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How to Sleep with Allergies: Your Guide to a Better Night’s Rest

You lay down, close your eyes, and drift off to fall asleep.

Then your nose tingles and you sneeze. Before long you’re wheezing, coughing, and blowing your nose. The chances of falling asleep now seem thin.

You have allergic rhinitis, and those allergy symptoms are keeping you from a good night’s sleep.

Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to improve your allergies and enhance your sleep. Before long, you’ll be getting the healthy, energizing sleep you need for all of your work and play!

Allergic Rhinitis Explained

Allergic reactions come in many forms. There are skin allergies that cause itching, rashes, and even blistering. There are food allergies that create vomiting, swelling, or shortness of breath. There are also allergic reactions that cause issues with the nose. These symptoms are called allergic rhinitis, and they are commonly caused by things we breathe.

Allergic rhinitis is caused by breathing “allergens,” the term given to any substance that causes an allergic reaction. (For example, if someone has a peanut allergy, peanuts are the allergen.)

What allergens are causing your allergic rhinitis? There is a staggering list of potential allergens from both indoor and outdoor air, but some of the most common are pollen, dust, pet dander, and mold.

Allergic rhinitis is caused when a person who is allergic to one or more of these substances breathes them in, triggering a reaction from the body.

The symptoms of allergic rhinitis include an itchy or runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes. You may also experience problems with smelling due to congestion. Allergic rhinitis can also cause light to severe coughing, clogged ears, a sore throat, and headaches. Coupled with loss of sleep, it can also lead to irritability, lack of concentration, and fatigue.

The Connection Between Allergic Rhinitis and Poor Sleep

During the day, allergic rhinitis can be a major irritation, disrupting our work and keeping us from enjoying our lifestyles. However, if your allergic rhinitis bothers you at night, it can have a negative impact on your sleep and, therefore, on your entire life.

Unfortunately, people who suffer from allergic rhinitis commonly have diminished sleep quality. According to a 2006 French study, there is a close relationship between allergic rhinitis and sleep impairment. The study found that there is a link to the severity of allergies as well. Those who have particularly severe allergic rhinitis often report the worst sleeping symptoms.

Because of the allergic reaction, we often have trouble sleeping. You may cough and wheeze all night, or a runny nose may be keeping you awake, but the end result is more or less the same: poor sleep. Allergies disrupt your comfort and keep you from getting the restful sleep you deserve.

Sleep apnea is also tied to allergic rhinitis. Sleep apnea occurs when muscles in the throat can’t keep the airway open during sleep, and it can result in poor or constantly disrupted sleep. Nasal congestion caused by allergic rhinitis can increase the risk and severity of sleep apnea, further reducing the chances of healthy sleep quality. 

The Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

When talking about most allergies, the direct symptoms themselves are problematic enough. Food allergies directly lead to swelling, stomach problems, or hives. Skin allergies directly lead to rashes or itching. With allergic rhinitis, however, the worst effects are often indirect.

When allergic rhinitis causes poor sleep, it’s the results of sleep deprivation that can have the worst impact on our daily lives. A good night’s sleep is essential, and the effects of poor sleep can disrupt both your mind and body.

A bad mood is an obvious result of sleep deprivation, but poor sleep can also cause a decline in thinking ability, decision making, and brain activity. It can even cause a person to have poor memory and has been linked to depression.

It’s not just the mind that’s affected. There are real consequences for the body as well. Loss of sleep is linked to not just physical fatigue, but also weight gain and even type 2 diabetes. There is also reason to believe that less sleep means a poor immune system. This is because protective antibodies and cells, which fight off bacteria and viruses, are created during sleep. If you don’t get enough rest, your body can’t build its fighting force and you are left more vulnerable to colds, flus, and viruses.

From the cardiovascular system to the digestive system to the circulatory system; when you can’t sleep, you suffer. This makes preventing allergic rhinitis all the more important.

Causes of Allergies

So, we know what allergic rhinitis is and we know the damage it can place on your body. But do you know what causes it?

To take care of your allergies, you need to first identify what’s causing them. Unfortunately there are many different substances floating in both indoor and outdoor air, so targeting them accurately can be a challenge.

Inside, the home is often full of allergens from multiple sources, and it’s not uncommon for indoor air to be more contaminated than outdoor air. Pet dander is one of the biggest culprits. Pet dander is merely dry skin that has flaked off cats and dogs (or other furry pets in the home). So while fur is not the real problem, it helps spread dander around the house. Mold spores are common in homes, as are dust mites, smoke residue, and airborne chemicals from cleaners and air fresheners.

Outdoors, of course, the biggest culprit is pollen. Anyone who suffers from hay fever (a pollen allergy) will understand the frustration of dealing with a runny nose and headache all day, then being unable to sleep at night.

If you have allergic rhinitis, but aren’t sure what is causing it, you may consider having a blood or skin test to identify the problem.

Sleep Apnea and Allergies

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is another common problem that is linked to allergic rhinitis. As we discussed above, sleep apnea happens when muscles can’t keep the airways open during sleep. (It is usually caused when soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. There is also a condition called “central sleep apnea,” but this is caused by a problem with the nervous system, not the airways.)

People with this issue will stop breathing several times during the night, causing the brain and body to not get enough oxygen and cause significant disruptions to sleep patterns. Most people don’t wake up from sleep apnea. Instead, they go from deep sleep to light sleep. But the result is much the same, as the person still doesn’t get the long, sustained deep sleep that they need.

Controlling Allergies for a Good Night’s Sleep

If you suffer from allergic rhinitis and poor sleep, one of the best steps you can take is to improve the quality of air in the bedroom and the entire home. By cleaning and purifying the air, you can remove many of the chemicals and substances that could be causing your allergies and result in bad sleep.

Pet lovers, you aren’t going to like this. If you suffer from nighttime allergies and your pet sleeps in your bedroom, there’s a significant chance ol’ Fido is causing your allergic rhinitis. Pets allergies are a common problem for allergy sufferers, so removing furry friends could improve your condition. The bad news is you have to remove them from the bedroom, which will likely be hard on both of you. The good news is you’ve likely targeted the #1 allergy trigger right away.

Pet dander, obviously, isn’t the only allergen in a home. While it’s becoming more and more rare, tobacco smoke can still be an indoor contaminant. Second-hand smoke could be causing allergy issues, so be sure to keep smoking out of the bedroom, preferably outside.

Though it isn't an issue for everyone depending on where you live, wildfires and wildfire smoke is an increasing danger to worry about. 

If you struggle with seasonal allergies, make efforts to reduce the amount of pollen that is brought into your house and bedroom. One technique you can use is to remove your clothes in a separate room, such as the bathroom room or laundry room. Throughout the day, your clothes could be collecting pollen. If you take off your clothes in your bedroom and toss them on the floor, some of this pollen is likely released into the air. Removing your clothes in a separate area could reduce the pollen content in your bedroom.

An important tool for clean indoor air is an air purifier. These household machines, actively filter harmful contaminants from the air and can be highly effective at removing the chemicals in your home. There are various filters that can be used, including activated carbon and pleated filters.

To enhance your air-cleaning efforts, you should also consider using plants in your home. Plants take in air and release oxygen, and even NASA has used plants to maintain clean air for astronauts. Plants absorb air through microscopic pores. While taking in air, they also take in the contaminants that are harmful to our health.

A Good Night’s Sleep: How to Further Enhance Your Rest

If you struggle with allergies that are keeping you awake, the first step is to remove as many allergens as possible. However, you can also take measures to significantly improve your sleeping habit, which will result in better rest and a stronger mind and body.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are multiple steps you can take to ensure better sleep. They first recommend sticking to a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking at the same time every day, even on weekend. If your sleep schedule changes nightly, it may be contributing to your poor sleep.

They also recommend making sleep a relaxing ritual with no bright lights or stress-provoking activities. For example, don’t check your work email before bedtime; all you’ll do is rev up your mind and make it harder to fall asleep.

Exercise daily, even if it’s just a short walk, as this will help burn energy, make your body healthier, and help you fall asleep at night. While exercise at any time of day will help (except right before bed), the National Sleep Foundation says that morning cardio workouts may help you sleep better, while hard workouts close to bedtime can have the opposite effect. However, they stress that each person’s sleep cycle is different, and some people may benefit from evening exercise.

Finally, you can adjust your room to suit a better sleep. This can include maintaining a temperature of 60 to 67 degrees, freeing the area of noise and light, and using items like ear plugs, white noise machines, fans, or humidifiers if needed.

When you combine these healthy sleeping habits with techniques to eliminate allergens, you significantly increase your chances or restful sleep.

Choosing the Right Air Purifier for Allergies

Having the right air purifier in your home and bedroom can also help reduce allergic rhinitis. Here are a few air purifiers from Oransi that help reduce allergens:
  • mod+ Air Purifier: Great for bedrooms and living rooms, the mod Air Purifier can remove dust, pollen, mold, pet dander, and smoke, leaving the air in your home clean and fresh. The mod+ has a combination filter and a strong motor.
  • mod jr. Air Purifier: This unit is the same as the mod but covers a smaller square footage. If you have a smaller area like a small bedroom the mod jr., which covers 878 square feet, is perfect.  

Improve the Air in Your Home with Oransi

Oransi can help you have clean, healthy air in your home. With a wide selection of room air purifiers for both residential and commercial use, we are America’s top source for quality air filtration.

We are an Energy Star Partner, AHAM Verifide and an A+ business with the BBB, so you can count on us for quality and consistency in every air purification product!

Want to learn more about cleaning your air? See this guide on how to choose an air purifier.