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Q&A with Our Experts: Allergens, Pollen, and the Impact on Sleep

By: SleepScore Labs  |  July 15th, 2019

Have questions around allergens, pollen, and how they can impact your sleep? In a recent SleepScore Twitter Chat, our sleep experts and others in the sleep community answered your biggest questions on the topic. And in case you missed the chat, you can check out all the Q’s and A’s here!


Q1: How do allergens and pollen impact our sleep? 

Dr. Nate Watson: Allergens and pollen can congest your upper airway and contribute to problems such as breathing at night, such as obstructive sleep apnea.   

Dr. Roy Raymann: Note that most common OTC anti-allergy medications can impact sleep as well. So-called antihistamines can make you feel sleepy, whereas pseudoephedrine can keep you awake.  


Q: Can air purifiers help? 

Dr. Roy Raymann: If you feel you’re facing seasonal allergies. Make sure you and the air in the bedroom is free from particles that trigger allergies. Keep the windows closed or use an air purifier. A shower at night helps to be dust free and night and keep your clothes outside the bedroom.  

Dr. Nate Watson: Air purifiers can help with allergies by removing pollen, mold spores, pet dander, dust, and other microscopic allergens from your bedroom environment. Just make sure it includes a HEPA filter.  

Dr. Michael Grandner: It depends on the source of the allergen and the quality of the air filter. For many particles in the air, a purifier may remove them. It works for a lot of people, but not everyone! 


Q:  I definitely have allergies. Is there a product you would recommend to help for sleep? 

Dr. Roy Raymann: Anti allergic bedding, a good vacuum, an air purifier and a de-humidifier (when in a humid climate) can all help. And keep your pets away from your bedroom.  


Q: How do allergies affect snoring? Is it common for some people to only snore during allergy season? 

Dr. Roy Raymann: The nasal congestion that mostly comes with the allergy can cause the upper airway to narrow and as such increases the risk of snoring and apnea events.  


Q: Why do I feel so sleepy when I get allergies?  

Dr. Roy Raymann: During allergies, the immune response causes the release of so-called histamines and also cytokines and these cytokines are responsible for the feeling of being fatigued or sleepy.  


Q: Is there any type of bedding material that would help? 

Dr. Roy Raymann: If your allergy is triggered by dust mites, you can buy special dust mite covers for your mattress. 


Q: Can allergies worsen at night? 

Dr. Nate Watson: Allergies can narrow the upper airway and cause airflow resistance. This can fragment sleep and make sleep less refreshing by causing arousals. Allergy related inflammation may also contribute to sleepiness and fatigue.  

Dr. Roy Raymann: You are specifically allergic to the allergens that are in the bedroom (like mold or mites), you are specifically allergic to pollen that have high counts at nighttime, or at nighttime some anti allergic control process of the body dip, and you might experience more complaints as a consequence.  


Q: I take Flonase for allergies, but wonder should I avoid doing so before bed since it is a type of steroid? 

Dr. Michael Grandner: Good question! I don’t know of any insomnia effects from fluticasone. But if it causes insomnia, then behavioral approaches like stimulus control should help!  

Dr. Nate Watson: Flonase is great for chronic nasal congestion and can help open the nasal airway at night. Generally speaking, it should not be problematic to take before bedtime.   


Q: For someone who doesn’t have allergies, would a mouth guard help me achieve a better night’s rest? Or do I need to blow my nose harder? 

Dr. Roy Raymann: Mouth guards are considered interventions for snoring and/or teeth grinding. Trying to clear your nose before bedtime might be a better option for you.  

Dr. Michael Grandner: Possibly. But a mouth guard will be best for preventing teeth grinding. Rarely, they can push the jaw forward and open the airway. Some other products (like nasal dilators/vents) help specifically with the airway. But they are more for more localized and minor problems.  


Q: What are some expert tips to deal with allergies? 

Dr. Roy Raymann: Don’t forget the pets as being one of your sleep thieves. Not only do they have a different sleep pattern as compared to humans (and love to jump on your bed at night) but they can also cause and worsen allergies. So find them a good spot to sleep outside your bedroom.   

Dr. Nate Watson: Remember to prioritize sleep and focus on the quality of your wakefulness rather than the quantity.  


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