Don’t Lose Sleep Over Allergies
Are your allergies keeping you awake at night? Here are some tips to help you get a good night’s sleep.
“The most important thing to figure out is why allergies are causing sleep to be interrupted. There could be a number of reasons, and it is best to determine it by working with a physician,” says David Corry, MD, chief of the section of immunology, allergy, and rheumatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX.
Evaluate Your Symptoms
Common symptoms of allergies can cause sleep disruption. For example, a drippy nose. Post-nasal drip can fall into the back of your throat at night and produce irritation in the throat, as well as a cough, causing you to wake up repeatedly in the night. Inflammation that’s triggered by allergies can affect the membranes of the nose and cause swelling to the point where breathing through the nose is not possible. This forces mouth breathing, which can be irritating and cause dry mouth.
In addition, Dr. Corry points out that those who sometimes complain of allergies disrupting their sleep may not actually have allergies at all, but instead may be experiencing gastric reflux.
Inflammation that’s triggered by allergies can cause swelling to the point where breathing through the nose is not possible.
“When you look at their symptoms, it’s actually that they have acid coming up through their esophagus and then spilling all the way into the back of the mouth and into the nose, and that acid can be very irritating and produce that drippy nose. This irritation at night can be carrying forward during the day, and people might think they have allergies, but it’s actually gastric reflux,” he says.
Things that may clue you into the fact that your symptoms are actually reflux rather than allergies include
- The absence of classic symptoms of allergies, such as itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and cough
- No reaction to typical allergens during allergy testing
- The timing of the onset of symptoms – the symptoms are not seasonal, but rather year-round
- The timing of symptoms during the day – people with allergies have symptoms during the day and when they go outside, not just at night
For anyone who thinks they have reflux rather than allergies, Dr. Corry recommends consulting a gastroenterologist.
Formulate a Treatment Plan
For those who have the classic symptoms of allergies, Dr. Corry recommends discussing the following treatment options with your doctor:
- Allergen immunotherapy, which involves gradually introducing the allergen to the body and over time reversing the immune response to that allergen
Dr. Corry also recommends using a HEPA filter in the bedroom during the day to remove allergens in the air. Leave the filter on in the bedroom with the door closed throughout the day, and then turn it off at bedtime. This allows you to breathe clean air at night while you are sleeping.
Be sure to look for sources of water intrusion in the home that might cause mold, and check to see if air conditioner vents are clean. If you have severe allergies, consider removing carpets from the home and replacing them with a hard-surface floor.
Dr. Corry points out that those who have sleep apnea independent of their allergies may have even more difficulty sleeping. It’s important to work closely with your physician to develop a treatment plan that allows for allergy relief and a good night’s sleep.
Source: Baylor College of Medicine, bcm.edu
This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, May/June 2013.