Spring is in full swing, which means that more than 50 million Americans are having to deal with allergies. If you’re an allergy sufferer, you probably know that this condition can interfere with your daily activities, and also with your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
There’s another condition that can impair your nightly rest: obstructive sleep apnea. This disorder causes people to stop breathing multiple times every night, and is also very common in America. According to the latest data, more than 22 million people in the US have a form of sleep apnea.
Because restful sleep is crucial to our health, it’s important to answer some questions about these two conditions.
First, we’ll look at whether spring allergies can actually cause obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) -- a condition in which airways close up repeatedly during sleep. These pauses in sleep, called “apneas”, rob the body and brain of oxygen, which takes a toll on overall health.
Can Allergies Cause Apnea?
From what we know so far, allergies are not a direct cause of sleep apnea. You may have both conditions, and they may have developed independently from each other.
However, allergies can and sometimes do worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea. This is particularly true if one of your allergy symptoms is rhinitis or nasal congestion. Researchers have been aware of this connection for years, and studies show that apnea symptoms happen more often and for longer in people with allergic rhinitis.
Moreover, spring allergies can also cause swollen tonsils. If this happens, the swelling can block the airways and cause you to stop breathing. In apnea sufferers, this means that their sleep can get disrupted even more often than normal.
Many people diagnosed with sleep apnea follow a treatment that includes the use of positive air pressure devices. If that’s your case, you may be wondering if these can also alleviate your allergies at night.
Do Apnea Devices Help With Allergies?
Obstructive sleep apnea is often treated with CPAP masks or devices. These ensure that your airways receive a steady stream of air and stop them from collapsing. As a result, you experience fewer sleep interruptions and have a more restful sleep.
Allergies cannot only affect the symptoms of sleep apnea, but can also interfere with some forms of CPAP treatment. For example, if you struggle with nose congestion because of seasonal allergies, using a CPAP nasal mask may be uncomfortable.
But that’s not to say that you have to put up with restless sleep. Because there’s a connection between allergies and apnea and their symptoms are similar, treating one condition can help the other.
Treating Seasonal Allergies And Sleep Apnea
According to researchers in Europe, some of the drugs used to treat allergies can be effective keeping apnea symptoms at bay. Nasal steroids can be particularly useful. Because they lessen congestion, they improve sleep quality and don’t allow allergic reactions to make apnea worse.
However, allergy medication should not be considered a treatment for sleep apnea. This is where CPAP therapy comes into play. We’ve already said that CPAP nasal masks may not be an option, but there are other treatments available. For instance, full CPAP face masks can be effective delivering air through the night, and they’re also comfortable for allergy sufferers. There are also PAP machines that could help if you struggle with both conditions.
Both allergies and apnea can make it hard to breathe normally, both during the day and at night. But remember that help is available, and that technology has come a long way. Speak to your doctor or to a sleep apnea care provider to find out which options will benefit you.
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