My child has a nose allergy and does not sleep well. Should I be worried?

by Dr. Kenny Pang

Sleep problems are common in people with allergic rhinitis or nose allergy. Watch for these symptoms when your children sleep. 

Sleep problems are common in people of all ages with allergic rhinitis or nose allergy. How badly affected one’s sleep quality may depend on the severity of the allergy symptoms.

Nasal allergic symptoms can cause breathing difficulty which tends to worsen at night. Children with blocked noses breathe through their mouths instead. Prolonged mouth breathing can have adverse effects on children’s cranio-facial development. In children sleep problems are linked with fatigue and daytime sleepiness, decreased productivity in school, impaired learning and memory, depressed mood, and a reduced quality of life.

Children with poor quality sleep may sleep for 9 to 10 hours per day but still wake up tired and not refreshed. Their sleep quality is low because of low oxygen intake (due to the collapse of airways), which results in stress to the heart, brain and lungs. 

Allergic rhinitis is also a risk factor for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (also spelt as apnoea) among children. Snoring and other sleep problems are associated with poorer performance in school, lower IQ, and short attention span.

Children with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) typically:

  • Are noisy during sleep, and may snore loudly
  • Extend their necks while asleep
  • Breathe through their mouths (because their noses are blocked)
  • Are difficult to wake up in the morning
  • May have short attention spans and be hyperactive
  • Have average performance in primary schools, and their grades may worsen in secondary school (due to prolonged low oxygen over the years).

If your child has a nose allergy, you might want to pay close attention to sleep-affected symptoms, such as mouth breathing at night, runny nose, blocked nose, choking during sleep, lethargy, poor focus or hyperactivity.

Sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality can, in fact, make a child mildly hyperactive. Many attention deficit symptoms are caused by poor quality sleep. Often, when children are tired, they act out; it is as though they are self-stimulating to stay awake. This is known as the adrenaline (sympathetic) overdrive, which happens when the child’s body compensates for poor sleep quality and excessive tiredness.

Having good sleep quality is just as important as clocking adequate hours of sleep. If your child shows sleep-affected symptoms, speak to your doctor. It may be helpful to discuss how you can manage his/her nasal allergies better and rule out obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

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