Sleep Disorders Linked to Allergies

Insomnia More Common in People With Hay Fever and Other Allergies, Study Shows

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on September 19, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 19, 2006 -- Hay fever may make it harder to get a good night's sleep.

A new study shows people with allergic rhinitis from hay fever and other types of allergiesallergies have more difficulty sleeping and are more than twice as likely to suffer from sleep disorderssleep disorders such as insomniainsomnia.

Researchers say both allergies and sleep disorders are common conditions, but this is the first study to specifically look at whether the two might be related.

Allergies affect from 20% to 50% of Americans and occur when pollen or other allergens, such as pet dander or dust, irritate and inflame the nasal passages, causing symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes.

Sleep disorders, including insomnia, sleep apneasleep apnea (irregular breathing during sleep), and excessive daytime sleepiness, affect up to 30% of the population.

Allergies and Sleep Disorders

In the study, French researchers compared the prevalence of sleep disorders and other troubles sleeping in a group of 591 people who were being treated for allergic rhinitis with a similar group of 502 adults without allergic rhinitis.

The results showed that all sleep disorders and sleep-related complaints were much more common in people with allergies than those without.

For example:

  • 36% of people with allergic rhinitis reported insomnia compared with 16% of those without.
  • 42% of those with allergic rhinitis vs. 18% of those without said they had difficulty falling asleep.
  • 63% of allergic rhinitis sufferers said they felt like they weren't getting enough sleep compared with 25% of the controls.

Researcher Damien Léger, MD, of Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris, and colleagues also found that the severity of sleep disorders and troubles sleeping increased as the severity of symptoms increased. With worsening symptoms, people slept fewer hours, took longer to fall asleep, felt sleepy more often during the day, and found it more necessary to take sedatives.

They say the results, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, suggest that people with allergies should talk with their doctors about any sleeping problems to aid in early detection and treatment of sleep disorders and to improve their quality of life.

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SOURCES: Léger, D. Archives of Internal Medicine, Sept. 18, 2006; vol 166: pp 1744-1748. News release, American Medical Association.
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