Sniffly, sneezy and stuffed-up at night? Spring allergies can intensify as we get older, but luckily, it’s easy to tame symptoms and reclaim blissful zzzs.
Pile up your pillows.
“Nasal congestion keeps you in light sleep stages called ‘alpha wave sleep’ and pulls you out of the deep sleep that recharges your batteries,” says Jacob Teitelbaum M.D., author of Real Cause, Real Cure ($14.79, Amazon). The simple fix: sleeping on two plump pillows. “By simply raising your head, gravity drains excess fluid from your nose and sinuses,” he explains, preventing the “mouth breathing” that contributes to restlessness in 71 percent of congested folks. Tip: Encase your pillows in an anti-allergen pillowcase, which cuts one of the major causes of allergies, dust mites, by up to 100 percent.
Opt for a spicy spray.
Turns out most nasal sprays don’t work for the sneezing associated with common allergies — and if used for more than a few days, they can actually trigger “rebound congestion.” “Once the medication effect wears off, previously constricted vessels relax, which causes congestion that’s potentially even worse than before,” cautions Yelena Kopyltsova, M.D., an allergist with ENT and Allergy Associates. “This can sometimes lead to a dependence on nose sprays.” What does work? All-natural nose sprays containing capsaicin. They’re so effective that a study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that 74 percent of folks who used one eliminated sleep-robbing congestion and sneezing in less than two minutes.
Try a wildflower.
“Research shows the herb butterbur is more effective and better tolerated than common allergy medications,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. Indeed, a study in the British Medical Journal found that the wildflower worked just as well as Zyrtec at tamping down allergy symptoms, without causing drowsiness or fatigue. Choose butterbur labeled “free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids,” which are highly toxic to the liver.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.