Seasonal allergies or asthma affect more than 60 million Americans, according to estimates, and more than 75 percent of those people report their allergies cause them to lose sleep, resulting in drowsy days.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to bring lots of allergens from the outside into our bedrooms. They unknowingly cling to our clothes, hair and pets, and can land on our garments in closets and drawers, carpeting, drapes and upholstery (did somebody say “dust ruffle”?).
Indeed, one of the worst offenders is dust. Did you know that up to 80 percent of the dust in your bedroom either was or still is alive, and is a major source of allergies? Dust consists of pollen, pet dander, skin, fungi, bacteria, dust mites, fabric fibers and other unwanted irritants. To eliminate allergic reactions in the bedroom, start by eliminating the dust.
In addition to wiping down all surfaces with a wet cloth to trap dust, invest in a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner and consider a HEPA air purifier. These filters remove up to 99.7 percent of all particles 0.3 microns or larger, and will remove most pollens, mold spores and bacteria. After all, a clean bedroom is an allergy-sufferer’s paradise. Below are nine hacks for nailing your best sleep this allergy season.
1. Get ready for bed in another room. Your clothes are teaming with allergens. Undressing in the bedroom quickly pollutes the air you’ll breathe all night!
2. Shower before bedtime. If you use any styling or leave-in product in your hair, your head becomes a magnet for pollen and dander -- not something you want to nuzzle into your pillow!
3. Bathe Fido often, or ban him from the bedroom during the spring. Since pets spend more time outdoors during the spring and summer months, they unintentionally bring tremendous amounts of contaminants into the home. This time of year, halt them at the bedroom door.
4. Wash your bedding weekly in hot water. Dial up the temperature to at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit to kill dust mites. Anything cooler is just a bath for them!
5. Use allergen-blocking protectors on your mattress and pillows. They keep allergens from burrowing into the mattress. And remember, while changing your bedding, vacuum your mattress to remove any allergens or mites or that’ve made it in.
6. Dry the laundry inside. If you suffer from allergies, it’s also best not to hang laundry outside on a clothesline -- it’ll collect all sorts of pollens and other airborne particles from the breeze.
7. Consider a dehumidifier. Humidity levels can creep up in your home during those hot and humid months, especially if you don’t use an air conditioner. Dust mites and other allergens thrive in humidity levels of more than 50 percent.
8. Don’t forget your little one’s stuffed animals. Most stuffed animals can be machine washed and tumble dried, and should be laundered as often as the bedding. They can be a haven for dust mites and other irritants.
9. Sleep with your head slightly elevated. If you have nasal congestion -- allergy triggered or otherwise -- say hello to gravity, your new best friend. A few inches of elevation can do wonders to help drain nasal passages while sleeping. It might also alleviate mild snoring -- a win win!
Why and how, exactly, do allergies affect your sleep? It’s easy to point to the discomfort they cause. But the truth is, there are more factors involved.
- Allergy sufferers tend to have more frequent sleep interruptions (though they don’t wake up completely), which in turn leads to daytime drowsiness. Blocked nasal passages, due to common allergy symptoms like a stuffy or runny nose, are a main cause of nighttime restlessness for those with allergies.
- Immune systems overreact to the flood of pollen from grass, trees and flowers. Therefore, the production of histamine launches into overdrive (i.e., those symptoms you might know all too well: watery, red, itchy eyes, nasal congestion and a runny nose).
- Allergy medication interferes with the onset of sleep. When your body reacts to seasonal allergies, it overproduces histamine, an important neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and wakefulness. Antihistamine medication (like diphenhydramine found in Benadryl and other over-the-counter allergy meds) counteract the allergic reaction by blocking the actions of histamine -- but, as a consequence, may also disrupt normal sleep regulation. What’s more, antihistamines (common in over-the-counter sleep aids) are fairly potent sedatives that lead to drowsiness. So be warned, long-term use can be problematic. For your best night’s sleep during allergy season, eliminate or avoid the source of your allergies in the bedroom, and minimize your reliance on pharmaceuticals.
- Tossing and turning while sleeping increases as people try to alleviate fluid buildup from allergy symptoms.
- Snoring increases as nasal airways constrict.
So, clean the bedroom and keep it allergen-free! If all fails and your sleep quality remains subpar, make sure you visit your primary health care provider or allergist. Sleep is too important to compromise in any way. Sleep well (and sneeze less)!
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