Sleep and allergies

Although most of us are familiar with the usual side effects of allergies, such as sneezing and itchy eyes, but did you know that they could cause disturbed sleep as well? And in serious cases, allergies can even increase the risk of sleep apnea. So it’s crucial to try and deal with allergies to aid a good night’s sleep.

So, how do allergies interfere with sleep? Allergens in the air cause what’s known as allergic rhinitis – more commonly known as inflammation and irritation of the nasal passages. This then triggers the body to produce histamines – a chemical that causes nasal congestion, a runny nose and sneezing. And these symptoms can all contribute to narrowing airways, which cause breathing trouble and makes it extremely hard to sleep through the night.

Some people suffer from seasonal allergic rhinitis, which is caused by airborne particles from grasses, plants and trees. But there are other allergens that can cause issues, so it’s important to know the common ones and how to combat them. Many of these are found in the home and, by taking steps to minimise them, you can help yourself to get a better night’s sleep. These are some of the most common:

Dust Mites – However clean your house is, there will be dust mites about! They make their home in dust and feed off the dead skin cells that we all shed. Most of this dead skin accumulates in our bed and pillows, but mites will also gravitate to wherever dust settles. You can buy dust mite covers for mattresses and pillows, which seal in the allergens so they don’t affect you at night. Also make sure that you wash your bedding in hot water, as this will kill any existing mites.

Pet Dander – Dearly as we love our furry friends, they can be a source of allergens. The most common is caused by flakes of their dead skin, although people can also be allergic to an animal’s saliva, urine or fur. You can keep on top of pet dander by brushing (and bathing, if appropriate) your pet at least once a week and vacuuming its regular sleeping spots and your carpets regularly.

Mould – Mould is another common allergen, with mould spores forming in damp areas such as bathrooms and basements. To help prevent spores from forming, make sure you open windows to allow air to circulate and use an extractor fan in the bathroom if you have one. Clean bathrooms regularly and pay particular attention to tiled corners and the shower curtain. If you have a large area that is already covered in mould, you might want to consider getting it replaced.

Household Products – Those plug-in air fresheners that promise a lovely scent in your home can actually be responsible for causing a stuffy nose and fitful sleep. It’s estimated that around 3000 chemicals are used to create the fragrances in air fresheners, cleaners and other household items. So, if you’re allergic, it’s worth looking for products that are fragrance-free and removing any heavily scented items from the house. 

In addition to this, bear in mind that the filters in vacuum cleaners can exacerbate the effects of allergens if you don’t keep their filters clean. This is because you’ll just end up blowing the particles into the air. Keep your filters clean by washing them regularly and replacing them when needed.

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