How allergies mess with your sleep and what you can do about it

Seasonal allergies can interfere with your quality of life, whether you’re sniffling, itching and scratching, or coughing. Unpleasant allergic reactions don't only happen during the daytime when you are exposed to the elements, but can also impact the quality of your sleep at night.

The histamine produced by the body to help fight allergens, for example, can keep your brain on high alert at night, making you toss and turn.

Strong links between allergies and sleep

According to an article published in the Journal of Allergy and Immunology, atopic diseases such as asthma and allergic rhinitis are common conditions that can influence sleep, and subsequently your functionality during the daytime.

Research over the past few decades has established strong links between poor quality sleep and seasonal allergies and discovered that more than 50% of those who battle seasonal allergies also suffer from sleep disorders.

Apart from high levels of histamine, problematic breathing and snoring, sometimes leading to sleep apnoea, can also make you toss and turn at night. This not only interferes with your own sleeping patterns, but can also keep your partner awake.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep disturbances are especially common in those with allergic rhinitis, especially when it leads to obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), a sleep disorder where breathing is repeatedly interrupted during your sleep cycle.

"Normal" daytime allergic symptoms, combined with tiredness and lack of concentration caused by OSA, can make life really unpleasant for allergy sufferers. 

Although there is still a lot of research needed on how to improve the quality of sleep in people with allergies, there is medication available that can help give you a better night's rest. 

Take care of your sleep hygiene

While the correct treatment (like anti-histamine and decongestants) can improve allergy symptoms and make you sleep better, there are also some practical tips on how to reduce allergens in the bedroom:

  • Take off your daytime clothes and shoes before bedtime. Don't take your coat and shoes into your bedroom, and don’t place any outer garments on the bedspread.
  • Invest in an air purifier to reduce the amount of allergens in the air.
  • Invest in a mattress cover designed to protect you against allergens such as dust mites.
  • Take a shower at night before getting into bed to reduce allergens on your body.
  • Pay attention to your bedtime routine to help improve sleep – avoid screens at least an hour before bedtime, do something relaxing to help you unwind and make sure that your bedroom is uncluttered.
  • Make sure that medication taken at night won’t interrupt your sleep. The ingredient pseudoephedrine is common in decongestants, but it can make your heart race, cause anxiety and interfere with sleep. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about the side-effects of the medicines you take at night.
  • Try rinsing your sinuses with a saline solution or a neti pot before going to bed, as this will clear mucus and help fight congestion. 

Image credit: iStock

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