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Why Are My Allergies Worse at Night?

Posted on: September 22, 2022

It’s the same thing almost every single night. You brush your teeth, finish your nightly routine, climb into bed, and immediately feel congested and sneezy.

Here are a few reasons why your allergy symptoms get worse at night:

  • Bedrooms tend to have the highest concentration of dust mites in a home
  • Bedrooms adjoining bathrooms may have mold and mildew spores
  • Lying down can increase congestion
  • Pollen that lingers on your skin and hair can move to your bedding

We dig into the causes of nighttime allergies and steps you can take to get a sounder night’s sleep.

Jump Ahead

Nighttime Allergy Symptoms

Research shows that

  • 74% of allergy sufferers wake up during the night because of allergy symptoms
  • Over 90% of allergy sufferers have difficulty sleeping

Whether allergies are due to mold, pet dander, pollen, or something else, they tend to have a common cluster of symptoms:

  • Runny nose and congestion
  • Watery, itchy red eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Postnasal drip
  • Itchy nose, roof of mouth, or throat
  • Eye puffiness or dark circles

Dust mite and cockroach allergies can have similar symptoms, but may also include skin rashes and general itchiness.

If these symptoms are keeping you up at night, the good news is that you can take steps to eradicate triggers from your home.

What Nighttime Allergens Can Disrupt Your Sleep?

Rashes, food allergies, or an upset stomach triggered by allergies can cause sleep problems, but the most common pair of sleep-destroyers are nasal allergies and asthma.

The allergens most often responsible for sleep disruption are typically:

  1. Dust mites
  2. Pet dander
  3. Pollen
  4. Mold
  5. Cockroaches

Dust Mites

Both asthma and allergy sufferers could have a dust mite allergy. Dust mites prefer carpeting, some furniture, and bedding to live in. Nearly microscopic dust mites may live on your pillow, box spring, and mattress.

Dust mites may cause symptoms like:

  • Itchiness
  • A feeling of being unable to breathe
  • Chest tightness
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Eye itchiness and redness
  • Nose stuffiness and sneezing

Nighttime Allergy Tips

  • If you have a dust mite allergy, use extra-hot water to wash your sheets and other bedding—at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit—to remove any lingering mites.
  • Make sure you change and clean your bedding every week to keep dust mites away.
  • Get plastic or fabric covers for your pillows, box spring, and mattresses so dust mites can’t get into your bed.

Pet Dander & Sleeping with Pets

Those who are allergic to pet dander can have instant reactions or longer-term symptoms.

Dander can travel and land on household and bedroom surfaces, so an animal doesn’t have to be present for a pet dander allergic reaction to take place. Even if you don’t own a pet yourself, you can bring the dander home with you after vising someone who does.

Common symptoms of pet allergies include:

  • Hives and/or skin rash
  • Wheezing and coughing
  • Inability to breathe
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Inflamed, irritated eyes
  • Wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing

Nighttime Allergy Tips

  • After you’re done spending time with your pet, change clothes and wash the ones you wore while spending time with your animal.
  • Don’t bring clothes into your bedroom unless they’re clean.
  • Don’t let pets sleep with you.

Pollen

As one of the most common triggers, pollen allergies affect millions of people in the United States.

When you go outside, pollen particles settle on your skin, hair, clothes, and shoes. If you don’t take a shower and change your clothes, then you can end up with pollen in your bed.

Sleeping with an open window can also allow pollen to get in as the sun rises and pollen counts do, too.

This can cause symptoms like:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy throat
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Watery eyes
  • Swelling and redness around the eyes
  • Itchy nose, mouth, or ears
  • Aggravated asthma symptoms

Nighttime Allergy Tips

  • If you’ve spent any time outside, change your clothes and take a shower before bed to remove pollen particles.
  • Take off your shoes at the front door to avoid tracking pollen into the house.

Mold

While you hope to never have to deal with indoor mildew and mold, it does happen.

Common symptoms of mold allergies include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny Nose
  • Cough
  • Watery eyes

If you’re allergic to mold, then it could trigger your allergies and keep you up at night—especially if your bedroom is close to a bathroom.

Indoor mold should be cleaned as soon as it’s detected. To properly clean mold, mix about one cup of bleach (or detergent) with a gallon of water, then scrub until all surface mold is removed.

Nighttime Allergy Tips

  • If you think indoor mold is worsening your nighttime allergies, make sure you have adequate ventilation in every room of the house—especially kitchens, bathrooms, and basements, where humidity levels can often change.
  • Use dehumidifiers in these rooms to keep too much moisture from forming.
  • Make sure your home doesn’t have any pipes or roof seals with leaks. If you spot these, get them repaired.

Cockroaches

According to information from the ACAAI, up to 98% of U.S. urban homes could have cockroach allergens, with 63% of all other homes potentially containing the insect allergen.

Those with cockroach allergies may be more susceptible to sinus infections and ear infections. You might also experience wheezing, skin rashes, nasal congestion, and coughing.

Nighttime Allergy Tip:

  • If you suspect you have cockroach allergies, call an exterminator. They can tell you if there are any upstairs gaps where cockroaches can get into your bedroom.

How to Sleep Well & Without Nighttime Allergies

Regardless of which allergen is triggering your nighttime allergies, there are a few additional steps you can take to relieve your symptoms and get a better night’s sleep.

Keep a Clean Pillow and Mattress

Pillows and mattresses are great for you getting a good night’s sleep, but they also excel at harboring allergy triggers such as dust mites, pollen, and pet dander.

Replacing pillows or covering them with an anti-allergy pillowcase helps. In addition, there are anti-allergen mattress covers for sale that are effective in helping to relieve nighttime allergy symptoms.

Remove Dust Regularly

Dust your furniture often with a damp cloth or microfiber glove to ensure that you capture the dust, not just spread it around. Vacuum carpets regularly, too.

Use An Air Purifier with A HEPA Filter

HEPA air purifiers are designed to remove airborne particles that can make your allergies worse.

Slow Dust Mite and Mold Growth

By using a dehumidifier and air conditioner, you can set the right conditions to slow mold or mite growth. The ideal humidity should be around 30-50% and the temperature should be 70 degrees F or below.

Close Your Doors and Windows

As tempting as it can be to let the cool outdoor breeze flow through your windows at night, this can also allow dust mites, pollen, and other airborne allergens to enter your home.

Take Allergy Medication at Night

Depending on your symptoms, taking some over-the-counter antihistamines may provide you with enough relief to get some shut-eye.

Allergies and Sleep Apnea

When you have to wrestle with your allergies each night at bedtime, you may fitfully toss and turn and then wake up exhausted. It feels like you slept for maybe an hour or two. As you drag on with your day, bleary-eyed and dead tired, it’s easy to assume you’re so exhausted because your stuffy nose, eye itchiness, and coughing kept you awake.

While that could be true, you could also be dealing with sleep apnea without even knowing it.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a form of sleep apnea associated with allergies. The nasal symptoms of your allergies make you snore when you might regularly don’t. The sound of your snoring, while very distracting to a partner, can even bother you, causing you to wake up again and again throughout the night.

The upper airway is obstructed with this sleep apnea, either somewhat or all the way. Since your airway cannot open, the lungs don’t get as much air unless your chest muscles and diaphragm strain.

You can have obstructive sleep apnea and not even know it because you’re barely aware of what’s causing you to keep waking all night. Here are the other symptoms:

  • Constant exhaustion that makes it hard to get out of bed
  • A choking or gasping feeling that wakes you up, even several times a night
  • Snoring
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Night sweating
  • Mood changes, depression, feeling forgetful, and difficulty with concentrating on tasks
  • Morning headaches
  • Sore throat and/or dry mouth in the morning

By seeing your provider, you can begin getting your case of obstructive sleep apnea under control.

When to See a Specialist for Nighttime Allergies

allergy-relief-night

While the steps above can be helpful, sometimes they aren’t enough to fully relieve your symptoms.

If you answer “yes” to one or more of the questions below, you may want to consider seeing an allergist.

  • Do your allergy symptoms impact your ability to perform day-to-day activities?
  • Are your allergies causing symptoms like chronic sinus infections, nasal congestion, or difficulty breathing?
  • Do antihistamines or other allergy medications no longer relieve your symptoms?
  • Are your allergies decreasing the quality of your life?
  • Are you frequently short of breath, or do you feel tightness in your chest?

An allergist can work with you to evaluate the sources of your allergies and create a treatment plan to help prevent, manage, and control your symptoms.

Ultimately, the goal of allergy treatment will be to allow you to live as normal and symptom-free a life as possible.

In Summary

There are multiple potential triggers for night-time allergy symptoms—and no matter what types of allergies you have, they have the potential to ruin your sleep. But with a few simple allergen-reducing tricks, and (for some) the help of an allergist, you’ll be well on your way to a good night’s sleep.

Are nighttime allergies keeping you up? Talk with one of our board-certified allergists! Today, the center has 12 offices in and around Charlotte. All the 14 allergists at the center are board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. To make an appointment at an office near you call 704-372-7900.

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