Spring is finally here, which means the arrival of allergy season for millions of Americans. Anyone prone to pollen, dust mites, and other small debris is indeed preparing themselves for the worst.
However, those who suffer from untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the season of allergy can be especially troublesome. There is no question that the two conditions-OSA and allergies-are related.
Allergies will make you more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea. And even though you do have this sleeping condition, they worsen the symptoms. So, if you’re suffering from both, here’s what you need to hear about allergies and sleep apnea.
What is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?
OSA is a sleep condition caused by breathing issues, resulting in disturbed sleep. When you have this condition, when you’re sleeping, the upper airway is blocked.
The blockage can be small or large, causing you to search for air. Your brain is supposed to receive the message to breathe when this happens, but then you stop breathing when sleeping.
After not breathing, you wake up most of the time and recover your breathing pattern. This, however, disrupts your sleep and causes you to fail to reach that critical stage of deep sleep.
How can allergies make OSA even worse?
When you sleep, nasal congestion from allergies makes it harder to breathe through your nose. Instead, you breathe through your mouth, causing dry mouth.
Both of these factors can lead to breathing delays while sleeping – otherwise known as the “apneas” that are characteristic of obstructive sleep apnea. Additionally, if an allergic reaction causes the tonsils or adenoids to swell, the airway may be further blocked.
Can allergies cause sleep apnea?
While allergies have not been proven to cause sleep apnea directly, if they consistently affect the quality of your sleep, they could exacerbate any symptoms of sleep apnea that may already be present.
Allergies, nasal passage, discomfort, and inflammation caused by airborne allergens can sometimes cause sleep rhythm disturbances that are not too different from sleep apnea.
Could allergy treatment cure my sleep apnea?
Treatment of allergies may be useful for milder cases of obstructive sleep apnea. There are several treatments available:
You can take over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl or Claritin, or a decongestant like Mucinex or Sudafed, to minimize the effects of allergies during the day. You could also use a saline nasal spray and then rub VapoRub onto your chest for a quick treatment that doesn’t require drugs. When nothing else seems to work, you can also ask your doctor about the prospect of taking allergy shots.
Another good idea is to invest in a hypoallergenic pillow at night that does not trap pollen, dust, or any other irritants of allergens in its fibers.
You should also consider buying a humidifier in your bedroom to moisturize the air that can treat any dry sinuses and cracked lips (from breathing through your mouth), as well as any other respiratory conditions. If you already have a humidifier, then be sure to change the water periodically.
What are the signs of OSA?
There are a variety of signs to look for to decide whether you are suffering from sleep apnea.
One of the most revealing signs is frequent loud snoring, and breathing pauses when you’re sleeping. Additional symptoms include morning headaches when you wake up first; daytime exhaustion and sleepiness; or a general lack of energy even though you get seven hours of sleep a night or more.
What can I do about sleep apnea?
Seek support from a sleep expert, if you haven’t already. The first step toward sleep apnea care is to do a sleep test. Then, after a diagnosis that indicates that it is indeed sleeping apnea, they will prescribe the best remedy for treating it.
If you are suffering from allergies and believe they are interfering with your sleep, talk about it with one of our sleep experts. We can provide treatments that will help you wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead.