Allergies Keeping You Awake?
By Michael Breus
Reviewed By Stuart Meyers
Many of us know the misery of allergies all too well -- the sneezing, runny nose and postnasal drip; watery, itchy eyes, ears, nose, and throat. Whether from the symptoms or the medication we use to treat them, our sleep often suffers. And reduced quality and quantity of sleep wreaks havoc on our daily functioning -- our mood, energy, concentration, performance, sexual function, ability to think and make decisions.
Allergies may be seasonal, year-round, or occupational. They may arise from substances in our environment that we touch or inhale or from the foods we eat. Whatever the cause and whenever they occur, their myriad symptoms can disrupt sleep.
Allergic rhinitis. Commonly referred to as hay fever, allergic rhinitis is an inflammation of the nasal passages that occurs when the body overreacts to an allergen (pollen, dander, house mites, etc.). As the nasal passages swell, they block airflow through them, causing congestion.
Nasal congestion affects sleep in a variety of ways:
Postnasal drip, in which mucus and other secretions drip down the back of your throat, irritates the throat and often causes clearing of the throat and coughing as the secretions drip onto the vocal cords or even into the windpipe. These symptoms disturb sleep and may awaken you at night.
Nocturnal wheeze. In certain people, inhaling allergens may induce sleep-disturbing wheezing. This is caused by the constriction of the bronchioles, tubes that carry air to your lungs. Constriction reduces airflow; wheezing occurs as air moves through these narrowed tubes. Similarly, allergens can increase the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
Non-specific symptoms. Allergens may also cause non-specific symptoms that seem unrelated to allergies. Recurrent headaches, for example, may be caused by food allergies.
What to Do?
The first thing to do is to avoid the allergens that cause the allergy. Though it may not be readily apparent what is causing your allergy, there are a few things you can easily do on your own that may help reduce common allergens, like dust, dust mites, animal dander, down, etc.