Allergies not only make you miserable during the day but they can hurt your chance of a good night's rest. Congestion, runny nose, difficultly breathing, sneezing, irritated eyes, and coughing can easily disrupt your sleep making you feel even more miserable. Allergy control often requires lifestyle changes to reduce allergen exposure. There are many products sold to reduce exposure to allergens but it is not clear how effective many of them are. Two proposed methods are using pillow encasements to protect against dust mite allergens and using air filters around the bed to keep allergens out of the air.
Researchers from Minnesota wanted to test the effectiveness of a combined approach with pillow encasement and local air filtration. The study, published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, found that the combined approach of air filtration and pillow encasement was effective at decreasing allergens and improving sleep.
This randomized trial included 35 adults with allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (allergic reaction affecting eyes and nose). Participants were sensitive to dog, cat, or dust mite allergens. The treatment device used was a special pillow cover that not only encased the pillow, but also delivered filtered air to the sleeping participant. Half of the participants were assigned to the intervention that included localized air filtration and pillow encasement and the other half had a placebo treatment for two weeks.After one week washout period with no treatment, the participants switched their assigned groups. The intervention was associated with significant:
A randomized trial is the ideal study design because it reduces the chance of errors and increases the reliability of outcomes. Unfortunately, this study also had very few participants which can decrease the reliability of results. Also, this new device may not be available to purchase for quite some time. However, using a dust mite cover for your pillow and air filtration in the bedroom might prove useful.
If your allergies are keeping you up, try taking steps to reduce your exposure to allergens. If you have allergies to dust mite allergens, use dust mite covers on your bedding, keep moisture low in the house, vacuum regularly with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter, and use pesticides against mites as needed. This study suggests that using a pillow encasement and nearby air filtration may also help decrease allergens. If your nighttime allergy symptoms continue to disrupt sleep or include difficulty breathing, talk to your doctor about other ways to improve your allergy symptoms
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
American Lung Association
Stillerman A, Nachtsheim C, Li W, Albrecht M, Waldman J. Efficacy of a novel air filtration pillow for avoidance of perennial allergens in symptomatic adults.Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2010 May;104(5):440-9.
Wallace DV, Dykewicz MS, Bernstein DI, et al, Joint Task Force on Practice, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Joint Council of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. The diagnosis and management of rhinitis: an updated practice parameter.J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008 Aug;122(2 Suppl):S1-84.
Last reviewed April 2011 by Brian P. Randall, MD