Sleeping with Allergies: Are Your Allergies Causing Sleep Issues?

October 18th, 2020

It can be so refreshing to see gardens start to bloom with gorgeous azaleas, gardenias, and rose bushes, but such beauty can also point to the start of allergy season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 20 million adult Americans have been diagnosed with seasonal allergic rhinitis, which is commonly known as hay fever. And allergies are not just about plants — there are other kinds of allergies too!

Seasonal allergies can cause you to sneeze or have itchy nose, eyes, or throat, or a runny or stuffy nose or other symptoms. Dealing with allergy symptoms while you’re awake is challenging, and allergies can affect your night by making it hard to sleep. Allergy symptoms can lead to common sleep issues. Poor sleep, in turn, can lead to feeling fatigued during the day. But don’t lose hope; there are answers for all the allergy sufferers out there! We will dive into the particulars of allergies, how allergies can affect sleep quality, and ways to combat the symptoms so you can sleep, live, and feel better.

Here are some ideas to deal with allergies so you can get the sleep you need:

  • Try an air purifier. Using an air purifier at night has been shown to help sleep, both in people with allergies and people without allergies.
  • Keep doors and windows closed during pollen season. Some allergy sufferers benefit from keeping windows closed when pollen counts are high and using air conditioning at home and in the car.
  • Explore medication options with your doctor. It’s a good idea to schedule an appointment to figure out what kind of allergies you’re currently experiencing and what kind of treatment plan can give you the most relief.

Types of Allergies

Allergies affect people differently depending on a variety of factors such as what you are allergic to, the geographic area where you live, and the time of year. For some people, dealing with seasonal allergies is common. In the United States, seasonal allergies are most common during the spring, summer, or early fall, in response to pollens or mold spores. In contrast, perennial allergies may be allergies related to dust mites. If your allergies seem to be persistent rather than being seasonal, then you might be allergic to dust mites or pet dander. These can lead to trouble staying asleep or falling asleep too.

Allergies and Sleep Issues

Allergy symptoms can wreak havoc on your life—whether awake or asleep. People who have allergies often experience sleep concerns. Sleep is affected because allergens irritate nasal passages, which can make breathing more difficult, and allergies can directly interfere with sleep too. In addition, nasal congestion and other allergy symptoms often are worse during the nighttime. When allergies affect the amount of sleep you get and the quality of your sleep, they can end up having an impact on your quality of life, such as your ability to enjoy daytime activities or be productive at work or school.

The effects of allergies can cause you to experience daily fatigue. And if you’re waking up all night from sneezing and coughing, or are having trouble breathing during your sleep, the fatigue can be considerably worse. These symptoms are detrimental to your sleep and can leave you feeling tired throughout the day and might even cause you to feel generally unwell. A research study on this topic found that people who had allergic rhinitis, compared to people without allergies, took longer to fall asleep, slept for fewer hours at night, and felt sleepier during the day. They were also more likely to drink alcohol or use sedatives. Overall, they had worse sleep quality, which decreased their quality of life.

So, what can you do to be rid of those annoying allergies, so you sleep and feel better?

Talk your Doctor

If you haven’t recently discussed your allergies with your health care provider, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment to figure out what kind of allergies you’re currently experiencing and what kind of treatment plan can give you the most relief. Sometimes over the counter medications, such as antihistamines, will do the trick. Keep in mind that not all medications are safe for children, so be sure to involve a health care provider if your child has allergies.

Reduce Pollen and Dander Exposure

Lifestyle changes can really help people with allergies. For example, some allergy sufferers benefit from keeping windows closed when pollen counts are high and using air conditioning at home and in the car. For some people with pets, their allergies improve when they have their animal companions sleep outside of the bedroom. If this applies to you, consider creating a nice place for your pet to sleep at night that is in a different part of your home rather than the bedroom. Keeping pets out of the bedroom during the daytime can help too, because it will reduce pet hair and dander. Don’t forget to wash your hands after petting your fuzzy companions to prevent allergens and dander from moving onto your nose or eyes. Showering before bed can also help in removing any pollen and dander that you may have attracted, leading to a cleaner nighttime routine. You might also consider investing in an air purifier to reduce allergens that come from pets.

Clean the Air for Better Sleep

Using an air purifier at night has been shown to help sleep, both in people with allergies and people without allergies. Air pollutants are known to worsen various allergies. Common allergens include dust mites, mold, and pet dander. These allergens can sometimes be found in bedding such as pillows, sheets, and mattresses. Pollen can be present indoors as well as outdoors, and certain types of pollen have higher counts at nighttime compared to daytime. Air purifiers can effectively remove these types of particles from the bedroom environment to alleviate allergies during sleep.

Some air purifiers, such as the Alen BreatheSmart line, emit a type of sound called pink noise, which can contribute to better sleep along with the air purification function of the product. The Alen BreatheSmart 45i was shown to improve sleep in two separate studies conducted by SleepScore Labs, particularly among the people in the study who reported poorer sleep quality. In the first study, 96% of the research participants felt that using the Alen air purifier improved their allergy symptoms, and 93% reported that the Alen air purifier helped them sleep better. In the second study, objective sleep measurement showed a statistically significant increase in sleep quality during the nights when the research participants used the air purifier in their bedroom, compared to the nights during the study when they did not use the air purifier.

Every allergy case is different, and often a combination of treatments and strategies will be needed. Therefore, you may need to go through some trial and error to learn what is best for you. Allergies can certainly impact your sleep, but if you stay proactive and reach out to your health care provider for help, you can start taking steps now to control your allergies and get the sleep that your body needs.


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