How to Sleep with Allergies

Medical Disclaimer: The following content should not be used as medical advice or as a recommendation for any specific supplement or medication. It is important to consult your health care provider prior to starting a new medication or altering your current dosage.

Can allergies interfere with sleep? The answer is a resounding yes. Allergy symptoms can affect how someone sleeps at night and may lead to sleep problems like insomnia, daytime sleepiness, and oversleeping. People with allergies often have disrupted sleep and may wake up frequently at night. 

Allergies are caused by the body’s immune system reacting to allergens. Mold, dust, pet dander, certain foods and drugs, and pollen from plants are all examples of common allergens. These allergens can cause itching, coughing, nasal congestion, and sometimes more serious allergic reactions.

Although allergies can have far-reaching effects on health and sleep, there are many measures you can take to protect your sleep environment, relieve your symptoms, and get better quality sleep. 

Invest in an Air Purifier

Many things can pollute the air indoors, including mold, pollen, dust mites, and animal dander. Breathing in these allergens can cause allergic reactions, like sneezing and a stuffy nose, that can make it hard to sleep well.

An air purifier can help you filter out allergens from your living and sleeping space. However, some devices, such as ionic air purifiers, may produce ozone levels that can irritate the lungs and generally be harmful to your health. Instead, try using electrostatic air filters or air purifiers with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.

Your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can also help with controlling allergens such as mold. Use quality HVAC filters and follow the manufacturer’s recommendation regarding when to change the filters. 

Sleep With Your Doors and Windows Shut

Shutting your bedroom windows and doors during the day and while you sleep may help reduce the risk of allergy symptoms. Pollen and other types of allergens are carried with the wind and can enter your home through open doors and windows. Pollen in your bedroom can bring on sneezing, nasal congestion, and other cold-like symptoms.

If you prefer to sleep with the window open, plan ahead by checking your area’s pollution and pollen forecast. On days with high pollen or pollution forecast levels, shut the windows to keep allergens out. If you want to keep cool on those days, consider using an air conditioner rather than opening windows.

Keep Your Bedding Clean

Washing and changing your bedding once a week will reduce the amount of allergens that accumulate in the bedroom. It may also be helpful to wash your curtains regularly.

Bedding and mattresses tend to have ideal environmental conditions for household dust mites, which feed on dead skin flakes. Fecal waste matter from dust mites is a major allergen that typically builds up in fabrics. 

Washing your bedding each week with hot water, between 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, is ideal for killing dust mites. You can also remove dust mites by drying your bedding with an electric dryer on a high-temperature setting. Prior to washing or drying your bedding, check the care instructions to ensure it can withstand high temperatures. 

Another way to reduce the effects of bedroom allergies is to use an allergen barrier cover over your mattress and pillows. But take care to regularly clean the mattress cover. 

Shower Before Bed

Allergy triggers like pollen can be brought indoors by getting on you and your clothes. Showering and changing your clothes before going to sleep lowers the risk of contaminating your bed and setting off allergies while sleeping.

In addition, be sure to wash your hands when you come inside, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth while you’re outside. 

Maintain a Dust-Free Space

Vacuum your bedroom regularly to reduce household dust, dust mites, and other allergens. Dust in the bedroom contains particles from dead bacteria that can cause wheezing and other allergic reactions. Dust mite allergies are also responsible for many respiratory symptoms and disrupted sleep.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to help reduce dust mites and other types of allergens. For even greater protection, cover your face with a mask when you’re vacuuming and dusting. 

Keep Pets Out

Animal dander, saliva, and urine contain proteins that act as allergens in some people, leading to eye irritation, sneezing, or itching at night. House pets like cats, dogs, rodents, and birds can all trigger allergies. Their allergens can remain in the air and on clothes, carpets, and furniture for a long time. 

If you are allergic to pets, it’s best not to live with them if that’s possible. However, if you want to live with pets or cannot avoid living with them, try to keep them out of the bedroom as much as you can. Take care to clean the bedroom floors regularly using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.

It’s also important to clean up after your pets. If you own a dog, try to bathe it at least twice a week. Clean your pet’s living areas frequently to prevent dander buildup. And wash your hands and clothes after playing with your pets and before bedtime to remove allergens.

Take Allergy Medication

The best approach for allergies is to avoid coming in contact with allergens. However, it is not always possible to avoid allergy triggers. In those cases, you may want to discuss over-the-counter or prescription medication with your health care provider. Medication may help relieve some allergy symptoms.

When taking over-the-counter allergy medications, read the label and packaging thoroughly and follow the dosing instructions carefully. Always consult your health care provider before taking a new allergy medication or changing your current dosage.

Antihistamines

Allergy medications with antihistamines can provide relief for itching, eye irritation, coughing, sneezing, and runny nose caused by allergic reactions. In some cases, they may cause drowsiness as a side effect, which could help you fall asleep. 

However, due to possible health risks, it’s important to speak with a doctor before taking over-the-counter antihistamines.

Nasal Decongestants and Rinses

Having a stuffy or congested nose can make it harder to fall asleep or cause breathing problems during sleep. Over-the-counter nasal decongestants, sprays, and rinses may relieve sinus congestion caused by allergies. 

If you use a nasal or sinus rinse, do not prepare it with tap water. Tap water may contain microbes that can live in the nose and sinuses and cause infections. Instead, choose a pre-made nasal rinse containing a sterile salt solution, or use sterilized or distilled water to prepare the rinse yourself. When using over-the-counter products, always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer or a health care professional.

Talk to Your Doctor

It’s a good idea to speak with your doctor if your allergies persist or your symptoms are severe. You can also reach out to a health care provider if avoiding allergens keeps you socially isolated or interferes with your daily life. Your provider can conduct tests to identify your allergy triggers and can guide you to the best treatment options. 

Allergies can make health conditions like asthma and eczema worse. Additionally, allergic reactions can sometimes be life-threatening. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience chest tightness and pain, accelerated heartbeat, or difficulty breathing, which may be signs of a medical emergency.

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