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The Connection Between Allergies and Sleep Apnea

by | Jan 25, 2023

There are a number of causes behind sleep apnea. It may be hereditary, due to lifestyle factors, or a combination of both. If you also happen to suffer from allergies, this may actually trigger restless sleep. Let’s learn about the correlation between allergies and sleep apnea. Though the two appear to be entirely different and unrelated conditions, studies do reveal a link.

Can Allergies Cause Sleep Apnea?

Allergies may cause sleep apnea or worsen the condition. Allergies induce a number of reactions, among of which include nasal congestion. This blocks your nasal airways, therefore disrupting your breathing. Sleep apnea arises due to momentarily pauses in breathing.

This is backed up by research. One study found that sleep apnea was more frequent and longer in duration in subjects with allergic rhinitis, or “stuffy nose” as it’s more colloquially known.

In summary, allergies don’t directly cause sleep apnea. However, allergies cause bodily reactions that can facilitate a sleep disturbance episode.

Other Ways Allergies Affect Sleep

Even if you don’t have sleep apnea, allergies can nevertheless affect your overall sleep quality. Countless people have reported restless sleep due to nighttime allergies. Apart from nasal congestion, research suggests other allergy-related symptoms may also disrupt sleep. One cross-sectional study found that frequent sneezing led to sleep problems, including daytime sleepiness.

What About Food Allergies?

Non-seasonal allergies like food allergies may also impact sleep quality. There’s a need for more research, but one study from the American Academy of Pediatrics did find a connection between food allergies and insomnia in children under five years of age.

Common reactions from food allergies include cramps, diarrhea, skin rashes, itchy skin, and abdominal pain. These symptoms vary in intensity. However, even if minor, they can still keep you up at night, or cause you to wake up multiple times throughout the night.

4 Ways to Minimize Allergies

Taking active steps to minimize allergies may improve sleep quality. Consider the following measures to reduce allergic symptoms.

Dust the Smart Way

Dust is one of the most common allergens. When you sweep or wipe surfaces, this kicks up dust, sending them airborne. To keep this from happening, wipe dusty surfaces using a damp microfiber cloth.

Wash Your Pillow

Another common allergy source is dust mites. These are spider-like critters invisible to the naked eye. Dust mites feed on dead skin cells. Where are dead skin cells mostly found? Mainly on your linen and pillow. Kill Dust mites by washing your pillow and linen using hot water at least once every three weeks.

Limit Humidity

Keep a dehumidifier in your bedroom to limit indoor moisture where you sleep. High humidity creates a breeding ground for allergens like mold and dust mites. High humidity is also known to aggravate respiratory issues like asthma and hay fever.

On the opposite end, you also don’t want humidity to drop too low. Low humidity dries up pollen-like mold, causing them to become airborne. A good rule is to keep humidity between 30% and 50%

Switch to Hardwood Floors

If possible, switch to hardwood floors, if not for the entire home, then at least for the bedroom. Carpets are magnets for trapping dust, pollen, and other allergens. If you have carpet for the bedroom and are unable to make the switch, then vacuum often, preferably using a bagless vacuum with a HEPA filter.

Read also: Can Cold Weather Affect Your Sleep Quality?

Improve Sleep with a Sleep Apnea Oral Appliance

We aren’t allergists or clinical immunologists. However, as sleep specialists, we can say for a fact that allergies can negatively impact sleep quality and heighten sleep apnea episodes. If you think you have been experiencing sleep disorder symptoms that aren’t caused by allergies and need professional assistance, SleepWell Louisiana can help determine if a sleep apnea oral appliance is for you. Take this quick sleep assessment today!


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