In general, allergic reactions are thought to interfere with normal, healthy sleep.
Allergies create nasal congestion. Nasal congestion can dry out your mouth, or block your breathing airways. Both of these factors can lead to “apneas” – the stops in breathing overnight that characterize obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Therefore, allergies and sleep apnea can be connected if ongoing allergic reactions are blocking your sleep on a regular basis.
Allergies can have other effects on our ability to get a good night’s sleep, too. Some allergic reactions swell the tonsils or adenoids, causing them to grow larger – again, potentially causing a blocked airway that can lead to sleep apnea.
So, while allergies may not specifically cause sleep apnea, there does seem to be a connection. As a study published in the American Review of Respiratory Disease stated, “in patients with allergic rhinitis, obstructive sleep apneas are longer and more frequent” than in patients without those allergic conditions.
It follows, then, that taking steps to reduce allergic reactions can help increase the quality of sleep: “Decreasing nasal congestion with nasal steroids may improve sleep, daytime fatigue, and the quality of life of patients with AR [allergic rhinitis],” as the authors of a 1998 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology put it.
There is a connection between mouth breathing and allergies. A surprising number of people who breathe through their mouth also display the signs and symptoms of allergies.
People with OSA often complain about experiencing an incessant "stuffy nose." Several conditions, such as a deviated septum or seasonal allergies, can lead to nasal obstruction, and those with persistent nasal congestion are twice as likely to have OSA.
The reason for this is that people with an obstructed nasal airway compensate by breathing through their mouths, which is believed to weaken the upper airway and aggravate OSA.
Sleep disorders in children can lead to problems such as daytime sleepiness, delayed growth, misdiagnosed ADD/ADHD and even bed wetting. Constant mouth breathing can lead to altered growth of the face and result in certain types of malocclusions (bite problems). What’s more, obstructed sleep can lead to long-term health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular conditions, diabetes and stroke. How do you know if your child has a sleep disorder? Some signs are obvious: snoring, gasping for breath at night, or even short periods in which breathing stops altogether. Airway obstruction is usually the culprit and you can often tell if there’s a problem just by observing your child’s face. Here are some signs to look for; if your child exhibits any of these, it’s important to see a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.