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The Link Between Allergic Rhinitis and Sleep Apnoea

Link Between Allergic Rhinitis and Sleep Apnoea Sleep Apnoea

The Link Between Allergic Rhinitis and Sleep Apnoea

Allergies can produce a host of uncomfortable reactions in sufferers, typically affecting the nasal and sinus passages. Clinically termed allergic rhinitis, the adverse reactions are caused by breathing in allergens, some of which may be seasonal and some of which can affect sufferers all year round. 

Allergic Rhinitis

Hay fever is a common seasonal condition for those who are allergic to pollen. However mould, mildew, dust mites, smoke and chemicals in household products can create pollutants which may cause an allergic reaction. 

Allergic rhinitis causes an inflammatory response and sufferers can experience a range of symptoms from sneezing, itchy nose or eye, swelling and excess mucus. Another outcome of allergic rhinitis can often be a lack of sleep and the subsequent fatigue this brings. 

Those with more severe symptoms tend to suffer the worst with sleep deprivation issues, and studies indicate those who suffer with allergic rhinitis are more than twice as likely to suffer from sleep disorders like insomnia.

The Link to Sleep Apnoea

Allergic rhinitis has also been linked with sleep apnoea, a debilitating disorder which can lead to serious health problems if left undiagnosed. 

The most common form of this sleep disorder is obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), where sufferers will experience frequent interruptions to their sleep during the course of the night due to their airways narrowing and becoming blocked. This prompts them to awake, sometimes gasping for air, as the brain reacts to the drop in oxygen levels. Symptoms of OSA are heavy snoring, fatigue, poor concentration and motivation, plus morning headaches.

Nasal congestion due to allergic rhinitis narrows the airways and can increase the risk of suffering with OSA. The fatigue associated with lack of sleep and the lack of concentration which results can have marked effects on someone’s quality of life. It also increases the risk of accidents at home and work, with the drowsiness making you five times more likely of an accident while driving. OSA is also linked to a number of serious health conditions including:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Liver damage
  • Depression

In-Home Test For Sleep Apnoea

A significant proportion of people with OSA are unaware they have the sleep disorder. With allergic rhinitis linked to OSA diagnosis is key to receiving the correct treatment, thereby reducing the symptoms as well as the risk of developing serious health issues.

Some of the symptoms of sleep apnoea can be difficult to be aware of at first, as you might not recall awaking so many times during the night. It can often be a partner who sees the signs first, but once you think you may be affected by sleep apnoea it is crucial to test for the condition. This involves an easy to perform, non-intrusive In-home test which provides convenience and quick diagnosis.

A screening test called an Overnight Oximetry can be delivered to you to take from the comfort of your own home. Typically this test involves placing a clip on your finger which you wear for two consecutive nights as you sleep. The clip is attached to a small monitor which records your blood oxygen levels and heart rate. At the end of the test you send the kit back to be analysed by trained sleep specialists who will soon be able to advise you on the results.

The In-home sleep test provides an accessible and convenient first step toward diagnosis and getting the help you need to reduce your sleep apnoea symptoms and restore your quality of life.

A Range of OSA Symptoms

People experience obstructive sleep apnoea to different degrees, from mild through to severe. This level of severity will determine recommended treatment plans with lifestyle changes such as weight loss and a better diet being applied at first for those with mild OSA. 

Those with severe OSA may require Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, which uses a machine to supply a constant flow of air through a mask as you sleep. This keeps the airways open, helping to reduce snoring and prevent frequent interruptions to sleep.

Self-Help for Allergy Sufferers

With 63% of those suffering with allergic rhinitis reporting in a study that they do not think they get enough sleep, finding ways to counter this is key. When compared to only 25% of those in the control group of this study feeling they had trouble sleeping it also reflects the importance of trying to reduce the impact of the allergens which cause the nasal and sinus congestion disrupting sleep.

Many people may not have their allergies diagnosed, but even if they have and are taking prescribed allergy medication there are still a number of practical ways to try and reduce your contact with allergens in the first place. 

For seasonal sufferers of hay fever there is plenty of information available now on a daily basis regarding pollen count levels. By referring to these you can better choose the days to go out and run errands and be better informed as to the low pollen count days when you can have your windows open to freshen up your rooms. If you do have windows open it is best to close them overnight since most of the offending pollen is released in the morning, therefore waking up better protected. 

Pollen can be carried in to the house as well as being blown in. You may want to change your clothes if you have been out as pollen can collect on them. Similarly if you tend to hang your washing out to dry in the garden you may need to rethink as you will bring pollen in to the house with them. Before you settle down for the night or go to bed you may want to have a shower to remove any pollen which has collected on your skin or in your hair.

Devices That Can Help

Poor air quality indoors can result in pollutants which cause allergic reactions. Mould and mildew in a damp house can result in allergens and may be addressed using de-humidifiers. If you have air conditioning in the house use HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters to try and keep your indoor air clean, replacing these filters on a regular basis.

SinuPulse and the SoClean can help with this issue. SinuPulse is great for allergies and sinus issues, as it helps clear out blockages and allergens, and the salt reduces inflammation and promotes healing. The SoClean kills bacteria in the CPAP machine and therefore reduces the risk of air-borne infection.

Removing Dust Mites

Dust mites are tiny insects within household dust and can be a major cause of allergies. Hard internal surfaces such as wood flooring are better than carpets for keeping dust mite numbers down, but if you prefer carpet make sure to hoover regularly, preferably with an appliance fitted with a HEPA filter as it traps more dust mites compared to regular hoovers. 

Make sure you regularly hoover or wash soft furnishings and wipe down your hard surfaces. You should look to use household cleaning products which contain natural, hypoallergenic ingredients. If you are struggling for time to clean everywhere make sure you concentrate on the areas the allergy sufferers spend most time.

Take a little time thinking about the type of item you are buying for the house. Buy allergy-proof mattress and bedding covers, opt for styles of furniture other than upholstered and fit roller blinds which are easier to wipe clean. All these preventative methods can help keep dust mite numbers down and therefore reduce the potential for allergens.

Personal Care to Help With Your Allergies

By looking after yourself you can help reduce the impact on your allergies. You can use nasal sprays to help keep your airways moist and drink plenty of water during the day to keep any secretions loose, making them easier to remove. Menthol humidifiers can help keep the sinuses open and while you sleep you should elevate the head of your bed slightly to try and help the sinus to drain. Wood burners can also be an issue so look to have a gas fire instead, while smoking should also be avoided.

Of course, it is not just ourselves and our homes which are hosts to allergens, our pets are too. Besides pollen, their dead skin and saliva can contain allergens which induce allergic reactions. However, if you have pets you just need to be a bit more attentive to their grooming which you should try to do outdoors. Also, you should wash them at least once a week, as well as washing their bedding and anywhere they usually lay. Try to limit their access to certain rooms including the bedroom, but use air filters and look to improve ventilation in rooms they do occupy.

Studies point to a link between sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea, with all the serious potential health implications that has, and allergic rhinitis, making it important to try and do all you can to reduce your exposure to allergens. 

Nasal congestion makes sleeping difficult at the best of times and sleep deprivation due to sleep apnoea over extended periods of time is debilitating to overall quality of life. If you feel you may have the symptoms of sleep apnoea then an In-home sleep test is the first step to diagnosing and treating the disorder.

To purchase SinuPulse: https://www.cpap.co.uk/sinupulse-elite-nasal-sinus-irrigator.html

To purchase SoClean: https://www.cpap.co.uk/soclean-2-cpap-cleaner-and-sanitiser.html

To order the Intus At-Home Sleep Test: https://www.sleeptest.co.uk/product/in-home-sleep-test/

To shop for the highest-quality selection of CPAP devices: https://www.cpap.co.uk/shop.html


About author: Jenny Hall is a clinical manager at Intus Healthcare’s parent company, Baywater Healthcare. She has extensive specialist clinical experience from Regional Nurse Adviser through to Senior Nurse Adviser, Service Lead and Contract Manager. She has provided leadership for the Regional Nurse Advisers ensuring best practice, implementation of National Guidance and Clinical Governance. Ms. Hall has worked with Baywater Healthcare since 2013, with leadership responsibility in delivering Home Oxygen and Long-Term Conditions services. Her clinical team focuses on delivering services closer to home which offer the NHS value with optimum clinical outcomes. Previously, Ms. Hall provided leadership to Regional Nurse Advisors with Air Products, a company providing home oxygen services to Wales, East Midlands and North London. She has served as a Senior COPD National Trainer and Nurse Adviser COPD Response with Innovex, ensuring highest competencies were maintained and best practices delivered. Ms. Hall has a Ba Honours Degree as a Registered General Nurse from Oxford Brookes University and MSc Health Studies from Staffordshire University. She completed Respiratory Education and Training Courses and the Edinburgh Sleep Course. Jenny Hall’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenny-hall-34331b60/

In-Home Sleep Test

In-home Sleep Test provides a quick, convenient and affordable way to have Sleep Apnoea confirmed. All studies are independently analysed by experienced NHS-qualified sleep professionals, and use the WatchPAT recording device for unrivalled accuracy.
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