As if daytime wasn’t rough enough for those who suffer from seasonal allergies, sniffles and sneezes can really disrupt sleep, too. To find out why—and what to do about it—we asked allergist and immunologist Heather Moday, M.D., for her top tips to help allergy sufferers fall asleep easily and wake up rested.
Why seasonal allergies can mess with sleep.
According to Moday, there are a ton of reasons why allergies can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Of course, allergies disrupt your breathing, thanks to inflammation, nasal congestion, and postnasal drip, and can also cause coughing and sneezing, making it harder to fall asleep.
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If you deal with sinus headaches or sinus pressure, the pain can also make it difficult to relax at the end of the day. You may have also noticed congestion gets worse when you lie down, due to more blood flow to your head.
“When we sleep, one of the major disruptive factors is any sort of respiratory obstruction,” Moday tells mbg, adding, “Just as sleep apnea causes us to wake up multiple times during the night, if you can’t breathe through your nose, it’s going to cause frequent awakenings or snoring.”
All of these factors can lead to sleep that’s not as restorative as it could be.
1. Use a neti pot or saline rinse.
“I’m a big fan of using neti pots to clear out the nasal passages and sinuses,” Moday says, “because you get a lot of pollen that collects when we breathe, and when that collects in the nasal passages and we sleep with that at night, it makes us even more inflamed.” Using a neti pot, or even a saline rinse before bed (and potentially in the morning, as well), she adds, can really help clear out mucus and allergens that are bothering you.
2. Steam with essential oils.
Steaming with essential oils like eucalyptus or rosemary can have a soothing effect on the sinuses, helping them to open up, Moday notes. All you need is a big bowl full of steaming hot water with 10 to 15 drops of essential oils that help with allergies. Drape a towel over your head, and hover your face over the water, breathing the steam in deeply.
Moday notes that warmer temperatures can cause nasal passages to swell, so allergy sufferers will want to keep their rooms relatively cool. This aligns with the general rule of thumb that around 65 degrees Fahrenheit is the best temperature for quality sleep.
During the height of allergy season, pollen can get everywhere—including our hair. As such, “Showering at bedtime is a good idea, especially if you have long hair,” Moday says. That way, you’ll wash the pollen off yourself before you can track it into bed with you.
5. Wash your bedding frequently.
Nothing will flare up allergies like bedding that needs a deep clean—especially dirty pillowcases. “Change your pillowcase frequently—if not every night, every other night,” Moday suggests, adding to make sure you’re washing all your bedding in hot water and putting it in a hot dryer, which will also kill dust mites.
6. Consider investing in an air purifier.
“People don’t realize how much pollen comes into their house and gets recirculated with the dust,” Moday explains. Using a HEPA air purifier in your bedroom can help improve the air quality in your bedroom and keep allergens from irritating you.
And of course, when all else fails, Moday notes it never hurts to see an allergist if you’ve exhausted all other options. Getting tested for what specific things you’re allergic to (whether it be grass pollen, ragweed pollen, or indoor allergens like dust and mold) can help you figure out the best course of action.
Allergies are a drag, and even more so when they’re negatively affecting your sleep. Getting quality rest is essential to our overall health, so if allergies are getting you down, give these tips a try, and consider going to an allergist if you’re not seeing improvement.
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