Allergic rhinitis occurs when allergens, such as pollen or ragweed, irritate and inflame the nasal passages. Allergic rhinitis has been associated with impaired quality of life and sleeping problems such as snoring, difficulty falling asleep, and daytime sleepiness. But, until now, few studies have directly investigated the link between allergic rhinitis and quality of sleep.

A new study in the September 18, 2006 Archives of Internal Medicine found that allergic rhinitis was associated with sleep problems, and the more severe the allergies, the more difficult it was for sufferers to get a good night’s sleep.

About the Study

Researchers in France assessed 591 people who had allergic rhinitis for at least one year, and were being treated by an allergist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Another 502 people without allergic rhinitis served as a comparison group. The participants filled out questionnaires that rated their quality of sleep. Those with allergic rhinitis also completed a questionnaire to assess the severity and duration of their allergies.

The researchers found that having allergic rhinitis was associated with all of the measured sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep, waking during the night, feeling tired upon wakening, snoring, and insomnia. For example, 42% of participants with allergic rhinitis had difficulty falling asleep, 47% felt tired upon awakening, and 36% had insomnia, compared with 18%, 20%, and 16% of those in the comparison group, respectively. And compared to participants with milder allergies, those with more severe allergies slept fewer hours at night, felt sleepy more often during the day, took longer to fall asleep, and were more likely to take sedative drugs.

This study was limited because the researchers did not account for other factors that might be associated with allergic rhinitis—such as anxiety, depression , or asthma —when conducting their analysis. It is possible that these factors contributed to the sleep problems.

How Does This Affect You?

These findings suggest that sleep problems are common in people with allergic rhinitis. Sleeping disorders may be especially problematic in people with severe allergies.

If you suffer from allergies and have trouble sleeping, explore a possible connection with your doctor. Successfully treating your allergies could solve your sleeping problems. If not, there are a variety of effective treatments for sleep disorders that can improve your quality of life by allowing you to get a better night’s sleep.