Is It Allergies or Sleep Apnea That’s Disrupting Your Sleep?

Sleepless woman wonders if she has sleep apnea or allergies

Do you snore loudly through the night, then feel exhausted the following day? This common problem is often associated with a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea. However, it can also be the result of nasal congestion brought on by seasonal allergies. Since each is treated very differently, it’s important to know what’s keeping you up at night! If you’re suffering from fatigue, sleeplessness, or snoring, your dentist with specialized training can help you identify which issue is interrupting your sleep.

Similar Symptoms of Allergies & Sleep Apnea

On the surface, allergies and sleep apnea are two very different conditions. Seasonal allergies are an allergic response that is associated with a variety of dental symptoms. On the other hand, sleep apnea is a sleeping condition that causes repeated interruptions in breathing throughout the night.

However, they both cause very similar issues for your sleeping patterns. Whether your airway becomes blocked by nasal congestion or relaxed throat muscles, your breathing becomes disrupted all throughout the night. These repeated pauses can lead to snoring, poor sleep, and daytime fatigue.

Tell-Tale Signs of Allergies & What to Do About Them

Seasonal allergies, or allergic rhinitis, occurs when a person breathes in particles that they’re allergic to, like dust, pollen, or pet dander. A miscommunication in the brain triggers inflammation in the nasal passage, as well as:

  • Runny or stuffy nose and sneezing
  • Watery and itchy eyes
  • Itchy sinuses, throat, or ear canals

Notably, nasal congestion from allergies can occur while you’re awake as well as when you’re asleep. Allergies can be treated with over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl or decongestants like Sudafed. You can also reduce your symptoms while you sleep with a hypoallergenic pillow and humidifier.

Identifying & Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that causes the throat muscles to relax so much while you sleep that they fail to keep your airway open. Your breathing will pause for a few seconds or minutes repeatedly throughout the night, which can cause:

  • Choking, gasping, or constantly waking up at night.
  • Bruxism, or nightly teeth grinding, and an increase in cavities.
  • Constant daytime fatigue and chronic morning headaches.

To treat sleep apnea, you first need to be diagnosed with a sleep study from a health professional. After determining the severity of your sleep apnea, they can help you choose the most effective treatment. Slight cases can sometimes be corrected with lifestyle changes or a specially designed pillow. However, more commonly, CPAP therapy or an oral device are needed to help keep your airways open while you sleep.

While these two conditions can both wreak havoc on your sleep, focusing on the symptoms can help you tell them apart and choose the best treatment to get a good night’s rest.

About the Author

Dr. Gary M. Radz of Downtown Denver Sleep Solutions knows all too well the importance of a good night’s sleep. He was able to overcome his severe sleep apnea with resounding success with an oral appliance that he designed himself. Now, he is dedicated to helping others get the rest they need without the aid of an uncomfortable CPAP machine. He would be more than happy to help you discover if sleep apnea is what’s keeping you up at night, so feel free to contact him via his website or at (303) 377-5337.

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