How to sleep well when you have an allergy during the night?

Nasal congestion, itchy throat, watery eyes, even breathing problems or asthma attacks... Allergies can harm the quality of life, especially when they occur at night. Fortunately, there are solutions to regain quality sleep and have a peaceful night. We take stock.

Do you often have respiratory allergies, but at night they tend to get worse? Find out why they intensify at night and how to improve your sleep despite the symptoms.

What is a respiratory allergy?

Allergy is  an inappropriate immune reaction of the body against foreign substances called allergens. It is, as Inserm describes it (source 1), a “disruption of the immune system which corresponds to a loss of tolerance towards seemingly harmless substances: allergens”. Allergies can have cutaneous (urticaria, dermatitis), respiratory (rhinitis, asthma) or generalized (anaphylaxis) manifestations.

Respiratory allergy is often linked to the inhalation of certain allergens contained in the air we breathe. In spring and summer, it is more the famous pollens responsible for allergic rhinitis . In winter, when we spend more time indoors, pollution in our homes, caused by lack of ventilation, tobacco, dust mites, animal hair, mold, cleaning products and cosmetics , plants or even combustion gases can irritate the respiratory tract and also cause allergies.

Why are allergies worse in the evening or night?

Have you ever noticed that during the night, your allergy symptoms worsen , or even trigger respiratory problems or asthma attacks? It's normal. Respiratory disorders (asthma, allergies, etc.) and sleep disorders are conditions that often coexist.

Circadian rhythm

“Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, are often linked to nocturnal respiratory disturbances, sometimes associated with asthma attacks or a blocked nose due to allergic rhinitis,” explains Dr Madiha Ellaffi, pneumo -allergist in an article published on the website of the Asthme & Allergies association (source 2).

Other mechanisms reinforce this relationship between allergy and sleep. “First of all, circadian rhythms ( which punctuate the waking and sleeping phases) influence both allergies and sleep. For example, a lack of sleep can accentuate an inflammatory reaction with a direct impact on the regulation of immune reactions.”


“Finally, other parameters can also come into play, such as bedding ,  ” underlines Dr Madiha Ellaffi. “Dust mites love humidity and heat, and appreciate bedding as much as they find food there. When an allergic patient falls asleep in a bed with a lot of dust mites , the allergic reaction will increase symptoms, including nasal obstruction and difficulty breathing at night.

What are the symptoms of respiratory allergy?

The symptoms are diverse  : nasal obstruction, often clear nasal discharge, allergic conjunctivitis with watery eyes and sensation of "grain of sand" in the eye, itching in the throat and nose, sneezing... but also sometimes one of the respiratory symptoms when allergens reach your lungs:

  • difficulty breathing  ;
  • wheezing ;
  • Even asthma attack in some cases.

Regardless of the severity of the symptoms, it is often impossible to get any shut-eye and get proper rest at night. Fortunately, there are solutions to increase your chances of sleeping well.

How to breathe better at night when you have an allergy?

First, treat your allergy . Once the diagnosis has been made by a healthcare professional, follow their advice and the treatment they have prescribed for you.

Cough, scratchy throat, itching, wheezing... what to do?

Treatment with oral antihistamines may be prescribed to relieve allergic symptoms. If medications cause drowsiness, take them before going to bed. It is also possible to achieve desensitization  to the allergen.

If you have a blocked nose

Before going to bed, rinse your nose with a nasal spray to remove allergens from your airways. If you are in the middle of pollen season, wash your hair to get rid of the residue that has settled on your head.

If you have symptoms of allergic asthma

If you are prone to allergic asthma , learn the right actions if an attack is triggered. Especially since in people with asthma, asthma attacks most often occur in the evening or at night. Always have your rescue inhaler with you.

Allergy and sleep apnea

“Beyond the simple questions about sleep quality that allergists usually ask, thinking about looking for sleep apnea syndrome in allergic people is all the more important as allergic rhinitis is persistent and severe. », notes Dr Madiha Ellaffi. “Carrying out an allergy and ENT assessment is of major therapeutic interest in anyone suffering from sleep apnea and presenting symptoms of rhinitis.”

How to limit allergens in the bedroom?

Remember to clean your room frequently by vacuuming every little corner and washing sheets and curtains to prevent allergens from accumulating there. Try to choose anti-allergen bedding if you can .

Swap chemical cleaning products for natural, fragrance-free versions , such as baking soda or black soap to clean the room.

Try to find the right humidity level for your bedroom. Ventilate every day by opening your windows wide for at least 10 minutes. If the air is too dry, you can use a  humidifier,  being careful not to overdo it to avoid mold formation . An air purifier  can help reduce the harmful effect of dust and pollen.