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Dr. Lisa: Take Other Steps Before Reaching for Allergy Medicines

  • Posted: April 25, 2012 
  • Filed under: Articles

A warmer than usual winter and early spring in many parts of the country has triggered a bumper crop of springtime pollen, and that could mean sleeping problems for millions who suffer from allergies and hay fever.

“Trying to sleep when you can’t breathe properly is a recipe for a bad night,” says Dr. Lisa Shives (a.k.a. Dr. Lisa, The Sleep M.D.). “This time of year, plenty of folks are struggling with hay fever symptoms due to pollen. Kids and adults alike can suffer from poor or interrupted sleep due to allergies, and the resulting fatigue can translate into crankiness or loss of concentration during the day.”

But Dr. Shives advises caution when it comes to taking medications to control allergy symptoms. “Antihistamines often have sedative effects which can leave people feeling groggy, and decongestants can cause insomnia in a significant number of people if they’re taken at bedtime.”

Dr. Shives says families grappling with allergy-related sleep problems should first seek to control and improve the sleeping environment by reducing dust and pollen. Here are some tips on how to do that:

  • Make sure bedding is clean. Washing it daily may be difficult, but will make a big difference since the pollen that’s collected during the day will be removed
  • Replace pillows at least once a year. Old pillows and mattress pads can harbor dust mites that aggravate allergies
  • If you’re outside during the day, take a shower and wash your hair before going to bed. Pollen can rest in your hair, aggravating your allergies and getting all over your bedding
  • Consult with a physician before turning to medicines

For more advice on how to sleep better, just use the search bar on SleepBetter.org.  You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Dr. Shives works with SleepBetter.org to provide a medical view of sleep issues. She is one of only a few practitioners with a fellowship in Sleep Medicine in addition to board certification by both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Sleep Medicine.

Learn more about Dr. Lisa Shives by clicking here.