Can Seasonal Allergies Cause Sleep Apnea?

During allergy season as new flowers spread pollen or dust mites or mold spores circulate, you could find yourself suffering from allergies. Allergies and sleep apnea can join forces to make it difficult to breathe comfortably and get adequate rest. Not only does the allergic reaction cause hay fever and runny nose, poor sleep can lead to morning headaches, daytime sleepiness, and more. Good news for CPAP users: CPAP therapy can provide some relief and ensure you get a good night’s sleep.

How Seasonal Allergies Disrupt Rest

As pollen and other irritants invade your airways, the result is often allergic rhinitis (runny nose). This is because your mucous membranes produce increased secretions to flush the allergens out. Your body also releases histamine to further combat the irritants. As your histamine levels rise you may sneeze, suffer from itchy, watery eyes, and more.

During the day when you’re upright, secretions typically drain from your sinus cavities into your into your throat. Then when you lay down, the congestion has nowhere to go, collecting in your nasal passages and leading to blockages of your airways. So even if you don’t feel congested during the day, it can still affect you at night.

The pain accompanying inflammation and congestion includes sinus pressure, headaches, sore throat, and facial tenderness. All of these symptoms can affect your quality of sleep. It becomes difficult to pull in air through your nose, which in turn causes mouth breathing and dry mouth.

Can Allergies Cause Sleep Apnea?

Seasonal allergies do not cause apnea, they can make sleep apnea worse in people who already suffer from the condition. People with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) experience airway blockage that leads them to stop breathing multiple times per night. If you combine existing sleep apnea with nasal congestion and inflammation caused by seasonal allergies, the result can be more frequent and longer apneas throughout the night

Allergy Symptom Prevention Tips for CPAP Users

  • Clean your CPAP machine and supplies regularly. Your equipment can collect dust, mold, and bacteria over time, causing allergens to build up. Clean or replace your filters and wipe off your CPAP with a damp cloth. Finally, use a CPAP sanitizer.
  • Use a CPAP Humidifier. It adds moisture to the air you inhale to help to break up congestion. Heated humidifiers can provide additional comfort and relieve dryness in your nasal passages. Be sure to change the distilled water daily.
  • Change your CPAP mask. If you typically use a nasal mask, it may be worth switching to a full face mask during allergy season if you find that you are breathing through your mouth.

10 Ways to Combat Allergies

Your CPAP isn’t the only tool you have to fight back against allergic rhinitis. Use the following tips to keep allergens out of the bedroom.

  1. Clean your bedroom. Wash the linens regularly and switch to hypoallergenic pillows. Sweep, vacuum, or dust every surface. Clear out the cobwebs to remove dust, irritants, pet dander, pollen, and more.
  2. Shower at night before laying down to remove all the pollen and irritants that you may have collected during the day. The steam from the shower can also help clear congestion before bed.
  3. Change your clothing outside of the bedroom to avoid bringing outdoor pollen and other irritants in.
  4. During spring allergy season, pollen counts are higher in the morning and at dusk, so avoid outdoor activities during those times and stay indoors as much as you can on windy days.
  5. Keep your bedroom windows closed to prevent pollen and other allergens from blowing inside.
  6. Keep your pets clean, especially after they come in from outdoors, or keep them out of the bedroom completely.
  7. Allergy sufferers (and the rest of us) should drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Doing so will boost your immune system to fight off irritants, plus hydration helps to thin and drain excess mucus.
  8. Run a humidifier in your bedroom to add moisture to dry air.
  9. Transfer plants outdoors or outside of your bedroom. They can harbor mold and other irritants that can make allergies worse.
  10. Consult with your doctor about the possibility of using antihistamines, decongestants or other allergy medications.

Depending on what you're allergic to, seasonal allergies could strike year-round. Use your CPAP for seasonal allergy relief and get better sleep, and better quality of life!