A Guide to Hay Fever and Snoring

Given that up to 30% of us suffer from hay fever, it is possible that this seasonal pollen allergy could be playing a major role in your snoring [1].

If it’s warm outside and your nose is blocked, follow our guide to see if hay fever is making your snoring worse, and try our ten tips to breathe quietly again.

Jump to: 10 tips to manage hay fever-induced snoring

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is simply an allergic reaction to pollen in the air. This is an immune response (albeit an unnecessary one), which is a tactic your body uses to fight infection. Once pollen gets into your system, the cells that fight infection are called in to action, flooding your upper airways and releasing a medley of molecules that cause inflammation.

How can hay fever make you snore?

An inflamed nose makes breathing harder and snoring worse. With a hay fever burdened nose, you’ll often have to make the dreaded switch to mouth breathing which can aggravate snoring in many ways:

  • Your tongue falls farther back.
  • The space behind your tongue and soft palate is reduced.
  • A lowered jaw compresses your throat.
  • Your throat becomes dried because air is not being humidified by the nose.
  • Directly inhaled air vibrates the soft tissues at the back of your throat.

Even if you can just about breathe through your nose, forcing air through this inflamed, restricted space creates suction forces that can still narrow your airway and bring on snoring [2].

How do you know if you have hay fever?

Symptoms

Hay fever affects your nose, eyes and throat. You’re likely to be constantly reaching for the tissues as your nose streams, or feel the hundredth sneeze of the day coming on. All this congestion makes it difficult to breathe properly through your nose.

Red, itchy and painful eyes coupled with an irritated throat top off a list of symptoms that are bound to ruin a perfectly good summer’s day.

How do I know it’s not just a cold?

The symptoms of hay fever appear similar to those of a common cold, but their patterns differ. Hay fever is longer lasting, whilst most colds disappear within a week or two. Hay fever symptoms should also start to alleviate once you are inside with the doors and windows shut.

Assessing your symptoms alongside a local pollen forecast over several days is a great way of distinguishing hay fever from a cold.

Season

Pollen and hay fever is most widespread during the summer months. This is when most plants are particularly active and reproducing.

Generally, in the northern hemisphere, hay fever season runs from March to September, but winter hay fever is not impossible. Alder and hazel trees are early risers, flowering as early as January if the winter is particularly mild [3].

Weather patterns

The weather is a good predictor of pollen severity. With hay fever, you will notice worsened symptoms on those dry, warm and breezy days. Damp days with little wind are less troublesome as pollen is harmlessly swept to the floor.

Different pollen types and location

There are over a dozen types of plant that produce allergenic pollen, and not everyone is allergic to the same type.

Grass pollen allergy is by far the most prevalent, affecting 95% of hay fever sufferers. Specific trees and weeds also have the potential to cause hay fever. Interestingly, ragweed pollen, implicated in 50% of hay fever cases, has shown to be in greater concentrations at night [3].

Being familiar with your local flora can help you narrow down the triggers of your hay fever symptoms [4].

Many countries have their own regional pollen forecasts . These give information on the intensity of different types of pollen, based on location, time of year and the weather.

Ten tips to manage hay fever induced snoring

If you think that your snoring related to a pollen allergy, try these ten tips to rid you nose, body and surroundings of pollen for a better night’s sleep …

1. Use a neti pot

Neti pots create space in your nose by tackling obstructive mucus. Hay fever causes the inside of your nose to become swollen. Here, mucus can’t be moved along and instead builds up. Neti pots use tepid salt water with the assistance of gravity to flush out this excess, along with any attached allergens and inflammatory molecules.

Shop for SnoreLab’s recommended neti pot starter kit and read our guide to neti pots

2. Use nasal dilators or sprays

Nasal dilators mechanically open your nasal passages. Internal dilators prop open your nostrils whereas external strips use a springboard action to pull open your nasal valves [5].

Nasal sprays work by reducing inflammation or constricting the blood vessels in your nose. Some types recommend regular use, whereas others should only be used occasionally – in all cases remember to read the instructions.

3. Invest in an air purifier

The microscopic nature of pollen means that it can’t easily be seen. An air purifier can be an effective way of filtering pollen and other potential allergens that hide in your home. There are many types, shapes and sizes – ideally try to find one that makes less noise than your snoring otherwise would!

Shop for SnoreLab’s recommended Air Purifier, the Levoit LV-H132 Compact HEPA Air Purifier

4. Take antihistamines

Antihistamines are medicines that are effective in reducing the symptoms of hay fever and other allergies. They come in many different forms but all work in the same way: by dampening the main type of molecule involved in your allergic response to pollen, (you guessed it) histamine.

5. Shower before bed

Having a shower before going to bed will rid your hair and body of pollen that may have stuck to you throughout the day. It is also great for normal sleep hygiene as it lowers your body temperature, preparing you for sleep.

6. Quarantine pollen contaminated clothes

It is also a good idea to quarantine the clothes you step out of, not allowing them back in the bedroom with you. This way you won’t contaminate your bedroom with the very thing you’ve been trying to get rid of in the shower.

7. Clean pillowcases more often

A decongested nose, a clean body and washed hair are only useful if you aren’t then putting your head on a pillowcase covered in pollen. When pollen levels are particularly high, it is sensible to wash your bedding more frequently.

8. Dry laundry indoors

It is best to hang laundry indoors, away from open windows. Whilst a stiff summer breeze outdoors will dry them in no time, it will also cover them in pollen.

9. Clean your bedroom

Pollen can also stick to surfaces such as carpets and other soft furnishings. Thorough vacuuming can help, especially if your vacuum cleaner has a built in HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter, as this traps pollen that would otherwise be fired straight back out via the exhaust.

10. Close doors and windows

All this washing and cleaning could be in vain if your open doors and windows allow pollen back into your home. When the weather is nice it is tempting to throw open the windows and let in some air, but try to at least keep your bedroom an isolated haven of pollen-free good sleep.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you should now be able to spot the signs of hay fever, and with these tools, take control of your pollen allergy to achieve better and quieter sleep.

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References

  1. Storms, W. Allergic rhinitis-induced nasal congestion: its impact on sleep quality. Primary Care Respiratory Journal 2008; 17(1): 7-18. https://doi.org/10.3132/pcrj.2008.00001
  2. Georgalas C. The role of the nose in snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea: an update. European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngologyhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21340561 2011; 268(9): 1365-1373.
  3. Grewling L, et al. Pollen nightmare: elevated airborne pollen levels at night. Aerobiologica 2016; 32(4): 725-728. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27890968
  4. University of Worcester. Allergy Information. National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit 2018. <https://www.worcester.ac.uk/discover/national-pollen-and-aerobiology-research-unit.html>
  5. Kiyohara N, et al. A Comparison of Over-the-Counter Mechanical Nasal Dilators, A Systematic Review. JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery 2016; 18(5): 385-389. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamafacial.2016.0291

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