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Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(5):728

Background: A significant portion of the general population has symptoms secondary to allergic rhinitis, and those who have allergic rhinitis tend to have lower scores on quality-of-life surveys. Sleep disorders are also common and have a significant impact on quality of life. Studies have shown a correlation between asthma and sleep disorders, which can result in daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and decreases in cognitive function. However, the relationship between allergic rhinitis and sleep disturbances has not been explored in well-designed studies. Léger and associates evaluated the relationship between allergic rhinitis and sleep disturbances, as well as the impact of the duration and severity of allergic rhinitis on sleep patterns.

The Study: The study was a national cross-sectional epidemiologic study of patients with allergic rhinitis. Participants were 18 to 50 years of age, had allergic rhinitis for at least one year, and had high scores on a standardized allergic rhinitis questionnaire. They were excluded if they had significant nasal polyps or nasal septum deviation. Allergic rhinitis and sleep quality were assessed using standardized surveys, and the definitions for sleep complaints and disorders were based on standardized published criteria (see accompanying table). A control group matched for age, sex, and geographic location was selected from the general population. In the study, there were 591 persons with allergic rhinitis and 502 persons in the control group. The mean age was 33.9 years, and most participants (77.6 percent) were nonsmokers.

Results: The researchers found that all sleep complaints and disorders were significantly more common in persons with allergic rhinitis compared with persons in the control group. They also found that the more severe the allergic rhinitis symptoms were, the more likely it was that sleep impairment was present. This was true for those with moderate to severe intermittent symptoms, as well as those with persistent symptoms. The duration of allergic rhinitis had no impact on sleep impairment.

Sleep complaintsDifficulty in falling asleep; nocturnal or early wakening; nonrestorative sleep; feeling of lack of sleep; snoring
Sleep disordersInsomnia; severe insomnia; sleep apnea syndrome; hypersomnia
OtherRegular use of sedatives

Conclusion: The authors conclude that there is a close relationship between allergic rhinitis and sleep complaints or disorders. They add that physicians should pay particular attention to sleep issues when treating patients with allergic rhinitis.

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Copyright © 2007 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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