Spring is here and at SinuSonic we're really looking forward to the warm weather and spending some time outside with family and friends. But if you suffer from seasonal allergies, springtime may not be as fun for you as it is for others.
Seasonal allergies are challenging to deal with during the day. But if you experience nighttime allergies, then you've probably lost sleep over them. And when you lose sleep over your allergies, you spend the next day feeling sluggish, sleep-deprived, and foggy— as well as itchy, sneezy, and congested.
But it doesn't have to be that way, your allergies don’t have to ruin your sleep. It's possible to get a good night's sleep even if you suffer from nighttime allergies. All it takes are a few easy lifestyle changes. But first, let's take a look at common irritants that make you sneeze and clog your sinuses.
Common Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal allergies can be caused by a wide variety of irritants and allergens. Common causes of seasonal allergies include:
- Mold spores
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
Seasonal allergic rhinitis— better known as hay fever— is a common condition many people experience during the spring and summer. When you're exposed to allergens, your sinuses can become inflamed.
Seasonal allergies can occur any time during the year, but your symptoms may depend on environmental allergens that are prominent at different times of the year. For example, different pollen may appear at different times of the year depending on what plants are in bloom. You can visit the website pollen.com to see what’s in bloom near you.
Some allergies— such as mold, dust, or animal dander— can take place year-round. This is called perennial allergic rhinitis.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies but aren't sure what causes them, your doctor or an allergist can help. They'll examine your medical history and run a few tests to see which allergens you have a reaction to.
What is Non-Allergic Rhinitis?
Non-allergic rhinitis refers to symptoms similar to hay fever or nasal allergies, but without a specific cause.
Just like seasonal allergies, symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis include:
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Nasal congestion
- Postnasal drip
The causes of non-allergic rhinitis are unknown, but they’re most commonly triggered by environmental irritants. Some of these include:
- Fumes from cleaning solutions
- Perfumes and fragrances
- Car exhaust
- Cigarette smoke
Other potential causes for non-allergic rhinitis include prescription drugs, hormone changes, alcohol, and eating spicy foods. However, it’s important to note that reactions caused by non-allergic rhinitis are not caused by your immune system.
No matter what causes your nighttime symptoms though, it’s vital to keep them under control. Your chances of getting a good night’s sleep may depend on it.
Common Allergy Symptoms
Regardless of the source of your allergies, most allergy symptoms mimic cold symptoms. These symptoms may include:
- Runny nose
- Watery or itchy eyes
- Sinus pain
- A runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy skin
How Allergies Can Ruin Sleep
It’s clear that your allergy symptoms can easily ruin a good night’s sleep, but how do they do it?
The familiar symptoms you feel during allergy season— sneezing, watery eyes, congestion, et cetera— are your body's immune response to the intruding allergens.
As a result of exposure to allergens, your body fights these irritants at night and can make it harder for you to fall asleep or stay asleep. This is because your body is putting valuable energy towards fighting the allergens, rather than winding down for sleep.
When these irritants enter your body through your nasal passages, they trigger those symptoms.
Allergy symptoms can hinder your ability to breathe easily— in particular, nasal congestion or a stuffy nose makes it more difficult to breathe during sleep.
Breathing problems caused by nasal congestion can cause nighttime awakenings, insomnia, and fragmented sleep also.
Airway resistance from allergies can increase the risk of sleep-disordered breathing like snoring, as well as fragmented sleep. These symptoms can become especially problematic if you have a breathing disorder like asthma as well as nighttime allergies.
When you have nighttime allergies you may also wake yourself up in the middle of the night because of a sneezing or coughing fit.
Prolonged sleep interruptions from nighttime allergies can also disrupt your sleep cycle, causing daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, learning problems, and reduced quality of life.
Nighttime Allergies and Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorders are often underreported in people who experience nighttime allergies. One reason may be because the disorder is attributed to the allergies alone. Many people are undiagnosed and don't realize they have a sleep disorder.
If you have a sleep disorder like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea, then it's especially important to treat and alleviate nighttime allergy symptoms. That’s because sleep disorders are very common in both adults and children who suffer from nighttime allergies.
There are a number of reasons for this, but a common reason seasonal allergies contribute to or are challenging for people with insomnia or sleep apnea is nasal congestion.
It’s difficult to sleep when you can’t breathe.
Congestion makes it more difficult to fall asleep, and often causes you to wake up often throughout the night which worsens insomnia.
If you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), your congestion can increase the number of obstructions and lead to longer pauses in breath while you sleep. This is supported by research published in the American Review of Respiratory Disease which found that sleep apnea patients with allergies have apneas more frequently and for a longer duration than patients without allergies.
Seasonal allergies are known for irritating the nasal cavities, but they can also irritate your adenoids, the tissue high in the throat, and tonsils. This irritation causes your tonsils and adenoids to grow larger which can contribute to a blocked airway.
More than Dust Bunnies: The Connection Between Home Dust Mites and Poor Sleep
A study published by the Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology journal observed 1750 participants— 907 adults and 843 children over age 5. The study aimed to characterize the sleep problems associated with one of the most common allergies of all— home dust mites.
Allergies to dust mites are hard to avoid because they are so prevalent in your home— not just on furniture like shelves and electronics, but also on soft furnishings like sofas and bedsheets.
Home dust mites are also closely associated with asthma, so they can have a greater effect on your sleep than other allergies like pollen would.
The study’s results found that, of all the participants suffering from allergic rhinitis from dust mites, 73.5 percent of the adults and 65.8 percent of the children were prompted to call their doctors because of the sleep problems that resulted from their nighttime allergies.
The most common sleep complaints among the participants were:
- Poor sleep quality— 50.3 percent of the adults, and 37.3 percent of the children
- Snoring— 48.1 percent of adults, 41.4 percent of children
- Waking up in the middle of the night— 37.6 percent of adults, 28.2 percent of children
- Difficulty falling asleep— 27 percent of adults, 24.7 percent of children
At the end of the study, the researchers noted that adults and children who suffered from severe persistent allergic rhinitis experienced significantly more sleep problems than those with mild or occasional symptoms.
So what can you do if your nighttime allergies are making it hard to get your forty winks?
7 Tips for Treating Nighttime Allergies
You don't have to jump through hoops to reduce your nighttime allergy symptoms and sleep well. Here are 7 of our tips for a good night's sleep, even in the thick of allergy season.
Tip #1: Use an air purifier to remove common allergens from the air. It can also help reduce odors in the home. Make sure the air purification system is located near your bedrooms and is part of the coverage area.
Tip #2: Try SinuSonic. Our revolutionary device can help reduce nasal congestion without the use of drugs or medication. SinuSonic utilizes light pressure and acoustic vibrations to help reduce congestion naturally.
Tip #3: Clean your home often— dust your furniture and vacuum the floors at least once a week. If you have a dust mite allergy, this will significantly reduce the number of dust mites or similar allergens hiding in your home.
Tip #4: Keep the doors and windows closed during pollen season— use the air conditioner to cool your home if needed. This prevents extra allergens from getting into the house.
Tip #5: Take a shower before bed to wash away any lingering allergens on your skin or in your hair.
Tip #6: Take your allergy medication at night. Always consult your doctor before you alter your medication schedule though.
Tip #7: Wash your clothes immediately if you spend a lot of time outside during allergy season. This will remove any allergens that have stayed on your clothes after you came inside. To further reduce allergens, dry your clothes in the dryer instead of outside. This can attract more allergens.
Related: How to Sleep With a Stuffy Nose
Don't Let Allergy Season Ruin Your Sleep
Remember— you can still sleep peacefully even if you experience nighttime allergies. All those small changes can significantly reduce the number of allergens in your home, and keep them down the longer you follow these tips.
Have questions about SinuSonic or how it can help relieve your seasonal allergies? Contact us! We'd love to hear from you.
Koinis-Mitchell, Daphne, et al. “Sleep and Allergic Disease: A Summary of the Literature and Future Directions for Research.” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3576835/.
McNicholas, W T, et al. “Obstructive Apneas during Sleep in Patients with Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis.” The American Review of Respiratory Disease, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 1982, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7125355.Leger, Damien, et al. “Poor Sleep Is Highly Associated with House Dust Mite Allergic Rhinitis in Adults and Children.” Allergy, Asthma, and Clinical Immunology: Official Journal of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, BioMed Central, 16 Aug. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc5558653/.