Allergies and Sleep Apnea: Unraveling the Connection

Mar 27, 2024 | Blog, Health, Sleep Apnea, Sleep Disorders

As the blossoms bloom and the pollen count rises, many of us brace ourselves for the onslaught of sneezing, itchy eyes, and the myriad discomforts brought on by seasonal allergies. But there is another, less obvious aspect of our health that these seasonal shifts can impact: our sleep.

Keep reading to learn how allergies could be sneakily affecting your sleep quality and exacerbating sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea and Allergies

At first glance, allergies and sleep apnea might seem like distant relatives on the health issue spectrum. However, they are more closely related than one might think. Allergies, particularly those that affect the nasal passages and airways, can significantly impact our ability to breathe easily at night. This is where the connection to sleep apnea comes in.

Sleep apnea, specifically obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses can occur when the airway is partially or completely blocked (ResMed, n.d.). Allergies can exacerbate this condition by causing nasal congestion and swelling of the airway tissues, leading to increased difficulty in maintaining a clear airway during sleep.

Allergies, Tonsils, and Sleep Apnea

In some cases, allergic reactions can lead to swelling of the tonsils or adenoids. This swelling can narrow the airway, making it easier to block during sleep and potentially leading to sleep apnea (Cao et al., 2018). It’s a reminder of how interconnected our bodily systems are and how a problem in one area can ripple out to affect others.

The CPAP Connection

For those already managing sleep apnea with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, allergies present an additional challenge. Nasal congestion can make it difficult to use a CPAP machine effectively, especially if the device uses a nasal mask. However, advancements in CPAP technology, including full-face masks and automatic pressure adjustments, can help mitigate these issues, ensuring that both sleep apnea and allergies are managed effectively.

Screening and Management

Given the overlap between allergies and sleep apnea symptoms, it’s crucial for individuals experiencing sleep disturbances to undergo comprehensive evaluations. This might include screenings for sleep apnea and consultations with allergists to manage allergic reactions effectively (Robertson, 2023). In some cases, treating allergies with medications like nasal steroids can improve sleep quality and reduce the severity of sleep apnea symptoms.

Learn More

As we navigate allergy season, it’s important to be mindful of the potential impact on our sleep and seek appropriate treatment for both conditions. By addressing both allergies and sleep apnea, individuals can take significant steps toward improving their sleep quality and overall health. Remember, if you’re struggling with sleep issues and suspect allergies or sleep apnea might be the culprits, don’t hesitate to reach out to healthcare professionals. With the right approach, you can enjoy a good night’s sleep, regardless of the season. To learn more about the intricacies of sleep, visit our blog.


  1. Cao, Y., Wu, S., Zhang, L., Yang, Y., Cao, S., & Li, Q. (2018). Association of allergic rhinitis with obstructive sleep apnea: A meta-analysis. Medicine, 97(51), e13783.
  2. Chirakalwasan, N., & Ruxrungtham, K. (2014). The linkage of allergic rhinitis and obstructive sleep apnea. Asian Pacific journal of allergy and immunology, 32(4), 276–286.
  3. ResMed. (n.d.). Allergies and sleep apnea: How are they connected?
  4. Robertson, B. D. (2023). Allergists encouraged to screen for obstructive sleep apnea. Healio.