You might already know that seasonal allergies can erode your immune system and make you more likely to catch a spring cold. However, that’s not the only downside to spring-time sneezing. How do allergies affect your sleep? Seasonal allergies can be super disruptive to your sleep cycle, and not getting enough REM time can make you more likely to get sick, which creates a vicious cycle of misery. In Los Angeles, where I live, the flowers are blooming and the Santa Ana winds are blowing something fierce, which makes for a pretty miserable allergy season.
Terry Cralle, registered nurse and Better Sleep Council certified clinical sleep educator, tells Bustle that there are some unexpected things that can disrupt your sleep during allergy season. “Yes, spring is in the air, but so are pollen and other allergens. Leaving the bedroom windows open at night is a setup for an allergy attack and a poor night’s sleep,” Cralle says. “If you suffer from allergies, turning on the AC is a safer alternative.” When I leave my windows open, there is a layer of dirt on everything by the end of the day. As a year-round allergy sufferer, I am a vigilant with the vacuum, and I dust every single day to alleviate some of my misery. If you haven’t been sleeping well since spring sprung a few weeks ago, here are some ways allergies can affect your sleep, and some tips for getting more rest during allergy season.
1. Dreaded Dust Mites Make You Sneeze
OK, you’re probably going to be itching to get home ASAP and wash everything on your bed after you read this. Basically, your skin is a buffet for dust mites, which sounds super gross. “They feed mainly on the tiny flakes of human skin that people shed each day. These flakes work their way deep into the inner layers of furniture, carpets, bedding and even stuffed toys,” the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American noted on its website. “These are the places where mites thrive. An average adult person may shed up to 1.5 grams of skin in a day. This is enough to feed one million dust mites!” Ugh. Yuck. Not only do dust mites feast on your skin, they can also make you sneeze. In addition to washing your bedding on the regular, Cralle suggests replacing your pillow every year. This can get expensive, so you can throw them in the washer and dryer instead, which I just started doing.
2. Co-Bedding With Your Pets Increases Allergies
While there’s nothing cuter than waking up to a snuggly dog face, sleeping with your dogs or cats can increase your seasonal allergy suffering. “Sleeping with your furry companions could be aggravating your allergies and negatively impacting the quality of your sleep,” Cralle tells Bustle. “Because their thick fur is a veritable magnet for stuff like pollen, dirt ,and dust, dogs are basically walking allergen fur balls. Compromise by letting your pup sleep at the foot of your bed, or even better, in their own bed on the floor.”
3. Pillows Perpetuate Allergies
Aside from replacing or washing your pillows, if you suffer from severe allergies you might want to consider getting some pillow covers. “For chronic allergy sufferers, there is no better solution than a pillow protector, full mattress encasement, and box spring encasement,” Cralle explains. “A typical mattress cover may not protect you from the allergens in your mattress coming in contact with you. Pillow covers are the first line of defense against dust mites and allergens, and they keep your pillow cleaner for longer.”
4. Open Windows Are An Allergy Welcome Wagon
While you might crave some fresh air after this long cold winter, Cralle says that sleeping with your windows open can actually create more problems than it solves. Open windows allow allergens to blow into your bedroom, which could make you wake up feeling worse. Additionally, turning on the fan or air conditioning without dusting first can also increase your allergy symptoms. Perhaps this is how that whole spring-cleaning thing came about.
5. Sleeping In Your Clothes Brings The Outside Indoors
I will admit to sleeping in my clothes pretty regularly in my 20s. However, you might not even think about the fact that sleeping in clothes you’ve worn outdoors can invite unwelcome allergens into your bed. On its website, the Alaska Sleep Clinic advised removing all outdoor clothing before climbing into bed to reduce your chances of bringing allergens into your sleep space.
6. Sleeping With A Partner Who Has Allergies Is Bad For Both Of You
If you share a bed with a partner, and they suffer from seasonal allergies, you’re probably both going to wake up on the wrong side of the bed. The Better Sleep Council reported that one in three people claim their sleep is disrupted by their partner. If you still want to sleep with your partner, and you want to make sure your sleep is restful, you’re going to have to abide by the rules of dusting and vacuuming on the regular, keeping the windows closed, putting pets in their place, and making sure is bedding washed. What’s more, a survey from Sleep Cycle reported that women suffer more than men when they don’t get enough sleep, so if you want to set your relationship up for success, make your bedroom an allergen-free zone.
7. Wet Weather Welcomes Mold
When I lived in Maine, spring was called mud season because it rained every day for months. This is also why people in new England have spaces in their houses called mud rooms, which is just like it sounds — a room to ditch your muddy stuff. All of this wet weather makes everything damp AF, which is a breeding ground for mold. According to the website Sleep Resolutions, “[Mold] grows year round anywhere where moisture breeds. Sometimes you can see it, sometimes you can only smell it. Keep track of damp surfaces around windows and doors or anywhere you know there are problems with water leaks. Using a dehumidifier can help.”
8. Don’t Forget To Keep Your Nose Clean
If you have seasonal nasal allergies, and you’ve never used a neti pot, you’re totally missing out. Basically, you fill this magic little teapot with salt water, tilt your head, and pour it into one nostril. The water then comes out the other side, which clears allergens from your nasal passages. “Nasal irrigation, if it is done correctly and gently, can remove allergens, irritants, and inflammatory mucus,” Dr. William H. Anderson, a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, told Best Health magazine. Think about it. If you go to bed with a nose full of dust, dirt, and pollen, you’re probably not going to sleep great, and you’re going to feel like your head is full of sand when you wake up. If you just can’t get onboard with the neti pot, a saline nasal spray, sold at most drug stores, can do the same thing.
9. Snoring Steals Your Sleep
Snoring is super disruptive to sleep, and not just for people who have to listen to it. If you have seasonal allergies, and you aren’t doing anything to relieve your symptoms, you could be losing sleep. “The effects of allergies on the body, especially in creating blockages of the airway, can lead to, or exacerbate snoring,” The Snoring Center noted on its website. “Allergic rhinitis can be seasonal although some people suffer from these symptoms year-round. The resulting stuffy nose is due to blockage or congestion and sufferers often complain of fatigue, due to blockage or congestion. Guess what, that blockage is likely causing snoring.”
So, if you have seasonal allergies, and you feel extra tired during the day, doing a deep spring cleaning in your bedroom can increase your chances of getting more of that much sought after sweet slumber. While this kind of vigilance can be time consuming, putting in the time means that you’ll sleep better at night and feel a lot better during the day. And, let’s face it, a little extra effort is worth not feeling like a used up dishrag for the next few months.