Allergies continue to be a major health concern worldwide, affecting millions of individuals and significantly impacting their quality of life.
As for how many people suffer from them in the U.S., it's challenging to pinpoint an exact number as allergies can range from mild to severe, and not everyone seeks medical attention or gets diagnosed.
However, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (as of 2021), it's estimated that over 50 million Americans suffer from various types of allergies, including both indoor and outdoor allergies.
Indoor environmental allergies, specifically, are believed to affect a significant portion of this number. Various factors, such as increased awareness, improved diagnostic techniques, changes in indoor environments, and shifts in population demographics, can cause this number to fluctuate over time.
Your bedroom environment, particularly the mattress, plays a crucial role in triggering allergic reactions due to the accumulation of allergens such as dust mites, mold, pet dander, and pollen.
This can lead to poor sleep and exacerbate allergy symptoms, making it essential to understand the prevalence of sleep affected by allergies and recognize the importance of hypoallergenic mattresses in creating healthier sleep spaces.
Allergies and Sleep
A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that approximately 63% of allergy sufferers reported difficulty sleeping as a result of their allergy symptoms. Moreover, the National Sleep Foundation highlights that people with allergies are more likely to experience disrupted sleep, leading to daytime fatigue, reduced productivity, and impaired overall well-being.
As allergies continue to affect a significant portion of the population, it is crucial to address their impact on sleep quality. Healthy sleep is essential for overall physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
What are Allergies?
When discussing indoor environmental allergies, we are referring to allergic reactions triggered by allergens present within indoor settings. These allergens include:
- Dust Mites: These are tiny insects found in dust, particularly in bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpets. They thrive in warm, humid environments.
- Pet Dander: This refers to the microscopic flecks of skin shed by cats, dogs, birds, and other animals. In addition, proteins found in the urine, saliva, and feces of furry pets can also trigger allergies in some people.
- Mold: Mold thrives in damp environments, such as basements or bathrooms. They release spores that can be inhaled, leading to allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.
- Cockroach Droppings: In some urban areas, cockroach allergens can trigger allergies and worsen asthma.
- Pollen: Though typically an outdoor allergen, pollen can be brought indoors on clothes, shoes, and pets, and through open windows.
Negative Effects on Sleep
No doubt about it, allergies can have a significant impact on the quality of your sleep. When you have allergies, your body's immune system overreacts to substances in the environment, such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or mold spores. These allergens can trigger an allergic reaction, leading to various symptoms that can disrupt your sleep and your daily life.
Individuals with indoor allergies may experience a range of symptoms that affect their sleep, including:
- Sneezing and Coughing: Allergies can trigger sneezing and coughing, which can be disruptive during the night, waking you, and everyone else, up and preventing you from getting a restful sleep.
- Nasal Congestion: Allergies often cause nasal congestion, making it difficult to breathe through your nose. This can result in snoring and breathing problems while sleeping, leading to frequent awakenings throughout the night.
- Runny Nose: An allergy-induced runny nose, also known as rhinorrhea, is characterized by the continuous flow of clear, watery mucus from the nose.
- Itchy, Watery Eyes: Allergic conjunctivitis can cause itching, redness, and watering of the eyes. These symptoms can be particularly bothersome at night, interfering with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Itchy Throat and Ears: The throat and ears may also become itchy due to exposure to allergens.
- Itchy Skin: Some allergies can cause itchiness, hives, or rashes, which can be quite uncomfortable and make it difficult to relax and fall asleep.
- Restless leg syndrome: Although not directly caused by allergies, some people with allergies may experience restless leg syndrome (RLS) as a secondary effect. RLS causes an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations. These symptoms can disrupt sleep and lead to restless nights.
To improve your sleep quality despite allergies, consider these tips:
- Keep your sleeping area clean: Regularly clean your bedroom and bedding to minimize exposure to dust mites, pet dander, and other allergens.
- Use allergy-proof bedding: Encase your pillows, mattress, and box springs in allergy-proof covers to create a barrier against allergens.
- Remove carpets and rugs: These can harbor dust and allergens. Opt for hardwood floors or washable rugs instead.
- Use an air purifier: This can help filter out allergens from the air in your bedroom.
- Manage your allergies: Consult with a healthcare professional to develop an appropriate treatment plan for your allergies. This may include over-the-counter antihistamines or prescription medications.
Get Control of Your Allergies
Untreated or unmanaged allergies can have broader impacts on an individual's overall health. Here are some potential health consequences of untreated or poorly managed allergies:
- Chronic sinusitis: Untreated allergies can lead to chronic sinusitis, which is inflammation of the sinuses that persists for an extended period. This condition can cause frequent headaches, facial pain or pressure, and difficulty breathing through the nose.
- Asthma: Allergies and asthma often go hand in hand. If allergies are left uncontrolled, they can trigger or worsen asthma symptoms. Untreated allergies can increase the risk of asthma attacks, resulting in coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
- Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep due to allergy symptoms can lead to insomnia, which can further exacerbate daytime fatigue.
- Sleep Apnea: Allergies can worsen sleep apnea symptoms, as nasal congestion may obstruct the airways and disrupt breathing during sleep.
- Fatigue and reduced productivity: Allergies can disrupt your sleep due to symptoms like congestion, coughing, and itching. The resulting poor sleep quality can lead to daytime fatigue, decreased concentration, and reduced productivity.
- Skin problems: Allergic reactions can manifest as skin issues such as itching, redness, hives, or eczema. Constant scratching due to allergies can damage the skin, making it more prone to infections and further complications.
- Mental health impact: Living with uncontrolled allergies can take a toll on your mental well-being. The chronic discomfort, disrupted sleep, and reduced quality of life caused by allergies can contribute to increased stress, anxiety, and irritability.
- Impaired cognitive function: Allergies can also affect cognitive function. Studies have shown that people with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) may experience reduced attention, memory problems, and slower processing speed, especially during peak allergy seasons.
- Impact on daily activities: Untreated allergies may limit your participation in outdoor activities or hobbies that may expose you to allergens, affecting your overall enjoyment and fulfillment in life.
We cannot stress this enough, it’s crucial to seek proper diagnosis and management of your allergies. Consult with a healthcare professional who can help determine your triggers, develop an appropriate treatment plan, and recommend lifestyle adjustments to reduce or eliminate your allergic reactions.
What Does Hypoallergenic Mean
The term "hypoallergenic" is used to describe products or substances that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction in individuals who are sensitive or prone to allergies. However, it's important to note that it does not mean they will not cause an allergic reaction or are “allergy free”
In general, hypoallergenic products are designed to minimize the risk of triggering allergies by:
- Reducing common allergens: Hypoallergenic products often undergo specific manufacturing processes or ingredient selection to minimize or eliminate common allergens like fragrance, dyes, preservatives, or certain chemicals that are known to be more likely to cause allergic reactions.
- Gentle ingredients: Hypoallergenic products typically contain milder or less irritating ingredients that are less likely to provoke an allergic response. They may also use ingredients that are less known to cause allergies.
- Allergy testing: Some hypoallergenic products may have undergone dermatological or allergy testing to determine their potential to cause allergic reactions. However, these tests cannot guarantee that everyone will have the same response.
It's important to note that individual reactions to allergens can vary, and what may be hypoallergenic for one person may still cause a reaction in another.
If you have known allergies or sensitivities, it's important to carefully read product labels or consult with your doctor. They may conduct patch tests to determine if a specific product is suitable for you.
Hypoallergenic mattresses have emerged as a potential solution to minimize allergen exposure, providing a healthier sleep environment for allergy-prone individuals.
Hypoallergenic mattresses are designed to reduce or minimize the potential for allergens to accumulate on or within the mattress, helping to alleviate allergy symptoms and create a healthier sleep environment.
These mattresses are specifically engineered to be resistant to common allergens like dust mites, mold, pet dander, and other particles that can trigger allergic reactions.
As we mentioned earlier, while no product can be entirely allergen-proof, hypoallergenic mattresses are constructed with materials and features that reduce the risk of allergen buildup, creating a healthier sleep environment for allergy-prone individuals.
What to Look for in a Mattress
Some of the best hypoallergenic mattresses incorporate materials that are less likely to trap allergens. These can include:
- High Quality CertiPUR-US® Certified Memory Foam. The foams used to make the memory foam mattresses have been tested for content, emissions and durability by accredited labs.
- Latex: Natural latex mattresses are inherently resistant to dust mites and mold due to their antimicrobial properties.
- Organic Cotton: Organic cotton is grown without the use of harmful chemicals, reducing the risk of pesticide residues and making it a hypoallergenic option.
- Wool: High-quality wool can be naturally resistant to dust mites and mold, and it also helps regulate temperature, keeping the mattress dry and less hospitable to allergens.
- Antimicrobial treatments: Some hypoallergenic mattresses are treated with antimicrobial agents, which inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew, further reducing potential allergen sources.
- Certifications: Look for mattresses that have CertiPUR-US®, OEKO-TEX, or Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certifications. These labels indicate that the mattress has been tested for harmful substances, low emissions, and environmental friendliness.
- Dust-mite resistant designs: Certain mattresses are engineered with specific features to deter dust mites, such as tight quilting or foam layers that don't provide favorable environments for mite proliferation.
Watch Out for Bugs
Dust mites and bugs are tiny organisms that can be found in mattresses and other bedding materials. They are attracted to certain conditions and substances in a mattress that provide them with an ideal environment for survival and reproduction. Here's what dust mites and bugs look for in a mattress:
- Warmth: Dust mites and bugs thrive in warm environments. Mattresses provide a cozy and warm space, especially when body heat is trapped between the sheets and the mattress surface.
- Humidity: These pests also prefer a humid environment. Moisture from sweat and other bodily fluids can accumulate in a mattress, creating a suitable breeding ground for dust mites and bugs.
- Dead Skin Cells: Dust mites primarily feed on dead skin cells shed by humans and pets. Since mattresses accumulate dead skin cells over time, they become a rich food source for dust mites.
- Dust and Debris: Dust mites and bugs are attracted to dust and debris that settle on the mattress surface. Over time, mattresses can accumulate dust and other particles that provide nourishment for these pests.
- Dark and Undisturbed Areas: Dust mites and bugs prefer dark and undisturbed places where they can live without disruption. The interior of a mattress, covered by sheets and other bedding, provides a perfect hiding spot for these creatures.
It's important to note that dust mites themselves are not harmful, but their feces and body parts can trigger allergies in some individuals, leading to symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. Bed bugs, on the other hand, are parasitic insects that feed on blood and can cause itching and skin irritation when they bite.
To minimize the attraction of dust mites and bugs in a mattress, regular cleaning and maintenance are essential. Using hypoallergenic mattress covers or encasements can also create a barrier to prevent dust mites from penetrating the mattress surface. Additionally, maintaining a clean and dry sleeping environment can help reduce the likelihood of attracting these pests.
Be Careful of What is in Your Bed
There are certain materials that are best avoided or used with caution in mattresses due to potential health and environmental concerns. These materials may release harmful chemicals, cause allergic reactions, or contribute to environmental pollution.
Here are some materials that should be approached with caution or avoided in mattresses:
- Polyurethane Foam: Traditional polyurethane foam, commonly used in mattresses, can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that may have adverse health effects, especially for sensitive individuals. These VOCs can contribute to indoor air pollution and may cause respiratory issues.
- Flame Retardants: Some mattresses use flame retardant chemicals to meet safety regulations. However, certain flame retardants, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and chlorinated tris, have been linked to health concerns and are best avoided.
- Synthetic Latex: While natural latex is often considered a hypoallergenic and eco-friendly material, synthetic latex may contain potentially harmful chemicals. Look for mattresses made with natural or certified organic latex to ensure a safer and more environmentally friendly option.
- Chemical Adhesives: Some mattresses are constructed using chemical adhesives that can emit VOCs. Look for mattresses that use water-based or non-toxic adhesives to minimize exposure to harmful chemicals.
- Low-Quality Memory Foam: Poor-quality memory foam mattresses may have an overpowering chemical smell due to off-gassing. It is advisable to choose reputable brands that use CertiPUR-US certified foams, indicating they meet certain safety and environmental standards.
- High-Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) and High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE): Some mattress support structures or foundations may be made from these materials, which are less eco-friendly compared to alternatives like sustainably sourced wood or metal.
When shopping for a mattress, consider looking for eco-friendly and non-toxic options. Opting for mattresses that are CertiPUR-US, Greenguard Gold or OEKO-TEX certified can provide assurance that the mattress meets specific environmental and safety standards.
Always check the mattress manufacturer's materials list and certifications to ensure you're making a well-informed decision that aligns with your health and environmental preferences.
Nothing Lasts Forever
Mattresses wear out over time due to several factors. The lifespan of a mattress can vary depending on the quality of the materials, the manufacturer, and how well it is cared for.
On average, most mattresses last between 7 to 10 years. However, this is a general guideline, and individual mattresses may wear out sooner or last longer based on factors like the type of mattress, frequency of use, and the body weight of the sleeper.
Higher-quality mattresses, such as those made with durable materials and innovative construction, tend to last longer than lower-quality ones. Additionally, mattresses with thicker comfort layers and better support systems tend to have a longer lifespan.
Here are some reasons why your mattresses wear out:
- Compression and Sagging: As you sleep on a mattress, it undergoes compression and begins to lose its original shape over time. The repeated weight and pressure from your body cause the materials to break down, leading to sagging and reduced support.
- Material Deterioration: The materials used in mattresses, such as foams and springs, can deteriorate with age and use. Foam may lose its elasticity and become less supportive, while springs can lose their resilience and start to sag.
- Moisture and Humidity: Excessive moisture and humidity can impact the integrity of the materials in a mattress, especially if it is not adequately ventilated. This can lead to the growth of mold or mildew, which can contribute to the deterioration of the mattress.
- Dust Mites and Allergens: Over time, mattresses can accumulate dust mites, allergens, and debris, even with proper care and maintenance. These factors can exacerbate wear and tear and contribute to the degradation of the mattress.
- Body Weight and Usage: The weight and frequency of use play a role in the lifespan of a mattress. Heavier individuals may put more stress on the mattress, causing it to wear out more quickly.
To maximize the longevity of your mattress, it's essential to follow the manufacturer's care instructions. Additionally, using a mattress protector can help shield the mattress from spills, stains, and allergens, potentially extending its lifespan.
Ultimately, if your mattress is visibly sagging, causing discomfort, or no longer providing the support you need, it may be time to consider replacing it, even if it hasn't reached the average lifespan. A restful and supportive sleep surface is crucial for overall well-being and quality sleep
Alternative to Replacing Your Mattress
If you're looking for alternatives to mattress replacement due to costs, there are several options to consider that can help improve your sleep comfort without breaking the bank. While replacing a worn-out mattress is ideal for long-term sleep health, these alternatives can be temporary solutions until you can afford a new mattress:
- Mattress Topper: Investing in a high-quality mattress topper can add an extra layer of comfort and support to your existing mattress. Toppers come in various materials, such as memory foam, latex, or feather, and can help alleviate pressure points and improve overall sleep quality.
- Mattress Protector: Using a mattress protector can help shield your mattress from spills, stains, and allergens, which can extend its lifespan. Look for waterproof and hypoallergenic protectors to keep your mattress in better condition for longer.
- Mattress Rotation: If your mattress is double-sided or flippable, consider rotating it regularly to even out wear and prolong its life. This can help prevent sagging and maintain support.
- Mattress Cleaning: Regularly clean your mattress by vacuuming it to remove dust, debris, and allergens. Spot cleaning with mild detergent and water can help remove stains. Note: No company can clean the inside of your mattress. Just the surface. Ensure the mattress is completely dry before using it again.
- Mattress Support: Check the foundation or bed frame supporting your mattress. A sturdy and supportive base can significantly impact the longevity of your mattress. If your current foundation is worn out, consider investing in a new one rather than replacing the entire mattress or foundation or consider using mattress support boards to provide a firmer base for your mattress.
- Mattress Repair: In some cases, minor mattress damage can be repaired. For example, if there's a small tear or seam coming apart, you may be able to fix it with a mattress repair kit or adhesive. However, this may not be suitable for all mattress types.
- Regularly Flip and Rotate: If your mattress is not designed to be double-sided, you can still rotate it regularly (180 degrees) to ensure even wear on all sides.
- Pillow Adjustment: Sometimes, the discomfort experienced on a mattress can be improved by changing the type or number of pillows you use to better support your head and neck.
- Sleep Position and Posture: Improving your sleep posture and sleep position can help alleviate discomfort and improve your quality of sleep, even on an older mattress.
While these alternatives can provide some short-term relief, keep in mind that investing in a new, high-quality mattress is the best long-term solution for improving sleep comfort and overall health.
Where to Buy Your New Mattress
All you need to do is look online for a mattress and you will get hundreds of listings. Don’t get lost in the weeds. Only buy from well-established mattress manufactures.
There are several reasons why buying a mattress from an established company can be beneficial.
Here are a few key advantages:
- Product quality and reliability: Established mattress companies have a reputation to uphold, so they tend to prioritize quality in their products. They often have well-established manufacturing processes, quality control measures, and extensive product testing to ensure that their mattresses meet high standards.
- Customer reviews and feedback: Established companies have a track record and a substantial customer base. This means you can find a wealth of customer reviews and feedback regarding their mattresses. Reading these reviews can give you valuable insights into the experiences of other customers, helping you make a more informed decision.
- Warranty and customer support: Established mattress companies typically offer comprehensive warranties and reliable customer support. If you encounter any issues with your mattress during the warranty period, an established company is more likely to honor their warranty and provide responsive support. This can give you peace of mind and protection against manufacturing defects or other problems.
- Wide range of options: Established mattress companies often offer a wide range of mattress options to cater to different preferences and needs. This allows you to find a mattress that suits your specific comfort and support requirements.
- Return and trial policies: Many established mattress companies offer generous return policies and trial periods. This allows you to try the mattress in your own home for an extended period, ensuring that it meets your expectations. If you're not satisfied, you can often return or exchange the mattress, making it a safer investment.
While there may be exceptions, buying a mattress from an established company generally offers greater assurance in terms of product quality, customer support, and reputation.
Your mattress is an investment not only of you money but your health. It’s always important to do your research, read reviews, and compare options before making a purchase.
Remember that quality sleep is essential for overall well-being, and investing in a good mattress can have a significant impact on your health and daily life.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) - https://www.aaaai.org/
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology - https://www.jacionline.org/
National Sleep Foundation - https://www.sleepfoundation.org/
- **Nasal Congestion**: Allergies can cause nasal passages to swell and produce excess mucus, making it difficult to breathe through the nose. This can lead to frequent awakenings during the night.
*Source*: Craig, T. J., Teets, S., Lehman, E. B., Chinchilli, V. M., & Zwillich, C. (2008). Nasal congestion secondary to allergic rhinitis as a cause of sleep disturbance and daytime fatigue and the response to topical nasal corticosteroids. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 101(5), 633-637.
- **Sleep-disordered Breathing**: Allergic rhinitis has been associated with sleep-disordered breathing, including snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
*Source*: Linneberg, A., Nielsen, N. H., Frølund, L., Madsen, F., Dirksen, A., & Jørgensen, T. (2002). The link between allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma: a prospective population-based study. The Copenhagen Allergy Study. Allergy, 57(11), 1048-1052.
- **Decreased REM Sleep**: Allergies might reduce the percentage of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a critical phase of sleep for cognitive functions like memory and emotional regulation.
*Source*: Stuck, B. A., Czajkowski, J., Hagner, A. E., Klimek, L., Verse, T., Hörmann, K., & Maurer, J. T. (2004). Changes in daytime sleepiness, quality of life, and objective sleep patterns in seasonal allergic rhinitis: a controlled clinical trial. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 113(4), 663-668.
- **Daytime Sleepiness and Fatigue**: The disturbances in sleep caused by allergies often result in daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and reduced alertness during the day.
*Source*: Stull, D. E., Meltzer, E., Finn, A. F., & Krouse, J. H. (2007). The impact of allergic rhinitis on work productivity. Primary Care Respiratory Journal, 16(2), 98-105.
- **Cognitive and Mood Impairments**: Chronic sleep disruption due to allergies can lead to cognitive deficits, mood disturbances, and decreased quality of life.
*Source*: Marshall, P. S., O'Hara, C., & Steinberg, P. (2002). Effects of seasonal allergic rhinitis on selected cognitive abilities. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 88(5), 484-490.
- **Increased Nighttime Awakenings**: Allergic symptoms can lead to frequent awakenings, reducing the overall sleep duration and efficiency.
*Source*: Leger, D., Annesi-Maesano, I., Carat, F., Rugina, M., Chanal, I., Pribil, C., ... & Bousquet, J. (2006). Allergic rhinitis and its consequences on quality of sleep: An unexplored area. Archives of Internal Medicine, 166(16), 1744-1748.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI): https://www.aaaai.org/
Mayo Clinic - Dust mite allergy: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dust-mites/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352178
Cleveland Clinic - How to Choose a Mattress: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11076-mattress-buying-guide
Healthline - Hypoallergenic Mattress: What It Is, Benefits, and More: https://www.healthline.com/health/hypoallergenic-mattress
American Sleep Association - Hypoallergenic Mattress Guide: https://www.sleepassociation.org/hypoallergenic-mattress-guide/
WebMD - Allergies and the Bedroom: https://www.webmd.com/allergies/allergies-bedroom#1