As if seasonal allergies weren't bad enough, the itchy eyes, sneezing and stuffed-up noses are stealing something very valuable from a number of sufferers: sleep!
A recent survey from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found that 59 percent of people with nasal allergies say they have trouble sleeping because of their symptoms. And 48 percent say their sneezing and sniffling also disturb their bed partner's sleep.
In a recent study published in Internal Medicine, researchers found that even when people thought they got a good night's rest, 44 percent of allergy sufferers woke up feeling groggy and tired, Men's Health reported.
Considering 41 million American workers say they don't get enough sleep and about 10 percent of people report bothersome symptoms of seasonal allergies, a few preventive measures are in order.
First, it's important to understand why allergies can interrupt sleep. Allergies cause the nasal passages to swell, explains Dr. Mark Holbreich, a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in private practice in Indianapolis, meaning there's less room for air to pass freely, making breathing difficult. At night, gravity certainly doesn't help: When you lie down to go to sleep, that congestion can shift, making nose breathing even more difficult, Dr. Jennifer Collins told Healthy Living in January.
Allergy sufferers should be sure to abide by the crucial rules of good sleep hygiene, including keeping the bedroom cool, dark and quiet, avoiding caffeine too late in the day and powering down electronic devices at least an hour before bed (and leaving them outside the bedroom).
It also can't hurt to try some common natural allergy remedies like showering before bed, keeping the windows closed and regularly changing sheets and pillow cases. A steamy bath or shower or a warm cup of tea can also help loosen congestion so you'll breathe easier as you sleep.
But it may take something a little more powerful to truly give you relief, says Holbreich. If itchiness, sneezing or a runny nose is your main complaint, an over-the-counter antihistamine might help, but those typically don't offer much in terms of breaking up congestion, he warns. A prescription medication, typically a nasal steroid spray, is usually more effective at restoring your breathing ability.
Other allergy sufferers may find relief from a nasal saline rinse, he says, which helps by directly reducing swelling in the nasal passages, but also washing out any pollen that may be in your nose.
Just don't go looking for relief in a cold medicine, says Holbreich. "They're good for three to five days, but if you use them for any length of time, you can get congestion as a sign of overuse," he says. "Over-the-counter decongestants give immediate relief, but they're not suited for a long allergy season."
Since, by many accounts, this allergy season is bound to be a bad one, that's advice worth heeding.
Do you find your allergies disturb your sleep? Let us know in the comments!