We’re Truly Thankful For

Grab your tissues and nasal aspirators! It’s the most sniffly time of the year.

Like most parents, the thought of cold season probably strikes fear in your heart. For good reason. Infants can get seven colds in their first year alone, the Mayo Clinic says, all of which can seriously disrupt sleep. Even if your child is a star snoozer, a cold could result in odd sleep hours, multiple nighttime wakeups and increased clinginess around bedtime.

So what can you do about getting your little one’s sleep on track when a cold strikes? According to Dr. Haviva Veler, director of the Weill Cornell Pediatric Sleep Center, not much. At least, not right away.

“You can’t really control their sleep during a cold or the flu,” Dr. Veler says. “You just have to treat them and help them get through it.”

That often means putting sleep training and bedtime routines on hold for a week to 10 days, rushing to your baby’s bedside when they cry at night and giving them the comfort they need without necessarily worrying about negative sleep associations. There are also some practical things you can do to aid sleep during a cold. A saline spray and nasal aspirator can help stuffy noses breathe better at night. And a humidifier can ensure the air in the nursery stays moist.

Once the cold has bid your baby adieu, that’s when it’s time to focus on getting sleep on track again. Bring back the bedtime routine, as well as any sleep training methods you implemented prior to the cold. Beware: your baby may resist at first.

“When babies get sick, you have to respond to them at night and they very quickly get used to that,” says Dr. Cory Kercher, assistant professor of pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College. “They’re used to waking up in the middle of the night and you coming to help them. So you have to retrain them so they can sleep through the night without you.”

Have no fear, though. If your infant slept through the night before a cold, they should be able to do so again after a cold.

“Things will throw off their schedule all the time,” says Dr. Kercher. “Let them feel better. And then get back to normal.”

Do you have a plan of attack when your baby gets a cold? Share your parenting tips and tricks with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Nanit is dedicated to delivering high-quality, reliable content for our readers. Our Parent Confidently articles are crafted by experienced parenting contributors and are firmly rooted in data and research. To ensure the accuracy and relevance of the content, all articles undergo a rigorous review process by our team of parenting experts. Additionally, our wellness-related content receives further scrutiny from Nanit Lab, our think tank of scientists, engineers, physicians, academic experts, and thought leaders.

Our primary objective is to furnish readers with the most current, trustworthy, and actionable information concerning a host of parenting topics. We strive to empower our readers to make informed decisions by offering comprehensive and respected insights.

In pursuit of transparency and credibility, our articles incorporate credible third-party sources, peer-reviewed studies, and abstracts. These sources are directly linked within the text or provided at the bottom of the articles to grant readers easy access to the source material.


Natalie Barnett, PhD serves as VP of Clinical Research at Nanit. Natalie initiated sleep research collaborations at Nanit and in her current role, Natalie oversees collaborations with researchers at hospitals and universities around the world who use the Nanit camera to better understand pediatric sleep and leads the internal sleep and development research programs at Nanit. Natalie holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New England in Australia and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pediatric Sleep Science from the University of Western Australia. Natalie was an Assistant Professor in the Neurogenetics Unit at NYU School of Medicine prior to joining Nanit. Natalie is also the voice of Nanit's science-backed, personalized sleep tips delivered to users throughout their baby's first few years.

Kristy Ojala is Nanit’s Digital Content Director. She spends way too much time looking at maps and weather forecasts and pictures of Devon Rex cats and no-cook dinners. A former sleep champion, she strives to share trustworthy somnabulism tips with other parents—praying for that one fine day when no tiny humans wake her up while it’s still dark out. Her kids highly recommend 3 books, approximately 600 stuffies, Chopin’s “Nocturnes,” and the Nanit Sound + Light for bedtime success.

Mackenzie Sangster is on the Brand and Community team at Nanit. She supports content development and editing for Nanit’s Parent Confidently blog as well as other marketing initiatives. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her friends, cooking, being active, and using the Pro + Flex Duo to keep an eye on her fur-baby, Poppy!

Holly Hays is a contributor and writer for Nanit, channeling her years as a mama and former magazine editor to create fun, useful content for fellow busy, trying-to-do-their-best parents and caregivers. Holly has written for a wide range of brands and media outlets (Ergobaby, HGTV, Manhattan Toy Company, OXO), loves to cook and read mystery novels, and leans heavily on her two daughters to keep her up to date on all the latest slang.