It seems to be self-evident: If I have a cold, I stay at home, snug under my bed cover, drink a lot of tea and either sleep and let myself be distracted by a book or a movie, until I don’t feel weak anymore.

But is there evidence that this actually speeds up the recovery? To what extent? Is it only necessary to rest physically (e.g. stay in bed, but do work there), or should I relax completely for a quick recover?

3 Answers 3


There is no evidence to suggest that rest has any influence on rate of recovery. However, fluids do help.

There are almost no 'cures' for common cold. However, a variety of remedies do work to lessen the symptoms that we are only too well aware of (malaise, aches, fatigue, irritation, etc). And these remedies are not universal. People have sets of highly personalised and mostly diet based remedies that seem to take the edge off the unpleasantness associated with cold.

Hot teas, tea with lemon and/or honey, chicken soup have all been documented anecdotally to contribute to early recovery. And like your own experience, taking rest and your mind off the cold do helps 'hasten' time before you get well again.

Hope this answers your question.

  • It does. It would of course be better to have “evidence of no influence” than “no evidence of influcene”. I’m sure that empoyers’ associations would be happy to fund such a study :-) Oct 30, 2016 at 14:28
  • 1
    Is there no evidence because it hasn't been formally studied? Or is there, as @JoachimBreitner said, "evidence of no influence", from a citable study. Please provide a reference.
    – neerajt
    Oct 31, 2016 at 1:38
  • 1
    It would be great if you could add a reference supporting your answer
    – Prince
    Nov 1, 2016 at 1:24

There is a study that the amount of sleep is associated with the probability of getting infected by the common cold. The researchers attribute the finding to the impaired functioning of the immune system, when sleeping less. This may not answer your question directly, but it is related.

Logistic regression analysis revealed that actigraphy-assessed shorter sleep duration was associated with an increased likelihood of development of a clinical cold. Specifically, those sleeping < 5 h (odds ratio [OR] = 4.50, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.08–18.69) or sleeping between 5 to 6 h (OR = 4.24, 95% CI, 1.08–16.71) were at greater risk of developing the cold compared to those sleeping > 7 h per night; those sleeping 6.01 to 7 h were at no greater risk (OR = 1.66; 95% CI 0.40–6.95). This association was independent of prechallenge antibody levels, demographics, season of the year, body mass index, psychological variables, and health practices.

(emphasis mine)

The study identifies 6h of sleep as the threshold under which catching the infection becomes more likely. To try and explain this phenomenon, the researchers cite studies that have shown that lack of sleep can disturb the effectiveness of the immune system:

Sleep, along with circadian rhythms, exerts substantial regulatory effects on the immune system.42,43 Circulating immune cells, including T and B cells, peak early in the night and then decline throughout the nocturnal hours moving out of circulation into lymphoid organs where exposure to virally infected cells occur.43–45 Studies employing experimental sleep loss also support functional changes relevant to host resistance. Sleep deprivation results in down regulation in T cell production of interleukin-219,44 and a shift away from T-helper 1 responses, marked by a reduction in the ratio of interferon-γ/IL-4 production.16 Sleep loss is associated with diminished proliferative capacity of T cells in vitro15 as well as modulation of the function of antigen presenting cells critical to virus uptake.46


Prather AA; Janicki-Deverts D; Hall MH, Cohen S. Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Sleep. 2015;38(9):1353-59


Actually, resting does influence the recovery time of a common cold.

It's one of the first pieces of advice you get when you're sick, but we can never stress it enough: give your body time to fight off the virus, and don't waste that energy elsewhere. A number of studies found that sleep deprivation results in poorer immune function. Not only do good sleep habits help you fight off a cold, but they will even increase your resistance to catching one in the first place. So, if you're sick, it's important to get plenty of rest—but don't neglect it when you're healthy either. Make sure this is quality sleep, too: drugs like NyQuil contain alcohol, and we already know what that does to your sleep cycle. You'll fall asleep quickly, but you won't get the deep sleep you need to get better


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