Home » Allergies & Sleep Issues
Springtime. The birds are singing. The sun is shining. The neighbors are mowing their lawns. Sounds perfect, right? But for many, the change in seasons brings with it sneezing, runny noses, and watery eyes. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), about 50 million Americans suffer from nasal allergies, or allergic rhinitis. Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to unwanted substances in the body. The immune system releases histamines that are intended to fight off the allergen, but instead result in inflamed nasal passages, itchy eyes and constant sneezing.
Allergies are more than a nuisance. They can dramatically upset your life, especially your sleep. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) notes that the symptoms associated with allergies, especially the inflammation of the airways, can lead to poor sleep and daytime sleepiness. For example, the AAFA found that more than half of people with nasal allergies claim they have trouble sleeping due to their symptoms. One reason for this is that allergies cause the nasal passages to swell, leaving less room for air to pass through. When a person lies down to sleep, that congestion can make nose breathing even more difficult.
Allergies can even lead to a sleep disorder. A 2006 French study found that sleep disorders were far more common in those with allergies than those without. One specific sleep disorder that has been linked to allergic rhinitis is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Sleep Apnea is a condition characterized by complete and partial airway obstructions, which can occur when the tongue and muscles relax during sleep, the lower jaw falls back toward the throat or the airway becomes blocked. These obstructions can occur hundreds of times each night and can lead to problems such as headaches, nighttime asthma, high blood pressure, and more. If left untreated, Sleep Apnea may lead to heart attack, stroke and death.
The reason why Sleep Apnea is more common in people with allergies, says the NSF, is that nasal congestion causes the upper airway to narrow and increases the risk of snoring. Because both Sleep Apnea and allergic rhinitis increase inflammation in the airways, those with both conditions are at an even greater risk of airway obstruction during sleep. And adults are not the only ones at risk. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine notes that children with a history of respiratory infections or allergies tend to snore loudly, putting them at greater risk for Sleep Apnea.
If you or a family member suffer from allergies and have noticed other symptoms such as snoring, interrupted sleep, or daytime sleepiness, consider asking your physician for a sleep study, which is used to diagnose the disorder and its severity.
For some people, controlling the allergies will eliminate the sleep apnea, but if the Sleep Apnea requires further treatment, there are several options available, including lifestyle changes, surgery, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and Oral Appliance Therapy. Oral Appliance Therapy has proven to be an effective, scientifically-based treatment alternative that patients may find more comfortable. The purpose of the appliance is to hold the jaw in a position that allows the airway to remain as open and firm as possible during sleep. Oral appliances are similar to athletic mouth guards but less bulky and completely non-invasive. Oral sleep appliances are covered by most medical insurance plans and Medicare.
For more information on oral appliance therapy for snoring, sleep apnea, and TMJ Disorder call a Koala® Center for Sleep and TMJ Disorders Near You at 877-692-0448 or find a location near you.