If it feels like your allergies get worse at night, interfering with a good night’s sleep, it’s not your imagination: The body’s natural antihistamines are at their lowest levels at night. And any nasal symptoms that make it difficult to breathe through your nose can cause you to mouth-breathe and snore all night, which may lead to a dry mouth and lots of nighttime awakenings. Post-nasal drip and coughing from allergies will also keep you awake—and, on top of all that, allergies can trigger asthma, which is frequently worse at night. It’s no surprise that 93 percent1 of people suffering allergy symptoms also report trouble sleeping.
Sleep is vital to your overall health, so if your allergies are severe enough to interfere with getting your seven to nine hours, it’s time to take action.
Controlling your night allergies
If you suffer from mild or seasonal allergies, you might be able to control them well enough to sleep better with over-the-counter medication. Nasal steroid sprays tend to be an effective treatment. Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) that can leave you groggy well into the following afternoon; next-generation antihistamines containing fexofenadine or loratadine can ease your symptoms without that side effect.
It’s also important to minimize exposure to whatever you’re allergic to. An allergist can conduct various kinds of tests to help you pinpoint your trouble areas and can also prescribe allergy-specific immunotherapy to gradually help your body get used to the allergens it’s reacting to. If you suffer from allergies only a few weeks a year, you may also be able to identify a potential allergic trigger by paying attention to pollen-apps or websites, such as pollen.aaaai.org, which can tell you what’s flaring up in your area on the days you have the worst symptoms.
Here are a few other suggestions for controlling allergies:
- Keep your windows closed when your allergies are at their worst, and run your air conditioning instead. This helps keep pollen, dust and mold out of the house. You may also consider investing in an air purifier that captures ultrafine particles, which will help to remove allergens from the air.
- If you have a humidifier, be sure it’s cleaned regularly. Any dampness can create an environment friendly to molds, which are a common allergen.
- If you’re allergic to dust mites, clean your house at least weekly to keep dust levels down. But the act of cleaning itself can release more dust into the air, so make sure you’re cleaning correctly.2
- Wearing a face mask3 can keep some of the pollen and dust out of your airways—the N95 masks are very effective at filtering pollen. SoClean also offers a number of Lifestyle Face Masks on our website.
- Whenever you come in from outside during allergy season, remove your clothing, leave it in the laundry room and change into something clean.
Keeping allergens out of the bedroom
The bedroom is the most important area to look at when trying to control your nighttime allergies. Here are a few important lifestyle changes you can make to help you breathe easier and get the best sleep in your bedroom:
- Keep pets out of the bedroom, and especially out of the bed. This is a no-brainer if you’re allergic to your pet’s dander, or shed skin. But even if you’re not, your pet is very likely carrying other allergens, such as dust and pollen, on its fur.
- Protect your bedding from dust mites with hypoallergenic bedding,4 including mattress wraps, box spring covers, pillows, and pillowcases. And wash your sheets frequently in hot water to kill dust mites. Make sure you’re not bringing “outside” clothes that may have pollen on them into the bedroom. It’s a good idea to shower in the evening and change into pajamas outside your room to avoid bringing these allergens into your bed.
- Some people find that using a nasal saline rinse or a neti pot before bed helps reduce their nasal symptoms. If you’re snoring, you may also get some relief from nasal expanding strips such as those made by Breathe Right.
Better sleep leads to better performance and health all day, so it’s well worth trying to get to the bottom of your allergies to reduce your nighttime awakenings and sleep more soundly.
- “Sleep and allergic disease: A summary of the literature and future directions for research,” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, December 2012.
- “How to Finally Get Rid of All the Dust in Your Home That's Making You Sick,” by Korin Miller, Health, April 2018.
- “Can Wearing a Surgical Mask Help With Allergies?” by Jeanie Davis, HealthLiving, accessed September 2020.
- Allergy bedding, National Allergy Supply.