Sleep Apnea and Allergies: Are They Connected?

Spring is here, bringing allergy season for many Americans. Those with allergies, like pollen or dust mite sensitivities, are gearing up. But for those with untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), allergies can be extra challenging.

OSA and allergies are connected. Allergies can increase your risk of developing OSA and worsen its symptoms if you already have it. If you’re dealing with both, here’s what you need to know.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

Sleep Apnea and Allergies

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder where your breathing is interrupted during sleep because your upper airway gets blocked. This blockage causes you to momentarily stop breathing while sleeping, disrupting your sleep cycle and preventing you from reaching deep sleep.

How are Allergies and Sleep Apnea Connected?

Allergies and sleep apnea often go hand in hand, especially during allergy season like spring. Allergic reactions, such as nasal congestion, can block airways and lead to breathing pauses during sleep, known as apneas, which characterize obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Allergies may also cause swelling in the tonsils or adenoids, further obstructing airways and worsening sleep apnea symptoms.

While allergies don’t directly cause sleep apnea, they can exacerbate it. Research suggests that reducing allergic reactions, such as with nasal steroids, can improve sleep quality and reduce daytime fatigue for those with allergic rhinitis. However, treating allergies alone may not fully resolve sleep apnea. Additional interventions may be necessary for effective sleep apnea management.

Can Allergies Affect CPAP Therapy for Sleep Apnea?

Yes. But there are solutions. CPAP mask makers have full face options for nasal congestion. Advanced APAP tech adapts air delivery for allergy-related breathing changes. Talk to your doctor or sleep therapist about switching masks or machines.

For mild cases of sleep apnea, you may use some anti-snoring devices or anti-snoring mouthpieces.

Allergies and Sleep Apnea: How They Affect Sleep

Allergies can disrupt sleep by causing problems like insomnia, daytime drowsiness, difficulty waking up, and restless sleep. This occurs due to:

  1. Inflammatory Signals: Allergic reactions trigger inflammation and the release of chemicals that can lead to excessive tiredness and sleep disturbances.

  2. Nasal Blockage: Allergies often result in nasal blockages, like a stuffy nose, making it harder to breathe and fall asleep. This can also contribute to snoring.

  3. Allergy Medications: Some allergy medications may induce drowsiness or interfere with sleep patterns.

On the other hand, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing, which prompt slight awakenings to resume breathing. Consequently, individuals with OSA experience fragmented sleep and inadequate time in crucial deep sleep stages.

In comparison to allergies, OSA is more strongly associated with excessive daytime sleepiness and a tendency to fall asleep during the day. Untreated OSA poses a safety hazard, particularly while driving.

Can Allergy Treatment Help with Sleep Apnea?

Yes, allergy treatment can be helpful for mild cases of obstructive sleep apnea. Here are some options:

  1. Over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl or Claritin, or decongestants like Mucinex or Sudafed can minimize allergy effects during the day.
  2. Using a saline nasal spray and rubbing VapoRub on your chest can provide quick relief without medication.
  3. Allergy shots, prescribed by a doctor, may be considered if other treatments aren’t effective.
  4. Using a hypoallergenic pillow at night can prevent allergens from accumulating.
  5. Installing a humidifier in your bedroom can moisturize the air, helping with dry sinuses and mouth breathing. Be sure to change the water periodically.

Need professional help to diagnose and address your sleep problems? Schedule an online consultation with sleep specialist Dr. John Williams.

Leave a Comment

Online Sleep Consultation With Dr. John Williams