5 Reasons Your Allergies Are Worse at Night

Nope, it's not just in your head. There are real reasons your allergies are worse at night.

Like clockwork, your seasonal allergies are back. As if the runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes weren't bad enough, your allergy symptoms might also make it nearly impossible to sleep. "Allergy symptoms actually can get worse at night," Purvi Parikh, MD, an allergist and immunologist with NYU Langone Health and clinical associate professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told Health.

So, it's not just you—and it's not all in your head. Here's what to know about nighttime allergy symptoms when the pollen count is high.

Stressed young Indian businessman getting sick while working overtime at home late at night

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1. Lying Down Worsens Congestion

Gravity is not your friend when it comes to your bedtime allergies. "When you lie down, basically everything in your nose starts dripping down your throat," explained Dr. Parikh. Due to the anatomy of the nose and throat, that can lead to more or worse coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing than when you're standing upright, said Dr. Parikh.

Propping yourself up with some extra pillows might help ease congestion and post-nasal drip while you sleep.

2. Your Bedroom Is Full of Dust Mites and Mold

No, it's not that pollen levels rise at night—they're actually highest in the early morning. Your allergies might feel worse at night because now you're adding indoor triggers into the mix. "A lot of people are allergic to things in their bedrooms," said Dr. Parikh—like dust mites that make their home in your pillows, mattress, or box spring and mold that grows in the walls of older houses or after water damage.

"Bedrooms tend to be the most allergenic part of the home," said David Rosenstreich, MD, chief of the department of medicine division of allergy and immunology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in New York. "The allergies you get exposed to outside compounded by additional allergens on the inside may make symptoms worse."

Experts recommend revamping your bedroom to rid the space of as many allergens as possible. Ditch carpeting (or vacuum it frequently), use dust mite covers for mattresses and box springs, and consider an air purifier, said Dr. Parikh. Sleep with the windows closed to minimize how much pollen makes its way into your sleep sanctuary.

3. Your Pet Sleeps in Your Bed

Another common allergen making things worse in your bedroom? Pet dander that accumulates on your carpet or comforter. Sure, furry friends make for cozy snuggle buddies, but if you're allergic to your pet, sleeping beside each other isn't doing you any favors.

It's always an unpopular suggestion, said Dr. Parikh, but she tells patients to stop allowing their pets in their beds. "Keeping the animals out of the bedroom is best. Nobody listens to me, but it helps!"

4. You Tracked Pollen Inside

If it's not the indoor allergens making your symptoms worse, it could be the pollen you unknowingly brought inside. Pollen can linger on your skin, hair, and clothing, explained Dr. Parikh, so before bed, take a shower and put on clean PJs when outdoor allergies are making you miserable.

Of note: If your pet is allowed to explore the outdoors, they're also picking up some pollen during their adventures—another convincing reason to keep them out of the bedroom. (Sorry!)

5. You're Alone With Your Thoughts... and Sniffles

Why do allergies get worse at night? "Besides the fact that all illnesses feel worse at night?" quipped Dr. Rosenstreich. "When you're busy during the day, you might forget about it and feel a little better," said Dr. Rosenstreich. "When you're lying in bed, most people aren't thinking about anything else, and symptoms feel much worse."

For that reason, nighttime is prime time to try over-the-counter allergy meds, said Dr. Rosenstreich. Look for an oral antihistamine or a corticosteroid nasal spray that can help limit congestion and reduce inflammation.

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3 Sources
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  2. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Dust mite allergy.

  3. Vijayan VK, Paramesh H, Salvi SS, Dalal AAK. Enhancing indoor air quality –The air filter advantage. Lung India. 2015;32(5):473-479. doi:10.4103/0970-2113.164174

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