The Curiosity Shop

Gravity and the Common Cold

There are three observations that I have made about head colds. For those who want to get right to the point and move on there is a list below. For those who want to know the basis of my thoughts, read on past the list.

  1. Do not go to bed with wet hair if you are run down, have been around sick people, or have any other reason to be at increased risk of getting sick.
  2. Do not put the head of your bed under a window.
  3. If you have, or are getting, a sore throat then sleep with your nose angled down.

Sleep With Your Nose Down:

When I was in my late teens I got quite a few colds for a while, and with most of them came a sore throat. I hate sore throats. At some point I started thinking about what I could do to make them less uncomfortable. It occured to me that my throat might be getting sore because of sinus drainage running down my throat. There wasn't much I could do about that if I was walking around doing things, but at night I could try to keep the back of my throat higher than the end of my nose and let the the germ filled fluid run out my nose rather than down my throat. I angled my head off the end of my pillow, put a couple handkerchiefs under my nose to catch the drips, and let gravity do the rest.

People normally move around a lot at night, and I wasn't even sure at first if I wouldn't wind up on my back shortly after falling asleep. As it turned out I didn't move my head much at all. I tended to sleep more lightly, often becoming at least partially awake when I felt the need to move, and I moved but kept my nose pointed down.

That did the trick for the first night or two of a cold. I might have some discomfort in my throat for a day, but sleeping with my nose down almost always diminished it and then eliminated the sore throat by the second day. Even though I tended to not sleep as soundly, I felt much better on average. The best thing, and quite unexpected, was that after the first couple of nights I could sleep on my back, or any way at all, and my throat would not get sore again though I was still sick. My guess is that it had developed resistence to the germs, but that's just a guess.

A few years ago I heard a doctor talking about colds and sore throats on the radio. He said that a nose will run in the presence of certain irritants and that germs have evolved to use this to their advantage to spread themselves down your throat. It seems more likely to me that back before there were humans, our ancestors may have evolved so as to wash the germs out of their noses as a first defense against them. That's what would happen if we were walking around on all fours. Then we evolved to stand on our rear legs and sleep on our backs at times, and what had been a helpful trait became somewhat less than helpful, but remained none the less.

I still get colds, and occasionally I get sore throats, but they are never so sore that I dread swallowing, and that's what I most wanted to avoid. I sleep with my nose down when I begin to feel sick and I believe that I have suffered much less over the years because of it.

Don't Put the Head of Your Bed Under a Window:

Bedrooms are often built so that it is most convenient to place the head of the bed under, or nearly under, a window. That's how we placed my first daughter's bed. In the winter she got a lot of colds. After some thought we moved the bed and she got colds much less frequently.

Before my second wife and I were married she got lots of colds in the winter. Sometimes she would no more get over one than she would get another. Her daughter's complained that she was always getting sick. I suggested that she move her bed out from under the bedroom window to an inside wall, and suddenly the number of colds she got in the winter went way down and has stayed that way.

What is the connection? In the winter it is cold outside most nights, even here in Texas. Even with our thermo-pane windows the glass gets cold, and that makes the air just inside the window cold. Cold air is heavier than the rest of the air in the room and gravity causes it to flow down from the window onto the bed and your head, if they happen to be below the window.

People used to believe that cold makes you sick. Of course bacteria and viruses are what make you sick and there is no more of them in cold air than in warm air. So what's the connection?

I'm no doctor, so you may want to ignore my following statements, but I believe cold temperatures lower your resistence to the germs that are already there, everywhere. They are present in small numbers that your body can normally handle, but having a cold head can give you a disadvantage in fighting them. From my observations of myself, I think my resistence is also lower when I'm asleep. Most colds I get are not there when I go to sleep, but I wake up with them. So if my resistence is already low at night, I sure don't want to make it even lower by letting cold air flow over my head, into my nose, sinuses, and throat on winter nights.

Wet Hair:

That's why I don't go to bed with my hair wet in the winter, when I've had too little sleep, or when there's any other reason to think my resistence to illness is low. The evaporation makes my head colder than it would be otherwise, at least until my hair dries. That's OK during the day, but at night when my resistance is already lowered it's not. t That's my best guess at what's going on anyway.


I believe I have a reasonably logical mind and fairly good powers of observation and I wanted to share with others the benefits I believe I have gained from these obsevations. In other words, I'm trying to do you a favor. I don't like colds and I don't like filling myself with drugs that mostly do nothing for me or prolong my suffering. If you feel the same way maybe these observations will help you.


Most of the statements above are first hand obsevations of events regarding my health and that of members of my family. I am not a medical doctor, and conclusions from the facts I have obseved stand some chance of being wrong. Any actions you may take based on my observations should be done at your own risk. Draw your own conclusions with your logical mind or that of your doctor. And PLEASE don't blame me if you get a cold.

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