The Link Between Allergies, Nasal Congestion, & Sleep Problems

Allergies are commonly blamed for poor sleep. But does it really? Researchers from Japan found that allergies alone are not enough to cause sleep disturbances, but a combination of allergies and nasal congestion lead to increased reports of sleep difficulty.

This finding isn’t surprising, since any degree of nasal congestion can aggravate your soft palate or tongue to fall back more easily when you’re in deep sleep. Even if you’re completely normal, you’re more likely to toss and turn when your nose is stuffed up from a cold.

This also implies that the more narrow your jaws, the more susceptible you’ll be to any form of irritation or inflammation in the nose which can lead to nasal congestion. The more narrow the space between your upper molars, the less space there will be in your nasal cavity, and the more likely your septum will buckle (deviated nasal septum). Plus, the angle between your nasal septum and your nostrils will be more narrow, which makes it easier to cave in with even a little bit of internal nasal congestion.

If you suffer from allergies, and you have nasal congestion, it’s important to treat the congestion as well. Simple steps you can take include using Breathe Rite strips, nasal saline irrigation, and avoiding eating or drinking alcohol close to bedtime. If you must take an over-the-counter antihistamine, make sure that it includes the letter ” -D”, which stands for decongestant. Usually, it’ll have a variation of pseudoephedrine (the generic name for Sudafed). If pseudoephedrine makes you hyper or jittery, you can always use oxymetazoline (Afrin) very sparingly (not more than 3 days).

If these conservative options are not enough, then prescription medications can be used. As a last resort, surgery can sometimes help.

Do allergies cause you to sleep poorly?

 

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6 thoughts on “The Link Between Allergies, Nasal Congestion, & Sleep Problems

  1. I am 30 years old. I was diagnosed with allergies at 15 and later accumulated asthma at 19. Every year the breathing and sinus trouble gets worse. I take zyrtec-d everyday. However, somedays, I still have severe allergy attacks. My doctor told me this week about the deviated septum and possible sleep apnea. I have tried all kinds of meds, allergy shots ( had allergy tests from 2 separate specialists), throat sprays, saline, nasal steroid, mouth piece… well you name it. I have not had any surgeries on my sinus cavity. I have about 10 sinus infections a year. My ears hurt all the time…extreme pain in morning. The mucus is now coming out my eyes and I wake with them crusted over. Sometimes, I wake during the night choking and chest pains because I stopped breathing. I am tired of all this, in addition to the sneezing, post nasal drip, headaches. pressure and all the yucky stuff that comes with it. Just reading what I’ve told you, what do you suggest?

  2. You should probably see an ENT surgeon in your area to address your nasal breathing and other sinus issues more definitively. Most likely, a CT will probably show that you don’t have any infections. Allergies can make things worse, but weather changes, chemicals, scents, and odors can also aggravate your nasal and sinus symptoms. Having nasal congestion can also aggravate breathing pauses, where your tongue collapses. You may want to experiment with Breathe Rite strips, avoiding back sleeping, and not eating anything or drinking alcohol within 3-4 hours of bedtime. Nasal saline or neti-pot saline irrigation can also help before bedtime. Good luck.

  3. I am a 58 yr old apnea patient that has been on cpap therapy for almost 3 yrs. now and still feel tired. I have noticed lately that my nose seems to be stuffy almost every night and that my nasal cavities seem narrow. I was wondering if using a nasal steroid would allow this inflammation and stuffiness to subside and give me better cpap results. I have been told I have allergies but do not tolerate OTC antihistamines or decongestants very well- they either make me sleepy or jittery. I use a nasal pillow cpap mask since I have a hard time adjusting to a full face mask. Are there any long term side effects from nasal steroids and can you suggest any “natural” solutions. Thank you!!

  4. Becky,

    Nasal steroids are a simple way of alleviating allergy symptoms without many side effects. The one major advantage is that for the most part, they don’t do into the bloodstream. You can also try nasal saline irrigation. Good luck.

  5. I am 33,not overweight,long time allergy sufferer and snoring for as long as I can remember. I have year round environmental allergies with nasal congestion almost always. Recently diagnosed with sleep apnea (6 months). Been using an apap for about 2 months now set to 14 at it’s highest pressure. Currently I use zyrtec d and flonase but still have nasal congestion to the point that I cannot tolerate cpap about 50% of the time. In 2 weeks my ent will be using radiofrequency waves to shrink my turbinates which he says are chronically enlarged. He’s hoping I will no longer have to use allergy meds after this. My question is, does this procedure have the potential of curing my nasal allergy symptom, in your experience? Will it be long lasting? What are the complications from this procedure?

  6. Ms. Kieley,

    Radiofrequency turbinate cautery helps to shrink your turbinates and in most cases can significantly help with allergies and nasal congestion, but it’s not perfect. However, it’s a good first line in-office procedure to start with, before considering more aggressive nasal surgery options. Results can last for months or years—it really depends on the individual. There are also many other variables to consider besides the turbinates when you have nasal congestion. Bleeding is always a possibility with any surgical procedure, no matter how small, but the risk is minimal. Your biggest risk is that 5 to 10% chance it may not work well for you. If you haven’t done so already, please take a look at my ebook on how to unstuff your stuffy nose on my homepage. Good luck.