I saw my primary care doctor and he wanted me to have a sleep study done and possibly get sleep apnea treatment. I told him it was just my allergies keeping me up at night, but he kept pushing the study. I really don’t want to do it. There’s no way I’m going to be able to sleep with one of those masks on my face every night. I really just want to find a medication that can help me manage my allergy symptoms better. Should I see an allergist instead or do I actually have to go through with the study?
Interestingly, there’s a chance you’re both correct. It sounds like your doctor suspects you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is most common form of sleep apnea. If your upper airway becomes obstructed and you try to breathe in, your airway essentially collapses in on itself as you struggle to pull air into your lungs. The lack of oxygen is a problem for obvious reasons, but the process can actually wake you up repeatedly throughout the night. These disruptions destroy the quality of rest you get, and lead to grogginess during the day. Some studies have shown that those who suffer from OSA are more dangerous than drunk-drivers behind the wheel.
There are studies that link OSA to allergies as well. It’s believed that allergic rhinitis or hay fever causes the tissues to become irritated and swell. This gives the air less space to pass through, which then presents itself as OSA.
It’s certainly a good idea to treat your allergies. Even if they aren’t causing your OSA, they’re probably making you miserable and giving you other issues. The good news is that if you do need sleep apnea treatment as well, you may not need to wear a mask. Mild cases can be treated by a simple appliance, similar to a mouth guard, that your dentist can make. It’s a good idea to bring your dentist on board regardless, because allergy meds tend to cause dry mouth, which can lead to dental problems. Your dentist can help address this, too, so that you can manage it before it has a chance to cause damage to your teeth and gums.
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