Link Between Sleep Apnea and Allergies

Getting enough sleep each night is imperative … not only to how we perform the next day, but also to our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. But what happens when you go to bed at night, and the next morning your partner tells you that your snoring kept them up – or you’ve woken your own self up from snoring so loudly? Its something we often joke about, but there are serious medical complications that come along with snoring.

When you snore, you are essentially stopping the breath from flowing freely as it should. Otherwise known as sleep apnea, the typical symptoms include things like gasping for air while you are sleeping, waking up with a dry mouth, being overly tired during the day, snoring loudly, and periods of time during sleep when you actually aren’t breathing at all – which would be noticed by someone else.

With approximately 22 million Americans that are currently suffering from sleep apnea, it’s vital to know what causes it, and how we can treat it effectively. There are three different types of sleep apnea that are able to be diagnosed, but the most common is called obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. This type of sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the throat are relaxed, which then narrows the airway; when this happens, your body realizes that you aren’t getting enough air, and awakens you so that you can breathe – happening so quickly, that typically you don’t even remember it.

This correlates directly with allergies, which affects even more people than sleep apnea does. With over 24 million people in the United States that are affected by some sort of allergy, it makes sense that there might be a connection between the two conditions. When someone is allergic to a substance (mold, dust, and pet dander are a few of the more common irritants) and breathes them in through the nose and mouth, the nasal passages can become irritated and inflamed.

One study in particular found that quality of sleep is drastically reduced by signs related to allergies, and can lead to the same symptoms that one would find with sleep apnea; when there is congestion and irritation in the nasal passages, it narrows the airway – just like with snoring. This isn’t only a problem in the adult population though; research has shown us a link between allergies and sleep apnea in children as well.

If you know that you have sleep apnea, what can you do to treat it? If it’s a mild case, your local PCP might suggest that you try simple remedies first, like quitting smoking (if you’re a current smoker), or getting more exercise into your daily routine. If your snoring is linked to allergies, they might also prescribe you treatment to effectively handle your allergic reactions.

Other treatment options include using a CPAP machine, which essentially gives you oxygen through a mask while you sleep; other options include oral appliances to help keep your airway open. If you’d like to try the self-care route in caring for your sleep apnea, try and reduce or eliminate alcohol before bed, make sure to get in a good exercise routine, don’t smoke, and sleep on your side if at all possible.

 

Guest Blogger: Krista Harper

Does Everyone Need Eight Hours of Sleep?

 

Everyone wants to know—how much sleep to I really need? While everyone might not need exactly eight hours, the average adult does need seven to nine. Without that important time for the body to rest, recharge, and heal, mental and physical capacities start to suffer. The good news is there are many habits and behaviors that can be developed to increase both sleep quality and amount.

Sleep plays an important role in the learning process by helping with the acquisition and consolidation of memories. During sleep, the brain strengthens neural connections to consolidate and solidify memories. If a person enters a state of sleep deprivation, which occurs when they get six hours of sleep or less, the mind begins to wander, neurons cannot work efficiently, and the coordination of information and memories begins to slow.

Memories aren’t the only area of the brain affected by sleep loss. Without enough sleep, the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotions, becomes over sensitive to negative thoughts and events. At the same time, activity goes down in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that applies logic and reasoning to emotions. Irritability, anger, and aggression become much more common as the number of sleep hours go down.

Other systems slow down and decrease their efficiency during sleep loss too. The immune system, in particular, takes a hit in a couple of different ways. First, the immune system goes to work healing and rejuvenating cells while you sleep. A shortened sleep period makes it hard for the body to reach a state of health and equilibrium.

Secondly, the process through which cells create energy is linked to the timing of circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms control the sleep-wake cycle. If the circadian rhythms get disrupted, cell energy production is also disrupted resulting in fatigue. Less cell energy comes back to further disrupt the circadian rhythms, creating a vicious cycle of sleeplessness and fatigue that continue to feed one another.

To boost memory and learning, stabilize emotions, and increase energy levels, sleep has to be a priority.

 

Better Sleep Through Better Habits

Allergies can cause some issues that make getting a good night’s rest more challenging, but with consistent effort, better, more efficient sleep may only be a few good habits away. Allergens in the bedroom like dust, pet dander, and pollen present the biggest problems. Swollen airways and excess mucus can cause sleep apnea and other breathing-related sleep disorders.

Remove as many allergens from the bedroom as possible by:

  • Keeping windows closed when pollen counts are high
  • Regularly vacuuming mattresses
  • Using plastic casings for pillows and mattress
  • Washing sheets every week in water over 130 degrees and drying them in the dryer (not outside)
  • Buying allergy-free pillows

Healthy sleep habits can also improve sleep efficiency (the amount of time spent in bed versus actual time slept) and overall sleep hours. A few ways to get ahead on sleep include:

  • Getting Comfortable: A bedroom that’s kept completely dark with the temperature between 60 to 68 degrees creates optimal sleep conditions. Comfort may also come in the form of a therapeutic pillow, weighted blanket,  or breathable natural fiber sheets.
  • Be Consistent: A regular wake up time and bedtime help the body adjust the release of sleep hormones.
  • Avoid Stimulants and Electronics: Stimulants, like caffeine, block sleep hormones while electronics give off a blue light that suppresses them. Avoid both in the hours before bed.

While everyone might not need eight hours of sleep, everyone needs at least seven hours on a consistent basis. If it is a priority, both mind and body will function at their best.

 

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Tuck is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NBC News, NPR, Lifehacker, and Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.