The warmer weather is upon us, and unfortunately for some, the sunshine and the green grass also mark the start of allergy season.
If you are dealing with sleep apnea and allergies, it’s important to understand the connection between the two.
By managing the conditions and their symptoms, you can get a restful night’s sleep and wake up with the energy you need to enjoy the season’s many active outdoor pursuits.
About seasonal allergies
Seasonal allergies are a form of allergic rhinitis, which affects the nasal passages and is caused by allergens such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander.
Seasonal allergies are usually brought on by tiny airborne particles from trees, pollen, grass, ragweed or outdoor mould, which are inhaled through the nose and trigger a chemical reaction in the body that leads to nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, and runny nose. If not treated, these symptoms can lead to a poor night’s sleep, which leaves you feeling listless and tired during the day.
How seasonal allergies affect sleep
Because nasal congestion makes it harder to breathe through your nose when you sleep, your breathing airways are partially blocked, and you breathe through your mouth instead, causing dry mouth. Both of these factors can lead to pauses in breathing while sleeping – which are the “apneas” that characterize obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In addition, if an allergic reaction causes swelling of the tonsils or adenoids, the airway could be blocked even further.
While allergies have not been proven to directly cause sleep apnea, if they are affecting the quality of your sleep on a regular basis, they could lead to sleep apnea or worsen any sleep apnea symptoms that may already be present.
Allergies reduce the effectiveness of CPAP therapy
Unfortunately, sufferers of OSA who are using CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy to help them breathe better at night may find that if they suffer from nasal congestion, the CPAP machine becomes more difficult to use. To address this, manufacturers of CPAP masks and sleep apnea therapy equipment have designed various options that may work for you. For instance, if your nose is congested because of allergies, a full face mask, which covers your mouth and nose, ensures you still receive air throughout the night.
Another option is offered by advanced CPAP technology in the form of APAP — or automatic positive airway pressure. While allergies can cause your breathing to fluctuate throughout your sleep, the APAP is designed to deliver different amounts of air as needed to manage the changes in breathing patterns.
What can I do to sleep better during allergy season?
It is possible to get a good night’s sleep during allergy season! The following tips and suggestions may help:
5 tips to improve sleep during allergy season
- Take allergy medication. Nasal congestion causes the upper airway to narrow, increasing the risk of both snoring and OSA among those with allergic rhinitis. By treating the nasal inflammation with allergy medication on a regular basis, you may improve the quality of your sleep. This is especially important for those with sleep apnea who find it hard to use their CPAP devices because of nasal congestion.
- Consider different medications. Antihistamines can help relieve sneezing, itching, a runny nose and watery eyes, and oral decongestants can provide temporary relief from nasal stuffiness. Decongestants also come in nasal sprays, but should only be used for a few days in a row, as they can actually worsen nasal congestion over time. Some oral allergy medications combine an antihistamine with a decongestant, which may offer the best solution for a good night’s sleep.
- Rinse your nasal passages. Rinsing your nasal passages with saline solution is a quick, inexpensive and effective way to relieve nasal congestion. Rinsing directly flushes out mucus and allergens from your nose.
- Be smart about spending time outdoors. Reduce your exposure to allergy triggers by limiting time outside on dry, windy days (going out after a rainfall is best). Also, be aware that pollen counts are often at their highest in the early morning.
- Control your environment. Close your windows at night when you sleep, and use air conditioning in your house and car.
At Apnée Santé, we can help
The warm-weather season is short, and we’ve waited all winter to get outside and play sports, go for long walks, toss a ball with the kids and just enjoy the outdoor air and sunshine. Getting a good night’s sleep ensures that you’ll have the energy to take part in all the milder weather has to offer. If you suspect you might not be sleeping well, contact one of our sleep specialists today to set up a sleep test.