Sniffles, sneezing, itchy eyes, and a scratchy throat – these are just a few of the allergy symptoms that can leave you feeling lousy. If these symptoms sound all too familiar to you, you are in good company! According to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology, the prevalence of allergies is on the rise. Up to 40% of the population is sensitive to foreign particles like pollen, dust, or dander.
Research has found that allergies could also be keeping you up at night. Some studies have found that those with allergies are twice as likely to have a sleep disorder and find it more difficult to fall asleep. In many cases, allergy symptoms tend to worsen at night. Nasal congestion can make it difficult to breathe and can trigger more high-risk issues like sleep apnea and asthma.
Specific allergens are more likely to contribute to sleep disturbances. Fortunately, there are ways to remedy this, and you can reduce your allergies and start getting the sleep you deserve.
Sleep Disorders and Allergies
Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, occurs when your immune system reacts to airborne allergens. This triggers symptoms like nasal congestion, itchy nose, sneezing, watery eyes, or coughing.
In a French study, researchers examined the prevalence of sleep disorders in those with allergic rhinitis and those without. They wanted to see if there was a significant relationship between allergic rhinitis and sleep quality.
The results confirmed the researcher's hypothesis. The results found that only 16% of those without allergies had insomnia, where 36% of people with allergies had it – over twice as many! Further, 18% of those without allergies reported difficulty falling asleep, where 42% of those with allergies had trouble falling asleep. Lastly, 25% of non-allergy participants reported not getting enough sleep, where 63% of those with allergies reported not getting enough sleep!
The researchers found that not only do those with allergies suffer from sleep disorders, but the more severe their allergy symptoms were, the worse their sleep troubles were. Allergies can cause a number of different sleep issues, such as:
- Poor sleep efficiency
- Increased snoring
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Trouble falling asleep
- Less sleep
- Increased risk of sleep apnea
- Groggy mornings
Allergies affect sleep quality because of their impact on your breathing. When allergens enter your nasal passage, it triggers sneezing and congestion, which can worsen at night when you lay down. Even if you can fall asleep, this can wake you up in the night, reducing sleep quality.
Obstructive sleep apnea is also associated with allergies. This occurs when the upper airway becomes obstructed, and not enough air gets in, causing the diaphragm and chest muscles to strain. If you also experience a choking or gasping feeling that wakes you up, night sweating, sore throat, or excessive snoring, you should speak with your health care provider.
Common Allergens That Disrupt Sleep
Certain allergens will make your symptoms worse at night. Here are some of the most common allergens that affect sleep:
Cold and damp temperatures with little ventilation are prone to mold. Those who are allergic to mold spores may find they have seasonal allergies. You can prevent mold from growing in your bathroom or bedroom by ensuring your space has adequate ventilation. You can also prevent growth by thoroughly wiping down surfaces, using a dehumidifier, or increasing the temperature in the room. Mold can also grow in your washing machine or on clothes if they aren’t dried properly.
Cockroaches come with a collection of issues and are more prominent in certain areas. Their saliva, waste, and bodies contain a protein that triggers hay-fever-like symptoms in those who are allergic. Keep your home clean, seal off garbage cans and keep food secure to prevent attracting cockroaches. If there is an infestation, you will likely need professional help and to complete a very thorough cleaning to remove any traces of the protein.
Your dog or cat probably feels like a member of the family, and they may cozy up to you at night. Although it may feel great to snuggle up with your fur baby, it could be making your allergies worse. One of the most common household allergens is pet dander. These reactions are usually triggered by contact like them licking your hand or petting them, and then touching your face. Pets can also bring in allergens from outside. Pollen, grass, and even fleas can be the cause of your allergies. To reduce these allergies, wash your hands after petting them and bathe them in a hypoallergenic shampoo. If they sleep on your bed, be sure to clean bedding often and try not to let them sleep near your millet hulls pillow!
These three allergens are not the only causes of allergy disrupted sleep. Dust mites are a common cause of night-time allergies and could currently be living in your bedding.
Is your bedding causing your allergies?
If you find your allergies are getting worse when you get into bed, your bedding may be triggering it. One of the most common allergens is dust mites, more specifically, dust mite droppings. Over 20 million Americans suffer from dust mite allergies. You can clean your bedroom and bedding often, and yet you can still have lingering dust mites. These tiny organisms usually thrive in warm, damp conditions like a synthetic comforter or pillow.
Plush down feather and synthetic pillows can trap sweat and heat, making it the perfect home for dust mites. According to the Sleep Foundation, dust buildup can occur in synthetic and feather pillows. Even after washing, they can quickly repopulate. Fortunately, some materials are naturally hypoallergenic and create a dry environment that is inhospitable to fungal spores and dust mites.
A top-quality buckwheat hulls pillow or millet hulls pillow provides exceptional airflow, creating a dry environment that will not allow allergens to collect or attract dust mites. Buckwheat and millet hulls are naturally hypoallergenic, so you won’t start sneezing as soon as you lay down.
Stomach sleepers using down, or synthetic pillows are often face down in their allergen. As you can imagine, this results in severe allergic reactions and can even trigger asthma in some. The best remedy is a stomach sleeper pillow made from latex. A well-made stomach sleeper pillow will have hollow fibers that allow for advanced breathability and flow.
In addition to swapping your feather pillow for a buckwheat hulls pillow or millet hulls pillow, you should wash bedding regularly in hot water. Since you can’t exactly throw your mattress in the washing machine, consider purchasing a sealable cover for your mattress. Vacuuming your mattress and underneath the bed can also help. If you have heavy drapes or carpeting, make sure these are dusted and cleaned regularly. Dust mites can repopulate quickly, so you will need to do this often if you have dust mite allergies.
Ways to Improve Your Sleep
The first step to getting a good night’s rest with allergies is to reduce the allergen. Identify what is causing your allergies and use the tips above, like replacing pillows or increasing your cleaning. To know for sure, speak with your doctor and get an allergy test. This will tell you exactly what you are allergic to and how severe your allergies are.
As mentioned previously, the reason your sleep is disturbed is because of your breathing and congestion. By taking actions to improve your symptoms, you may find yourself having better sleep. Using an air purifier or dehumidifier at night may help reduce allergens and help you sleep better. Keeping windows and doors closed can also help those who are allergic to pollen. If you have spent time outdoors, you could have pollen in your hair or on your skin. Have a shower before bed and put on clean pajamas before getting into bed.
Allergy medication can also be beneficial in reducing symptoms. Saline nasal flushes, steroid nasal sprays, and antihistamines are some of the most common treatments. Nasal decongestant sprays or liquids could give you immediate relief; however, they can potentially cause symptoms to worsen after repeated use. It’s also important to note that some medications like phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine can keep you up at night. If you aren’t sure what medication to take, speak with a pharmacist or doctor first.
Allergies can already make you feel lethargic, but when you aren’t getting enough sleep, they can negatively impact your life! Nasal congestion can worsen at night and even worse; if you are sleeping with the allergens, you will have a lot of trouble getting the sleep you need.
Don’t let allergies wreak havoc on your life. Get yourself a buckwheat hulls pillow, millet hulls pillow or stomach sleeper pillow, and a mattress cover and give your bedroom a thorough cleaning. An anti-allergen bedroom is your best bet for combating nighttime allergies. This will stop allergies from keeping you up at night and allow you to get the sleep you need.