Getting a good night’s sleep with seasonal allergies

May 7, 2015 Providence Health Team

Getting a good night's sleep with seasonal allergies.Being kept awake by the sneezing and runny nose of seasonal allergies? You’re not alone. Experts estimate more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. Seasonal allergies (also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis) can make sleeping difficult. And, without a good night’s sleep, allergy sufferers can experience daytime fatigue, poor work performance and decreased quality of life.

However, there are things you can do to keep seasonal allergies from disrupting your sleep.

Why is adequate sleep so important? Find out!

What are seasonal allergies?

While the common cold is caused by a virus, seasonal allergy symptoms are caused by environmental triggers such as pollen, outside mold and dust mites. These triggers cause the immune system to release histamines, the chemicals responsible for an allergic reaction. This abnormal immune response causes the nasal passages to become inflamed and irritated, leading to sneezing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. Aches, pains and fever are generally not symptoms of seasonal allergies. 

How to treat seasonal allergies

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for seasonal allergies. But, here’s what you can do to help alleviate the symptoms.

Reduce your exposure

  • Stay indoors when pollen counts are high
  • Keep your windows closed and use air conditioning, if possible
  • Shower before you go to bed to rinse any pollen from your skin and hair
  • Keep your bed linens clean and wash them in hot water to eliminate dust mites
  • Keep pets clean and don’t allow them in your bedroom

Does sleeping with your pet create other health concerns? Read more!

Try over-the-counter medicines

  • Antihistamines. Oral antihistamines block the body’s histamines, the chemicals that cause sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes. A number of over-the-counter antihistamines are available. Check with your primary care provider or pharmacist for help choosing the one that’s right for you.
  • Decongestants. Oral decongestants can help relieve congestion and runny nose. There are effective over-the-counter oral decongestants and some nasal sprays contain a decongestant. But, you should only use decongestant sprays for short periods of time to reduce the risk of rebound congestion.
  • Nasal rinse. Rinsing your sinuses with a mixture of distilled water and a sterile saline solution can also provide relief. It flushes out allergens and mucous, clears the nasal passages and relieves congestion. Use a Neti pot or squeeze bottle from your local drugstore. 

With all over-the-counter remedies, be sure to read and follow label directions. If you have questions or are concerned about drug interactions, talk to your primary care provider or pharmacist.

Practice good sleep hygiene

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • Keep your bedroom clean and cool
  • Let your brain power down by turning off computers and TVs at least 30 minutes before going to bed

Talk to your primary care provider

If your symptoms are severe, over-the-counter remedies might not provide enough relief. Your Providence primary care provider may decide to prescribe steroid sprays to decrease nasal inflammation. Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, can also provide long-term relief. 

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