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Allergies Health Center

Treating Allergies at Night

Are allergies keeping you awake?
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WebMD Feature

If allergies are keeping you awake at night, you're not alone.

In one study, only 17% of patients with allergies rated their sleep as optimal.  About half of all people in the study said allergies and nasal congestion woke them up at night and also made it hard to fall asleep.                                        

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Why does it matter?

  • Sleep deprivation is a stress that has significant consequences, such as high blood pressure and heart complications, as well as psychological consequences.
  • Sleep deprivation affects every part of your life from your relationships to your ability to think and be productive to your income.

How are allergies linked with sleep deprivation?

So what's the problem with allergies and how are they linked to sleep deprivation? WebMD asked William E. Berger, MD, MBA, professor of medicine at the University of California, Irvine, to explain more about allergies and the resulting sleep deprivation.  Berger is past president of the American College of Allergy and Immunology and author of Allergies and Asthma for Dummies.

"With nasal allergies, there are four things that happen when an allergic reaction occurs," says Berger.  "There's sneezing, itching, runny nose and mucus formation, and then nasal congestion and swelling of the mucous membranes."

Berger explains to WebMD that when these four reactions occur with allergies, they can cause a host of other breathing problems that result in sleep deprivation. 

As an example, as soon as you crawl in bed prepared to get a good night's sleep, you realize that you can't breathe through your nose. So, you position yourself differently on the pillows and just as you get comfortable and find a good breathing position, postnasal drip (thick mucus) starts to collect in the back of your throat, causing you to cough -- and cough. The more you cough and try to breathe through your congested nose, the more miserable you feel.

Thus, all night long, you toss and turn and cough and snore instead of sleeping. The next day, you awaken feeling exhausted and irritable because your allergies have wreaked havoc with normal sleep.

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