9 Ways Your Allergies Are Messing With Your Sleep

Grab the tissues.

by Brandi Neal and JR Thorpe
Originally Published: 
A woman with insomnia reads in the early morning. Allergies can mess with your sleep, doctors say. H...
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It’s a truth universally acknowledged that spring allergy season is the worst time of the year, with fall allergy season coming in close second. Why? Allergies can mess with everything from your headaches to your sleep cycle. What’s worse, not getting enough REM time can make you more likely to get sick, creating a vicious cycle of misery.

“People with allergies are more than twice as likely to have insomnia as those without allergies,” Dr. Luz Fonacier M.D., allergy section head at NYU Langone Hospital Long Island and president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, tells Bustle. “Allergies affect all aspects of sleep, from difficulty in falling asleep to ability to stay asleep.” Some medications prescribed for allergies, like decongestants, can also disturb your sleep, she says.

Terry Cralle, registered nurse and Better Sleep Council certified clinical sleep educator, tells Bustle that there are some unexpected things that can disrupt your sleep during allergy season. "Yes, spring is in the air, but so are pollen and other allergens. Leaving the bedroom windows open at night is a setup for an allergy attack and a poor night’s sleep," Cralle says. "If you suffer from allergies, turning on the AC is a safer alternative." If you haven't been sleeping well since spring sprung a few weeks ago, here are some ways allergies can affect your sleep, and some tips for getting more rest during allergy season.


Dust Mites In Your Pillows & Sheets Can Make You Sneeze

Basically, your skin is a buffet for dust mites, which sounds super gross. "They feed mainly on the tiny flakes of human skin that people shed each day. These flakes work their way deep into the inner layers of furniture, carpets, bedding and even stuffed toys," the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American notes. "These are the places where mites thrive. An average adult person may shed up to 1.5 grams of skin in a day. This is enough to feed one million dust mites!"

Dust mites are one of the most common allergens in the bedroom, Dr. Fonacier tells Bustle. In addition to washing your bedding on the regular, Cralle suggests replacing your pillow every year,. This can get expensive, so you can throw your pillows in the washer and dryer instead.


Co-Bedding With Your Pets Increases Allergies

While there's nothing cuter than waking up to a snuggly dog face, sleeping with your dogs or cats can increase your seasonal allergy suffering. Pet dander is another common cause of allergy issues at home, Dr. Fonacier says.

"Sleeping with your furry companions could be aggravating your allergies and negatively impacting the quality of your sleep," Cralle tells Bustle. "Because their thick fur is a veritable magnet for stuff like pollen, dirt ,and dust, dogs are basically walking allergen fur balls. Compromise by letting your pup sleep at the foot of your bed, or even better, in their own bed on the floor."


Pillows Perpetuate Allergies

Aside from replacing or washing your pillows, if you have severe allergies you might want to consider getting some pillow covers. "For chronic allergy sufferers, there is no better solution than a pillow protector, full mattress encasement, and box spring encasement," Cralle explains. "A typical mattress cover may not protect you from the allergens in your mattress coming in contact with you. Pillow covers are the first line of defense against dust mites and allergens, and they keep your pillow cleaner for longer."


Open Windows Are An Allergy Welcome Wagon

While you might crave some fresh air after this long cold winter, Cralle says that sleeping with your windows open can actually create more problems than it solves. Open windows allow allergens to blow into your bedroom, which could make you wake up feeling worse. Additionally, turning on the fan or air conditioning without dusting first can also increase your allergy symptoms. Perhaps this is how that whole spring-cleaning thing came about.


Sleeping In Your Clothes Brings The Outside Indoors

You might not even think about the fact that sleeping in clothes you've worn outdoors can invite unwelcome allergens into your bed. On its website, the Alaska Sleep Clinic advised removing all outdoor clothing before climbing into bed to reduce your chances of bringing allergens into your sleep space.


Sleeping With A Partner Who Has Allergies Is Bad For Both Of You

If share a bed with a partner, and they have seasonal allergies, you're probably both going to wake up on the wrong side of the bed. The Better Sleep Council reported that one in three people claim their sleep is disrupted by their partner. If you still want to sleep with your partner, and you want to make sure your sleep is restful, you're going to have to abide by the rules of dusting and vacuuming on the regular, keeping the windows closed, putting pets in their place, and making sure is bedding washed. What's more, a survey from Sleep Cycle reported that women are affected more than men when they don't get enough sleep, so if you want to set your relationship up for success, make your bedroom an allergen-free zone.


Wet Weather Welcomes Mold

Wet weather in particular is a breeding ground for mold. According to the website Sleep Resolutions, "[Mold] grows year round anywhere where moisture breeds. Sometimes you can see it, sometimes you can only smell it. Keep track of damp surfaces around windows and doors or anywhere you know there are problems with water leaks. Using a dehumidifier can help."


Don't Forget To Keep Your Nose Clean

If you have seasonal nasal allergies, and you've never used a neti pot, you're totally missing out. Basically, you fill this magic little teapot with salt water, tilt your head, and pour it into one nostril. The water then comes out the other side, which clears allergens from your nasal passages. "Nasal irrigation, if it is done correctly and gently, can remove allergens, irritants, and inflammatory mucus,” Dr. William H. Anderson, a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, told Best Health magazine. Think about it. If you go to bed with a nose full of dust, dirt, and pollen, you're probably not going to sleep great, and you're going to feel like your head is full of sand when you wake up. If you just can't get onboard with the neti pot, a saline nasal spray, sold at most drug stores, can do the same thing.


Snoring Steals Your Sleep

“Allergies cause nasal congestion, postnasal drip, and cough that tend to worsen at night and affect ability to breathe easily,” Dr. Fonacier says. And that might lead to snoring — which can seriously disrupt your night in bed. If you have seasonal allergies, and you aren't doing anything to relieve your symptoms, you could be losing sleep.

If you have seasonal allergies, and you feel extra tired during the day, doing a deep spring cleaning in your bedroom can increase your chances of getting more of that much sought after sweet slumber. While this kind of vigilance can be time consuming, putting in the time means that you'll sleep better at night and feel a lot better during the day. And, let's face it, a little extra effort is worth not feeling like a used up dishrag for the next few months.


Terry Cralle

Dr. Luz Fonacier M.D.

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