High Pollen Counts and Sleepiness

Pollen allergy
Is pollen making you sleepy?

The connection between high pollen counts and sleepiness may not always be direct, but it is something for tired allergy sufferers to consider. Can pollen make you tired? In some cases, it can. Find out about allergic fatigue, and its possible connection to depression and sleep problems.

High Pollen Counts and Sleepiness Are Related

The relationship between high pollen counts and sleepiness is something to consider if you suffer from allergies and sleep deprivation. The connection between the two depends greatly on physical responses to high levels of pollen. Those with significant pollen allergies can experience less sleep for a number of reasons.

Traditional signs of pollen allergies include:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Wheezing

If these symptoms improve when you are indoors (especially in air conditioning), when it's raining, or after a frost, you may be suffering from pollen allergies. If the symptoms worsen in the morning, and on clear and windy days, allergies are likely.The traditional symptoms of pollen allergies are quite familiar, but should you add sleepiness to the list? Fatigue can be a sign of a reaction to high pollen counts whether you have overt symptoms or not.

Allergic Fatigue

According to the Allergy and Asthma Center, the same chemicals that lead to the symptoms of allergies can also lead to fatigue. In addition to runny nose, sneezing and congestion, you may feel excessive sleepiness around the clock. This is a natural response that occurs as your body overreacts to pollen. High pollen counts may interfere with your ability to feel awake and refreshed. Dr. Ronald Hoffman offers insight into allergic fatigue, and he lists pollens as factors that can contribute to sleepiness. Dr. Hoffman writes that in addition to the classic symptoms of pollen allergies, a person may experience sleepiness. Another point to keep in mind is that you may not have traditional pollen allergy reactions such as a runny nose and still have "constant low level fatigue."

Allergic fatigue is one important aspect to consider and if you feel tired consistently without the overt signs of pollen allergies, it is important to discuss the problem with your doctor. Those who have overt symptoms in addition to sleepiness have additional sleep obstacles to overcome.

Allergies and Sleep Deprivation

The ability to fall asleep and to stay asleep throughout the night can be disrupted when pollen counts are high. Breathing related sleep problems can occur when congestion and swelling blocks the airway passage. The blockage can lead to snoring, and in some cases, it can lead to obstructive sleep apnea. Both conditions can lead to daytime sleepiness as they disrupt your normal sleep schedule, and they interfere with the quality of sleep.

Treating the allergies can alleviate the sleep related breathing problem, but it is necessary to discuss loud snoring and breath cessation with your doctor, who might suggest a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea.


Taking medication for pollen allergies can make your sleepy. One of the side effects of many antihistamines is drowsiness. According to FamilyDoctor.org, second generation antihistamines are not as likely to cause drowsiness. Second generation antihistamines include:

  • Allegra
  • Clarinex
  • Zyrtec

Allergies, Depression and Sleepiness

People who have chronic allergy symptoms can become depressed. The connection between allergies and depression is psychological, and sleep is a considerable factor. When a person feels ill and tired, he or she is more likely to feel depressed. The psychological effects of sleep deprivation is one consideration.

A biological connection may be a factor as well. A study at Baltimore's University of Maryland School of Medicine showed that higher levels of tree pollen correlated with an increased number of female suicides. The biological factor may be cytokines, which is an inflammatory protein that has an effect on brain function which may result in:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sadness
  • Melancholy
  • Fatigue

People who have allergies and an overall feeling of malaise may benefit from talking to their doctors about the problem. It is necessary to treat depression separately from allergies, but treating both can lead to a better night's sleep.

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High Pollen Counts and Sleepiness