Although cold sore outbreaks are byproduct of different triggers, there is no doubt that lack of sleep alone can also cause cold sores. Because sleep deprivation and insomnia have a direct impact on your immune system, not sleeping enough can introduce a host of health issues.

Every high-powered engine needs fuel. For the human body, this includes food, drink, and sleep. Unfortunately, many of us fail to get the rest we need on a regular basis. The harmful aspect is that those missed hours add up, leaving you fatigued and vulnerable to back-to-back cold sores.

That’s right, people who get insufficient sleep tend to get frequent cold sores. There is a difference between restless sleep and high-quality uninterrupted sleep. Have you ever opened your eyes in the morning and found yourself feeling more tired than you were when you went to bed?

In this guide, we’re going to describe how a lack of sleep can compromise your body’s ability to fight off the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). We’ll also provide some tips on how to improve your sleep environment so that you can get the rest that your body needs.

What Does Not Sleeping Do to the Body? 

If your sleepless nights continue for weeks or months, it will take a heavy toll on your health. When you are only able to sneak in 3-4 hours of sleep per night your body will be fatigued and run down. Depletion of your immune system is just one of the many core issues that can arise.

Your immune system releases proteins known as cytokines during sleep. These proteins promote sleep. This means that you will never receive a proper amount of them unless you are asleep.

Specific cytokines are needed when your body is faced with an infection, injury, extreme stress, etc. When you are suffering from insomnia, these cytokines are unavailable. Additionally, the number of antibodies needed to fight disease and infection is reduced.

You have probably been told as a child that sleep helps your body recharge. That is why you needed it and were not allowed to stay up half the night as a youth. It is indeed true. Without proper sleep, your body is at a constant disadvantage when it comes to protecting your immune system from harm. Lack of sleep can also have a massive impact on your daily productivity.

To summarize:

  • Insomnia can gradually harm your immune system. A lack of sleep can “turn off” valuable proteins and antibodies that are produced. Without them, you will not be able to defend yourself from bacterial and viral attacks. It is even possible that some inflammation processes get worse due to insomnia.
  • Insomnia can also lead to the inability to complete daily tasks. Perpetual fatigue and a lack of focus are the hallmarks of insomnia during the waking hours. Feeling sluggish all of the time can prevent you from putting your best foot forward.

Will Sleep Deprivation Cause Cold Sores?

Sleep deprivation can lead to cold sores because your immune health has been compromised.[1] If you are getting a minimal amount of sleep, those missed hours will add up. Your body will no longer be able to protect you from specific health concerns, such as cold sores.

If your sleep problems are being caused by the demands placed on your personal and professional life, you need to make some lifestyle changes. Attempting to burn the candle at both ends can be dangerous in the long-term. Look at your own life and seek a better balance.

Factors that Cause Sleeplessness, Fatigue, and Exhaustion

While there is virtually an endless number of things that can lead to sleepiness, there are also some common causes. During an average day, many demands are likely placed on you. Listed below are five things that can result in sleep deprivation:


The daily grind of holding down a job can leave you taxed in other areas. This includes sleep. Depending on your occupation, it is not uncommon to place your job above most of everything else. Many times this is not done in a deliberately harmful way but one out of necessity.

Attempting to “make a life” can often result in your inability, at least for a time, to be able to enjoy it. Lack of sleep is often a byproduct of hard and intense job requirements and expectations.


The rollercoaster of your personal life can play a role in sleep habits. Whether the struggle is rooted in happiness or sadness, the inability to turn off your mind while in bed can be a negative. A failure to strike a balance can result in a sleep crisis.


Are you choosing to avoid sleep? Are you staying up too late to enjoy the pleasures of life? It is important to know that not all types of fatigue and sleep deprivation are caused by external forces. Some people want to enjoy the waking hours as much as possible.

It is not uncommon for some people to thrive on limited sleep by choice. In the long-term perspective, this is not a good habit to adopt. A lack of sleep is still just that, regardless of how you slice it. The personal decision to avoid sleep is the most straightforward “sleep issue” to rectify.


Both personal and professional issues can lead to stress. The inability to relax during the sleeping hours can result in a night of tossing and turning. Concerns and worries, some of which might even be unfounded, can get the best of your during your quest to sleep.

If anxiety and stress have entered the fold, the best thing to do is to address those concerns. The ability to change what you can control while ignoring the rest is a valuable life lesson. This is particularly important because stress can cause cold sores.


Eating the wrong foods can lead to a perpetual state of fatigue and sleeplessness. Harmful sodas, fast food, junk food, etc., can introduce a host of health issues. Sluggishness being just one. Additionally, high sugar intake can result in the inability to relax. If you have a routine of eating an unhealthy snack before bed, this can result in many sleepless and uncomfortable nights.

Simply adjusting your diet, even to a moderate degree, can take a lot of pressure off your body. Increasing your water intake (during the day) is also an excellent way to flush out your system and introduce a more relaxing state of wellness.

Will I get cold sores if I am tired and fatigued?

How Do I Avoid Feeling Tired All the Time?

There are several things you can do to avoid feeling tired during the day. While various life changes can be made to your schedule, so preparing for sleep is also essential. The ability to “engage” in sleep is critical. Just walking to the bedroom could be your biggest problem.

Let’s examine…

Improved Nightly Sleep Routine

Developing a positive sleep routine can help to ensure a complete night’s sleep. Becoming a creature of habit is not a bad thing in this regard. Allowing your body to embrace a pre-sleep routine can serve as a cue that is it time to shut things down. This routine could involve listening to soft music, reading a book, taking a relaxing shower, etc.

Total Darkness in Bedroom

Setting the mood of sleep in your bedroom is critical. Creating the right environment is just as important as your frame of mind. Embracing total darkness can help your body to relax. Blackout curtains can help you if sleep deprivation has become a chronic issue.

White Noise Machines to Block Out Sound

The use of a white noise machine can also be useful if you are easily distracted by random sounds during the night. If you live in an apartment complex and have heavy-footed neighbors upstairs, it can be difficult to relax.

The introduction of a white noise machine can potentially be a valuable tool if harsh external sounds have become an issue for you.

Ear Plugs for Blocking out Snoring

Another way to eliminate unwanted noise is with the use of earplugs. If you have a partner who snores, this can come in handy. In fact, earplugs can come in handy for your own snoring. It is not uncommon for some people to be awakened by their own snoring.

Any tool that can improve relaxation (in a safe manner) is a plus. Quality earplugs can create a more peaceful environment and provide relief.

Comfortable Room Temperature

It is vital that your bedroom has a relaxing environment. Ensuring a relaxed atmosphere should always begin with the temperature of your room. It is difficult for most anyone to fall asleep with conditions that are not comforting. If your skin is not comfortable and you are potentially sweating due to heat, sleep is likely the last thing on your mind.

Ideally, your bedroom temperature should be just under 70 degrees. Perhaps even as low as 65 during the warmest part of the year. The goal is to achieve comfort. Find what that means to you and make sure your bedroom is the perfect comfort zone.

Comfortable Bedding and Pillows

Having comfortable bedding and pillows is critical for sound sleep. The last thing you want is to “fear” your bed because it feels like a pile of rocks. The thought of sleep should bring you relaxing thoughts. Your bed should never be a place of dread.

Having quality and comfortable bedding can play a significant role in sleep quality. It is entirely possible that a large percentage of your tossing and turning could be related to your mattress and all of your surroundings.

Relaxation Techniques

The ability to place yourself in a mental and emotional state for sleep is crucial. Introducing some “quiet time” before entering your bedroom can help you set the mood for sleep. Relaxation techniques can allow you to turn your mind off.

The stress of the daily grind can often get the best of you. If you can become detached from your obligations and focus on peace and comfort, you will have a better chance of making the most of your sleep hours. Freeing your mind through meditation can be helpful.

Can Exercise Improve Quality of Sleep?

Exercise can play a critical role in the quality of your sleep.[2] Pushing your body on a daily basis will not only improve your overall health but also introduce a deeper state of fatigue. This is a good thing. The body is designed to be fresh, drained, and then recharged.

Engaging in activities that will help you physically yet also result in a state of tiredness is a positive. Are you going to bed because you feel obligated or are you going to bed because you are tired? Introducing a healthy exercise routine can fulfill your mind and body in many ways.

To summarize:

  • Exercise can improve almost every aspect of your health. Not just your physical needs. Exercise can introduce a “healthy fatigue” that makes it much easier to sleep naturally.
  • There’s a difference between a sluggish tired and a healthy tired. Being able to exercise daily for 30 minutes can do wonders for your body.
  • Exercise can decrease anxiety, symptoms of depression, and arousal. Insomnia shares a common link with all three concerns.

Does not getting sufficient sleep cause cold sores?

Can Foods Help Me Sleep Better?

Several foods do contain active ingredients that can promote quality sleep. While it is best to refrain from foods right before bed, consuming a small snack several hours before sleep can be helpful.

Listed below are just a few food/drink items that can be helpful. These snacks all contain ingredients that can calm and relax the body. Some selections even include ingredients that can help you fall asleep faster.

  • Almonds. These are high in magnesium which can help in the sleeping process. Studies have shown that low magnesium levels can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Eating just a handful of almonds a few hours before bed can be beneficial.
  • Walnuts. These contain a sleep-enhancing amino acid known as tryptophan. This crucial ingredient helps to set your internal clock for your sleep-wake cycles. Additionally, walnuts can also help you fall asleep faster, so consider eating walnuts as your day comes to a close.
  • Dairy products. These can promote sleep while also regulating muscle movements which will allow the body to relax. Calcium, tryptophan, and the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin can be found in cheese, milk, and yogurt. Trying having some basic cheese and crackers as your nightly sleep snack. If you don’t get enough of these through your diet, you can take a melatonin supplement.

Other sleep options include pretzels, rice, tuna, cherry juice, lettuce, non-sugar breakfast cereal, and chamomile tea.

What If I Can’t Sleep Due to Cold Sore Pain? 

If the pain of your cold sore is keeping you awake, it is vital to numb the area safely. While there is no need to take drastic measures, you can achieve success through various treatments.

  • FDA approved OTC selections, such as the Virulite Electronic Device and HERP-B-GONE.
  • Cold compress or ice. Never apply ice directly to the sore. Always wrap it to some degree to avoid a burn.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications (Ibuprofen)
  • Aloe Vera gel
  • Prescription antiviral medications (acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir)

While a lack of sleep can trigger cold sores, it can also increase the stay of a current sore. If your immune system has been compromised, your healing time could be prolonged. Applying treatment at the tingling stage of a cold sore is always the best course of action.


  1. Marin M, Harpaz R, Zhang J, Wollan PC, Bialek SR, Yawn BP. Risk Factors for Herpes Zoster Among Adults. Open Forum Infectious Diseases. 2016;3(3):ofw119. doi:10.1093/ofid/ofw119.
  2. Chennaoui M, Arnal PJ, Sauvet F, Leger D. Sleep and exercise: a reciprocal issue? Sleep Med Rev. 2015; 20:59–72. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2014.06.008.