Allergies and Sleep

One in five Americans has diagnosed environmental allergies, according to the Allergy and Asthma Network. Of those diagnosed, more than half report the allergies affect their daily quality of life.(1) Allergic rhinitis and asthma often coexist in patients. “For example approximately 80% of all children with asthma have coexisting allergic rhinitis, and nearly 40% of those with allergic rhinitis have coexisting asthma.”(2)

Sleep is critical for physical and mental health, and sleep deprivation can alter immune function and interfere with healing. People with asthma and allergies often have their sleep disrupted because of symptoms at night.(2) There are several causes of sleep problems for people with asthma and/or allergies. These include: airway obstruction, nasal congestion, coughing, histamine that affects the sleep-wake cycle, sleep apnea, and snoring. Sleep quality is worse in patients with more severe disease.(2) In addition to daytime drowsiness, sleep problems are linked to decreased productivity, problems with learning and memory, and depression.(3)

Treatments that improve symptoms, such as intranasal corticosteroids, have been shown to improve sleep.(3)

“For patients who have overlapping asthma and allergic rhinitis symptoms, balancing the management of both disorders through effective trigger control and continued medication adherence might be key to preventing impairments in sleep and improving daytime functioning.”(3)

Adjustments in the home and bedroom can also be helpful in improving sleep. Some of these include:

  • Encase the box spring, mattress, pillows, and comforter inside zippered, mite-proof covers
  • Frequently wash sheets in water at least 130 degrees
  • Keep pets, stuffed animals, and plants outside the bedroom
  • Use a high-quality air filtration system throughout the house
  • If spending time outdoors during pollen season, shower and change clothes before entering bedroom(4)

(1) Allergy and Asthma Network, Allergy Statistics in the U.S.,
(2) Koinis-Mitchell, D. PhD., Craig, D. D.O., et. al., Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Sleep and Allergic Disease: A Summary of the Literature and Future Directions for Research,
(3) Davila, D. M.D. (reviewer) National Sleep Foundation, Allergies and Sleep,
(4) Iliandes, C. M.D., Healthgrades, Sound Sleep Tips for Allergy Sufferers,