Q: What are some ways asthma and allergy patients can develop a “safe sleep zone” and ensure a good night’s sleep, free of symptoms and sleep disruptions?
Don Bukstein, MD: Nighttime is often a time when you would think we’d have less exposure to allergens and things in our environment that may keep us up at night. In fact, the bedroom can be full of potential allergens. It could be dust mites in the bedding, or maybe there’s a pet in the bedroom. So allergen exposures can worsen both allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma.
The best way you can get a good night’s sleep if you have asthma or allergies is to try to control symptoms better. Talk with your doctor to identify your asthma and allergy triggers and develop avoidance strategies or ways to remove them from your environment.
Dust mites, for example, can be minimized by covering pillows, mattresses and box spring with protective allergy-proof encasings, plus washing bedding once a week on a hot cycle. It’s also a good idea to keep dogs, cats and other furry pets out of the bedroom.
Also, you don’t want to take medications – over-the-counter nose sprays sometimes, or some inhalers – that stimulate you and keep you awake.
And then there’s always the importance of good sleep hygiene. To get a good night’s sleep, you certainly don’t want to do something that is stimulatory right before bed. You don’t want to be on your computer or cellphone or watch some TV right before you go to sleep. What you want to do is read a good book and get into a zone in your bedroom that this where I’m going to be for sleep. It should be dark, with no noise.
The key takeaway is that if you experience disrupted sleep at night, it may mean that your allergic disease or asthma is getting worse. The use of quick-relief albuterol inhalers at night or other medications to control nasal or chest symptoms could be a warning your symptoms are getting out of control.
Don Bukstein, MD, FACAAI, is a board-certified allergist/immunologist and pediatric pulmonologist with Allergy Asthma Sinus Center in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin. He is Director of Allergy and Asthma Research at Dean Medical Center in Madison and a Fellow with the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).
Have a medical question? Email [email protected] or write to Ask the Allergist, Allergy & Asthma Network, 8229 Boone Blvd., Suite 260, Vienna, VA 22182.
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