Written by: Sarah Klein
Here’s what to know about nighttime allergy symptoms when the pollen count’s high.
Like clockwork, your seasonal allergies are back. As if the runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes aren’t bad enough, your allergy symptoms might also make it difficult to sleep. “Allergy symptoms actually can get worse at night,” says Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist and immunologist in New York. Read on to learn why—and discover what you can do to find relief.
Lying down worsens congestion
Gravity is not your friend when it comes to bedtime allergies. “When you lie down, basically everything in your nose starts dripping down your throat,” Parikh explains. Due to the anatomy of the nose and throat, that can lead to more coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing than when you’re standing upright, she says.
Propping yourself up with some extra pillows might help ease congestion and post-nasal drip while you sleep.
Your bedroom is full of dust mites and mold
No, it’s not that pollen levels rise at night. (They’re actually highest in the early morning!) Your allergies might feel worse at night because now you’re adding indoor triggers to the mix. “A lot of people are allergic to things in their bedrooms,” says Parikh, like dust mites that live in your pillows, mattress or box spring, and mold that grows in the walls of older houses or after water damage.
“Bedrooms tend to be the most allergenic part of the home,” says David Rosenstreich, M.D., chief of the division of allergy and immunology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York. “The allergies you get exposed to outside, compounded by additional allergens on the inside, may make symptoms worse.”
To help reduce allergens in your bedroom, ditch carpeting (or vacuum it frequently), use dust mite covers for mattresses and box springs and consider an air purifier, says Parikh. Sleep with the windows closed to minimize the amount of pollen that makes its way into your sleep sanctuary.
Your pet sleeps in your bed.
Another common allergen making things worse in your bedroom? Pet dander that accumulates on your carpet or comforter. Sure, furry friends are cozy snuggle buddies, but if you’re allergic to your pet, sharing your bed isn’t doing you any favors.
It’s always an unpopular suggestion, says Parikh, but she tells patients to stop allowing their pets in their bed. “Keeping the animals out of the bedroom is best. Nobody listens to me, but it helps!”
You tracked pollen inside.
If it’s not the indoor allergens making your symptoms worse, it could be the pollen you unknowingly brought inside. Pollen can linger on your skin, hair and clothing, Parikh explains, so before bed, take a shower and put on clean pajamas, when your outdoor allergies are playing up.
Remember that pets who go outdoors also pick up some pollen during their adventures—another convincing reason to keep her out of the bedroom. (Sorry!)
You’re alone with your thoughts…and sniffles
Why do allergies get worse at night? “Beside the fact that all illnesses feel worse at night?” quips Rosenstreich. “When you’re busy during the day, you might forget about it and feel a little better,” he says. “When you’re lying in bed, most people aren’t thinking about anything else, and symptoms feel much worse.”
For that reason, nighttime is a good moment to try over-the-counter allergy meds, he says. Look for an oral antihistamine or a corticosteroid nasal spray that can help limit congestion and reduce inflammation.
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