Sleep & Fatigue: Your Allergies May Be A Factor
Rest Well By Dr. Zedalis
Over the last several years, more individuals have realized that they suffer with allergies and sleep-related problems. Patients who have upper respiratory infections often suffer from significant fatigue and sleepiness, as well as have concentration problems. Most physicians assumed that this relation was due to a complex mixture of chemicals that caused both the respiratory infections (colds) and the fatigue. However, it has been discovered that allergy-induced fatigue is due to a more fundamental process. Both children and adults with allergies experience a fragmented process of sleep instead of continuous deep sleep. As a result, these individuals suffer from a reduction in sleep quality and quantity.This reduction in sleep quality and quantity affects children by causing irritability and poorer performance in school. Interestingly, these children often appear relatively alert and show no obvious signs of inadequate sleep. They do not appear to be visibly sleepy and usually fight going to bed. However, when they are placed in darkened rooms with stimuli removed, they fall asleep rapidly. Adults, on the other hand, are more able to recognize when they are excessively sleepy and are more likely to take appropriate action to improve their sleeping habits. Unfortunately, many adults do not make the connection between allergies and daytime sleepiness.
Quality: The Effect Of Allergy Medications
While allergies may be causing sleep disturbance, the medications you take for them may cause fatigue or grogginess. Recent findings have shown that patients who take sedating antihistamines to control their allergy reactions may have more functional problems with driving a car than when they consume alcohol. Likewise, when children take antihistamines with sedative affects, their school performance may be impaired, even if they appear to be alert. So be cautious when approaching medications for your allergies and asthma, and consult your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects.
Some of the latest medications for allergies specifically include the newer prescription antihistamines. However, the only over-the-counter antihistamine not associated with a potential increase in sleepiness is loratadine, the active ingredient in Claritin and Alavert. In fact, antihistamines usually work poorly in reducing nasal congestion, so decongestants may be recommended as an alternative. The problem is that relief with a decongestant comes at the cost of creating insomnia in 15% to 25% of individuals who use them at bedtime. Because of this risk, you should first test decongestant use over the weekend.
How can we reduce the likelihood of medications affecting our daytime functions? The answer can be difficult, since individuals respond in different ways to medications. For both children and adults, allergies should be aggressively managed to improve sleep quality and quantity. Non-drug approaches to environmental allergy control that you can find through National Allergy Supply are an excellent start. Treatment of allergies to animals, pollen and dust mites can only serve to reduce nasal congestion and thereby improve sleep quality and quantity.
Quantity: The Value Of More Sleep
The most common reason American adults are sleepy during the day is that we sleep 30 to 60 minutes less each night than we did 40 years ago. The primary reason seems to be our busy schedules and the attitude that sleep is a waste of time. On the contrary, allergy patients who recognize that they need more quality sleep and correct the problem are "paid back" with improved well-being and increased efficiency at whatever work they perform regularly. In other words, you may discover that getting an extra hour of sleep at night does not equate to an hour lost from a day - rather, your extra rest improves your ability to function in the world!
Further, despite what most people have heard, the amount of sleep a person needs when they get older is the same as they needed when they were in their late teens or young adult years. I would also like to refute the assumption that lazy people sleep longer than people who are not categorized as lazy. When someone is actually asleep, their body is meeting an important biologic need. So, if your teenager sleeps for 12 hours on Saturday, he or she is probably not getting enough sleep during the week.
All of the above comments come down to this: get enough sleep, treat allergies and asthma aggressively with environmental control and appropriate medications, and follow up with your physician if you discover difficulties concentrating during the day.
As Dr. Zedalis mentions, our environment must be allergen-controlled first. And that process starts where you sleep. If you do not already have mite-proof encasings on your pillows, mattresses and box springs, you should consider this as a good starting point if you are dust mite allergic. This is the #1 doctor-recommended strategy for limiting airborne allergens, and ultimately, sleeping better. Visit our interactive bedroom for a complete strategy on controlling bedroom allergens.
The Problem Of Snoring
According to a study by Breathe Right, Inc., 57% of adults admitted to snoring, be that nightly or occasionally. In fact, 54% of adults say they have been awakened by someone else's snoring. You or a partner may be included in one of these statistics.
While snoring can be frustrating to try to sleep through, it may be equally detrimental to the snorer. In many cases, people who suffer from chronic snoring problems are not experiencing the deepest, most restful sleep possible. Since snoring requires more energy to breathe, the sound and extra "work" can cause snorers to wake themselves multiple times throughout the night.
Loud or abnormal snoring could signal that you or a loved one has sleep apnea. This condition refers to an interruption of breathing during sleep, which often prevents sufferers from entering "REM" sleep. REM sleep is the type of sleep we need to be truly rested when we wake up. Those with sleep apnea are usually unaware of their struggle to breathe, but probably notice the tiresome fatigue they experience during the day, indicating poor quality sleep. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, see a doctor or sleep specialist who can evaluate your condition and make recommendations for improvement.
Snoring can also be caused by many less serious factors like cold and flu, pregnancy, a deviated septum, and of course, allergy-induced nasal congestion. These factors probably affect many of you or your loved ones who may snore. One of the obvious solutions that we have already mentioned is to control the allergy triggers in your environment, so you limit those headaches and stuffy noses that may be preventing you from having a good night's sleep.
More Tips For Better Sleep
If you have a hard time winding down to sleep after a long day, you might try Isocones, a natural sleep aide that presses an acupressure point to help induce sleep and improve sleep quality. Creature comforts are always a great way to enjoy a good night's sleep as well. Many of our customers swear by our Beyond Perfect 7 Zone Memory Foam Mattress Topper. They offer all the comfort of much more expensive memory foam products at a fraction of the price! We also haveIsoPerfect Side Sleeper pillows.
Our Pacific Coast Down pillows, blankets, featherbeds and comforters (see special below) are a perfect way to prepare for fall's cool evenings and the coming of old man winter. All Pacific Coast Down products are put through a multi-stage cleaning process to remove dirt and allergens. (For maximum protection, it's always best to encase all bedding.) We also carry several other washable, cozy blankets that are perfect for fall and winter.
Here are some other general tips for experiencing better sleep:
- Follow a regular schedule, even on weekends, and try to avoid excessive napping during the day.
- Exercise at regular times each day.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day.
- Do not use alcohol or cigarettes to help you sleep.
- Keep the room safe and comfortable, and as dark as possible - our Blackout Drapes are a great help!
- Use your bedroom only for sleeping if possible; don't eat or watch TV in bed.
- For additional sleep tips, resources or to learn about sleep disorders, visit the National Sleep Foundation website.