Updated November 20, 2020

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Written by

Danielle Pacheco

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Are you waking up with a stuffy nose or sneezing in your sleep? Whether they’re seasonal or year-round, allergies aren’t fun.

Up to 40 percent of Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis (allergies). Symptoms include sneezing, itchy or runny nose, and watery eyes — and for many allergy sufferers, poor sleep as well. Individuals with allergies are more than twice as likely to have insomnia than those without allergies.

How Do Allergies Affect Sleep?

Allergens irritate your nasal passages when they enter your nose, triggering uncomfortable symptoms like nasal congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes. The symptoms affect your ability to breathe easily, and they tend to worsen at night — two conditions that make it tough to relax into sleep.

If your allergies keep you up at night, you may be missing out on sleep. Without a good night’s sleep, you end up feeling tired and grumpy the next day. Being tired can impair your performance at school and work, negatively affect your health and wellbeing, and make you feel stressed out. Unfortunately, stress itself makes it harder to fall asleep.

Allergies don’t just impact your ability to fall asleep; they also interfere with your ability to stay asleep. People with allergies may wake up with a sneezing or coughing fit in the middle of the night. Over time, this kind of allergy-induced sleep deprivation adds up, creating a vicious cycle that leads some to rely on sedatives or alcohol to help them fall asleep — which is not a good idea.

What Kind of Sleep Disturbances Can Come From Allergies?

Allergies can affect all aspects of sleep. Individuals with allergic rhinitis are significantly more likely to suffer from sleep issues, including:

  • Insomnia

  • Trouble falling asleep

  • Trouble staying asleep

  • Poor sleep efficiency

  • Short sleep

  • Desire to take sedatives to fall asleep

During the day, their problems don’t end. They’re more likely to have trouble waking up, experience daytime fatigue, and have morning headaches.

There also appears to be a correlation between the severity of a person’s allergies and the severity of their sleep problems. In other words, the worse their allergy symptoms are, the worse their sleep is.

For some people with allergies, difficulty sleeping may develop into more serious sleep disturbances, such as bedwetting, insomnia, restless sleep, snoring, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and other forms of sleep-disordered breathing. The connection between allergies and sleep apnea is of particular concern due to the links between OSA and obesity, cardiovascular disease, and death.

Pediatric studies suggest that allergies may be a risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea among children. Children with sleep-disordered breathing are more than twice as likely to have allergic rhinitis than those who don’t have sleep apnea. Poor sleep can be especially damaging  to children, leading to missed school days, behavioral problems, and even brain damage.

How Can You Sleep Better With Allergies?

Sleeping with allergies can be tough, but it is possible. Here are seven tips to cope with allergies and get better sleep.

1. Use an Air Purifier.

Air purifiers can help improve sleep for people with and without allergies. They help clear your bedroom air of common household allergens like mold, dust mites, pet dander, and even pollen brought in from outside.

2. Close Your Doors and Windows.

If you leave your windows open during the day, you’re inviting allergens into your home. Closed windows and doors, on the other hand, can do a lot to keep allergens outside and away from your bedroom.

3. Keep Pets Out of Your Bedroom.

Pet hair and dander are two common allergens that impact sleep, so sleeping in a separate room from your pet may help relieve your allergies at night. Give them a comfy bed outside your bedroom and pet them goodnight. Just make sure to wash your hands afterward!

4. Change Up Your Laundry Routine.

After spending time outside, especially during high pollen count days, take your clothes off when you come inside the house and put them directly in the laundry room. Never hang your clothes outside to dry. Use a dryer instead, if possible.

5. Shower Before Bed.

Showering before bed helps wash the pollen away. Make showers a part of your bedtime routine, and you’ll always be clean before bed.

6. Take Allergy Medication at Night.

If you currently take your allergy medication in the morning, consider changing it to nighttime. Consult your doctor first, though. This ensures the dose of medication is still strong in your system when you go to bed, instead of wearing off in the middle of the night.

7. Talk to Your Doctor.

Speaking of your doctor, they can discuss some treatment options with you based on the type of allergies you have. There are over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, and lifestyle changes that can provide relief.

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