Research Article: Poor sleep is highly associated with house dust mite allergic rhinitis in adults and children

Date Published: August 16, 2017

Publisher: BioMed Central

Author(s): Damien Leger, Bénédicte Bonnefoy, Bernard Pigearias, Bertrand de La Giclais, Antoine Chartier.


Sleep disorders are often underreported to physicians by patients with allergies. This study aimed to characterize the sleep disorders associated with respiratory allergy to house dust mites (HDM) at the time of initiation of sublingual allergen immunotherapy (SLIT) in routine clinical practice.

This prospective, cross-sectional, observational study was conducted between November 2014 and March 2015 at 189 French trial sites and included 1750 participants suffering from HDM allergy who were initiating SLIT. Participants aged less than 5 years old and those who had previously started an allergen immunotherapy (AIT) for HDM allergy were not enrolled in the study. Sleep disorders were assessed by self-administered questionnaires: the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) and a modified version of the Hotel Dieu-42 (HD-42) sleep disorder questionnaire. Logistic regression models adjusted for obesity, smoking status, asthma control and nasal obstruction were used to study the relationship between allergic rhinitis (AR) classification and sleep disorders/complaints.

Of the 1786 participants enrolled, 1750 (907 adults and 843 children) composed the analysis population. The majority of participants (73.5% of adults and 65.8% of children) reported that their sleep disorders had prompted them to consult their physician. The most commonly observed sleep complaints were poor-quality sleep (50.3% of adults and 37.3% of children), snoring (48.1 and 41.4%, respectively) and nocturnal awakening (37.6 and 28.2%, respectively). Difficulties falling asleep were reported by 27.0% of adults and 24.7% of children. Adults and children suffering from severe persistent AR experienced sleep complaints significantly more often than participants with intermittent or mild persistent AR.

This study highlights the high frequency of sleep disorders and their significant impact on patients with AR induced by HDM, in particular when AR is persistent and severe. Consequently, asking allergic patients about the quality of their sleep appears to be important, especially when the patient has persistent and severe AR.

Partial Text

Allergic rhinitis (AR) is common and is estimated to affect approximately 25% of the population in France and Canada [1, 2]. Allergies affect sleep, which can lead to tiredness and other deficits in quality of life [1, 3, 4]. House dust mites (HDM) are the primary cause of respiratory allergies [5]. HDM allergens are very prevalent in the sleep environment and are very difficult to avoid; furthermore, because it is perennial and often associated with asthma, HDM allergy has a greater effect on patients’ sleep than other allergies [6]. The decision to start allergen immunotherapy (AIT) is a marker of disease severity, and thus patients at this stage of care represent a subpopulation of interest when assessing the impact of allergy on sleep. In most studies that have been conducted on this topic to date, the methods used to assess sleep have been limited, as they have primarily used Juniper’s Rhinoconjunctivitis Quality of Life Questionnaire (RQLQ) [7, 8]. Consequently, there are insufficient descriptive data regarding the exact nature and frequency of sleep disorders. In this context, this trial termed the ‘MORPHEE study’, aimed to better characterize sleep disorders in participants with respiratory allergy to HDM who were starting sublingual allergen immunotherapy (SLIT) to assess the specific unexplored medical needs of these participants in relation to sleep disorders.

From November 2014 to March 2015, 1786 participants were enrolled in the study by 189 physicians. Following verification of the inclusion/exclusion criteria, 36 participants were excluded from the analysis population, half of them due to missing data related to SLIT prescription. Thus, 1750 participants (907 adults and 843 children) were retained for the analysis.

According to a report published in 2006 by the French Ministry of Health and Solidarity, approximately 20–30% of the French population complained of sleep disorders, 15–20% of whom had moderate insomnia; 9–10%, severe insomnia; and approximately 8%, excessive daytime sleepiness. These conditions each have direct consequences for public health [17]. Many studies have shown that quality of life is frequently affected by respiratory allergies, in particular among patients with moderate to severe symptoms. The related disorders include changes in mood, deterioration in cognitive function and in school and work performance, memory deficits and an inability to concentrate [5, 18–25]. Sleep disruption, sleepiness and tiredness are frequently reported by patients with AR [4, 8, 20, 23, 24, 26]. It has become increasingly clear that sleep disorders have a direct and indirect growing economic impact, and management of sleep disorders thus represents an important challenge for health systems. In our study, sleep disorders were among the most commonly cited reasons for consultation (73.5% of adults and 65.8% of children). For adults, this frequency is twice as high as that obtained in the “Sleep and Transport” yearly survey poll commissioned by the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (INVS), which reported that 37% of French people suffered from sleep disorders [27]. For participants in the MORPHEE study, the other symptoms that were commonly reported as reasons for consultation were typical of AR [14]: rhinorrhea (71.0% of adults and 66.1% of children), nasal congestion (65.5 and 66.7%), and sneezing (65.3 and 62.8%). In addition, persistent cough was a reason for consultation in 44.1% of children. This finding might be explained by the high frequency of children suffering from asthma (48.3%). Some authors have shown that nasal congestion could be a major cause of sleep disturbance and respiratory disorders during sleep [23, 28]. Other symptoms of rhinitis (sneezing, rhinorrhea, nasal pruritus) and different components of the immune and inflammatory response could also affect sleep and sleepiness during the day [23]. The use of antihistamines was not expected to play a significant role in sleepiness because the participants were almost exclusively taking new-generation antihistamines.

This survey clarified the characteristics and effects of sleep disorders in a large sample of participants consulting their physician for AR caused by HDM who were considering initiating SLIT. The multivariable logistic regression models showed that subjects suffering from severe persistent AR were more likely to experience difficulty falling asleep, nocturnal awakening, clinical insomnia and poor-quality sleep than those with other types of AR.




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