With the beauty of spring comes the agony of allergies. These insights can help your customers minimize their symptoms for restful sleep
BY LISSA COFFEY
Editor’s note: Savvy mattress retailers want to do everything they can to help their customers sleep better, including offering them sound advice and and tips. Feel free to share this great guidance, and the video below, from Better Sleep Council spokeswoman Lissa Coffey with your shoppers (with credit given, of course).
“Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men.”—Chinese proverb
After a seemingly unending winter of record snow and freezing temperatures, there’s no doubt that everyone is ready for spring. But, unfortunately, with warmer temperatures—and blooming trees and plants—comes the agony of seasonal allergies, and sufferers might be a bit concerned about how this season affects their sleep. And with good reason! A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed that people with hay fever and other allergies have difficulty sleeping. These folks also are more than twice as likely as nonallergy sufferers to deal with sleep disorders such as insomnia.
Allergies come about when pollen—abundant in the springtime—and other allergens, such as house dust or pet dander, irritate the nasal passages. This causes symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes, and affects up to 50% of Americans. Surprisingly, insomnia, sleep apnea (irregular breathing) and other sleep disorders affect up to 30% of the nation’s residents.
Why are allergies worse at night?
Allergy symptoms tend to get worse during the night for a variety of reasons. Allergies cause the nasal passages to swell, so there’s less room for air to pass through, making nose breathing difficult. Cortisol, an anti-inflammatory hormone, is at its lowest level overnight. This causes a higher level of inflammation in the nose and lungs. Lying down to sleep brings gravity into play, and that can cause congestion to shift, which makes nose breathing even more difficult. Also, exposure to dust mites or pets is more common at night, which increases allergy symptoms. And, histamine, which is actively involved in the regulation of sleep, may worsen allergy symptoms.
With all of this going on, it’s easy to see how breathing through the mouth could cause a dry mouth or sore throat. Postnasal drip from a runny nose can cause you to cough. In addition, sleep apnea can lead to snoring, and when you’re not breathing properly, you’re more likely to get a headache. All of these things also interfere with our sleep.
It’s no surprise that the worse the allergy symptoms are, the more trouble people have getting and staying asleep. Even when they do sleep, allergy sufferers often report that they feel sleepy during the day. Most say that their allergy symptoms, like sneezing and sniffling, also disrupt their partner’s sleep.
Make sure you follow the guidelines that the Better Sleep Council outlines for everyone to get a good night’s sleep any time of year:
O Keep the bedroom dark, cool and quiet.
O Avoid caffeine late in the day.
O “Unplug” yourself from computers and other electronic devices an hour before bed.
O Keep technology out of the bedroom.
You also can add in some of the natural allergy remedies:
O Keep bedroom windows closed to keep allergens from coming in with the breeze.
O Change sheets and pillow cases regularly. Use natural fabrics and cleansers for your linens. Look for products that are labeled “hypoallergenic.”
O Take a steam bath to help loosen congestion. This will help you breathe more easily.
O Use a nasal saline rinse. This helps reduce the swelling in the nasal passages and washes out any pollen that might be in the nose. Nasal decongestant sprays are not recommended for long-term use (more than three days). They actually can make the nose more inflamed.
O If you have pet allergies, keep your pets off the bed, and if possible, out of the bedroom.
O Protect yourself from dust mites by using encasements for your mattress and pillow to avoid exposure at night. If your bed is more than five years old, consider buying a new mattress. Pillows should be replaced every six months and certainly never be kept longer than two years. Look for a pillow that fills the gap between your head and shoulders when you lie down.
O Vacuum carpets and furniture often. Some vacuums come with an extra allergy filter built in. If you have wood or tile floors, keep them free of dust and pet dander.
O To add moisture to the air, consider using a humidifier. Make sure the water is changed frequently so that mold doesn’t grow.
If your allergies continue to keep you from getting the sleep that is so important to your health and well-being, talk with your doctor or allergist to get a full evaluation and figure out your treatment options.
Lissa Coffey is a relationship expert, author and broadcast journalist. She writes for eight websites, including Coffeytalk.com, Whatsyourdosha.com and the Better Sleep Council’s site, Bettersleep.org. A BSC spokeswoman, she stars in several videos that offer sleep and mattress-shopping tips for consumers.