Can Allergies Affect Sleep Apnea? Read to Learn More

Once springtime rolls around, the sounds of birds chirping and kids playing outdoors are joined by the not so pleasant sounds of sniffling and sneezing of allergy sufferers. If you’re one of the 50 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies (also known as allergic rhinitis), you know all too well how difficult it is to get a restful night of sleep when you can’t breathe. While it’s no secret that sleep problems and seasonal allergies go hand-in-hand, many wonder if allergies can affect another type of sleep problem — sleep apnea.

What’s the Connection?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder in which one’s breathing becomes shallow or briefly stops multiple times a night. Apnea occurs as a result of the muscles of the throat relaxing and blocking the airway. Allergies similarly can block one’s airway by causing the upper airway to narrow while the tonsils and adenoids swell. Many experts agree that nasal congestion increases the risk of both snoring and sleep apnea among seasonal allergy patients. According to a study published by the American Review of Respiratory Disease, “in patients with allergic rhinitis, obstructive sleep apneas are longer and more frequent during a period of symptomatic nasal obstruction than when symptoms are absent.”

Is There A Solution?

Yes! Reducing nasal inflammation caused by allergies with the help of medications and natural remedies reduces symptoms of sleep apnea. This is especially important for those who already use a CPAP mask for sleep apnea and find it impossible to use their mask with a blocked nasal passage.

Rather than ditching your CPAP mask during allergy season, try switching to a different type of CPAP mask. For example, if allergies are making breathing through your nose impossible, you’re more likely to benefit from a full face mask than from a nasal pillow mask. While a nasal mask only delivers air through your nose, a full face mask covers your mouth and nose, ensuring that you still receive air whether your nose is congested or not.

If your allergies are interfering with your sleep apnea treatment, don’t put your treatment on hold. Talk with your doctor about alleviating congestion and switching to a different type of CPAP mask during allergy season. Before you know it, you’ll be able to breathe easy and rest easy, too!