Allergies keeping you awake? Here are the secrets of a sneeze-free sleep

·6 min read
Are your allergies keeping you up at night? (Getty Images)
Are your allergies keeping you up at night? (Getty Images)

From stressing about the pandemic, to suffering from a busy brain, there are plenty of reasons you might find yourself a fully paid up member of the #wideawakeclub.

But there's another, more surprising, reason your sleep is currently being stolen - allergies. 

Whether you're waking up with a stuffy nose or sneezing while you're snoozing, hay fever and other allergies could be stopping you getting a good night's rest. 

Research has revealed those of us with allergies are more than twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than those without. 

With one in four UK residents suffering from hay fever and more than one in ten experiencing symptoms associated with asthma, allergies could be causing millions of us to be skipping the shut eye. 

Allergy sufferers, and particularly those affected by hay fever around this time of year, often experience trouble falling asleep, while dust mites that favour residence in household beds can also trigger symptoms associated with hay fever and asthma.

And with the middle of May traditionally marking a sharp rise in the pollen count, it's time to get on top of the allergy-impacted sleep situation, pronto. 

Read more: Why sleeping with a fan on might be bad for your health

How do allergies impact sleep?

Allergies might not seem like an immediate cause of insomnia, but according to the Sleep Foundation allergens irritate your nasal passages when they enter your nose, triggering uncomfortable symptoms like nasal congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes. 

"These symptoms affect your ability to breathe easily and tend to worsen at night — two reasons why allergies commonly lead to poor sleep quality," the site explains. 

But allergies don’t just impact your ability to fall asleep; they also interfere with your ability to stay asleep. 

"People with allergies may wake up due to a congested nose, sneezing or a coughing fit in the middle of the night," the Sleep Foundation adds. 

Airing your bed can help prevent sleep loss through allergies. (Getty Images)
Airing your bed can help prevent sleep loss through allergies. (Getty Images)

How to get a good night sleep in allergy season

According to The Sleep Charity deputy CEO Lisa Artis, practicing good sleep hygiene is vital for those of us suffering from allergy-associated sleep deprivation. 

“Whatever issue you’re experiencing, practicing good sleep hygiene and creating a sleep-friendly environment will enhance your chances of falling asleep, staying asleep and sleeping well," she explains. 

“This includes a cool temperature of around 16 to 18 degrees, reducing humidity, eliminating distractions, such as banning mobiles and tablets in the hour before bed, and sleeping on a comfortable, supportive bed."

As we move into spring, many find that the increased daylight hours, the start of warmer weather and the onset of allergy season can also impact on sleep.

Watch: Here's why you shouldn't sleep with a fan on. 

“For those who suffer as the pollen count rises, it can be difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep," Artis explains. 

“Key to getting a good night’s sleep is to keep allergens at bay – or to minimise your reaction or exposure to them.

“The house dust mite, prevalent in bedrooms, can be a problem for many, so air your bed each morning and regularly clean mattresses, pillows and bedding.”

To help allergy sufferers manage this time of the year, The Sleep Charity has put together some tips to help minimise misery between the sheets.

Keep it cool

The temperature in your bedroom should be kept between 16°C and 18°C this is because dust mites can’t breed as well in cooler temperatures.

Read more: Hay fever remedies that actually work

Ditch the florals

Remove flowers from bedrooms and opt for artificial plants instead. "Some people suffer allergies with flowers and mould can also settle and form on indoor plants," explains Artis.

Switch up your washing

Wash duvet covers and pillowcases regularly at a high temperatures as this kills mites and removes mite faeces.

If hot washing is not possible, 24 hours in the freezer will kill any mites in a pillow prior to a cold wash.

If you've been outside during high pollen count days, The Sleep Foundation also suggests taking your clothes off when you come inside and putting them straight into the wash. 

"Never hang your clothes outside to dry. Use a dryer instead, if possible," the site adds.

Consider swapping real flowers with artificial. (Getty Images)
Consider swapping real flowers with artificial. (Getty Images)

Make your bed

Leave your duvet turned back during the day. "This gets rid of any moisture and helps to reduce dust mites," Artis explains. 

Avoid drying clothes on radiators in the bedroom

Drying clothes indoors involves releasing a surprising amount of moisture into the air. "This can add to, or cause, mould problems, irritating any allergies or symptoms," says Artis. 

Flip your mattress

"If you can, take your mattress outside for a good airing and then replace it upside-down and opposite-ways-round to its previous positioning," suggests Artis. Beds are the ideal environment for house mites to thrive as they prefer warm, humid environments. "It’s not always possible to move a mattress but, if you can, a good airing will help to get rid of any moisture and dead skin cells which house mites thrive on," she adds. 

Read more: Everything you need to know about hay fever: From symptoms to treatments

Get vacuuming

While there isn't any scientific research into how frequently hay fever sufferers should vacuum in months when the pollen count is higher, Allergy UK recommends the common-sense approach of minimising the ‘allergen load’ (how much pollen you come into contact with) by vacuuming as much as you can. 

"First clean the base of your bed with a soft brush to remove fluff and dust – if you have to use a vacuum cleaner do so very carefully and with the window wide open," says Artis.

"While the bed is moved out from any walls, vacuum thoroughly under and around the bed – as it can yield huge amounts of dust and fluff here. 

"Cleaning regularly can help reduce allergens. Hoover using a HPA filter vacuum cleaner," she adds. 

Consider a mechanical ventilator

For those with a severe reaction to pollen. "These are fans which bring in fresh air through pollen filters. They keep the air in your bedroom cleaner," explains Artis. 

Think about taking allergy medication at night

If you currently take your allergy medication in the morning, the Sleep Foundation suggests considering changing it to nighttime. "This ensures the dose of medication is still strong in your system when you go to bed, instead of wearing off in the middle of the night," the site explains. Consult your doctor first, though.

Seek medical help

If your allergies are still keeping you up at night, it's worth speaking to your GP who can discuss treatment options based on the type of allergies you have. 

"There are over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, and lifestyle changes that can provide relief," the Sleep Foundation explains. 

Watch: How to wear a face covering comfortably. 

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