Question for the hive mind: 5 AM is sneezy time?

This is a blog post that I more or less composed in my mind early this morning when, at 5 AM, I awoke with a runny nose and started sneezing.

Just like I have every morning at 5 AM for the past month and a half.

I do not, as far as I can tell, have a cold.

I do not experience the same runny nose or sneezing at other times of day.

Is it possible that I'm allergic to 5 AM? (People can't actually be allergic to a time of day, can they?)

Or, more plausibly (if only marginally so), is it possible that something about my circadian rhythms makes me more vulnerable to allergens in my environment at 5 AM? (Bora? Bueller? Anyone?) If so, is there any hope of resetting this vulnerability to a more convenient time?

Or is my damn nose haunted?

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This happens to me too, only at 5:30 AM. I have been thinking that it is the result of having been exposed to airborne allergens while lying down for about 7 hours. I'm exposed to them during the day too, but it's easier to deal with their effects when I'm upright, moving, talking, eating, drinking, etc. When I do have a cold, I'm always more stuffed up first thing in the morning too.

Possible. Could be that some prostaglandins and such may be peaking around 5am. Or, it could be that a plant you are allergic to has a burst of pollen sex around am. Gotta find out what is the source of your allergy....

There is a circadian rhythm for nasal stuffiness (
but the typical time course does not match what you are experiencing.

The usual suspects for this kind of thing would be: dust mites in bedding, or feather pillows, or less likely, allergy to detergent used to wash bedding.

If I recall correctly, there also is a rhythm to alternating the relative volume of airflow from one nostril to the other during sleep. That is, the left nostril will be more open than the right one, for a while, then it alternates. But that is merely a bit of trivia; it does not explain what is happening to you.

Could it be a conditioned response?

I don't have the sneezy thing, but there are many other biological functions that seem to be triggered by certain times of day or places or activities, and I'm pretty sure that it's operant conditioning.

I've been told that many flowers begin to open very early in the morning.

I've seen ligustrum holding tight little buds in the afternoon. Then going to work at 8AM, the same morning my sinuses went crazy at about 0530, I see that the buds have opened. Coincidence?

It could be they open in the wee hours of the morning or, possibly, that 0500 is when the pollen has dried enough to fly.

Either way I have one word for you ... Diphenhydramine.

25mg usually works but it might take 50mg. The down side is the stuff causes drowsiness. Some people are more subject to this than others. I've taken antihistamines most of my life and it doesn't phase me. Others take 25mg and are knocked out. Works pretty well for a sleep aid.

It's actually much easier than that. You have hay fever and are allergic to some pollen. In summertime, the sun rises early (and at slightly different times in different places - we are so far north it is 4 am for me), and the dew rises, as they say. The blooming things wake up and spew forth their pollen in an attempt to spread their genetic material as far as possible.

1) Sleep with the windows closed
2) See your doctor for anti-histamin medication
3) Go to bed earlier, get up at 5 and work until the kids get up. Phones don't tend to ring at that hour of the morning

By WiseWoman (not verified) on 11 Jun 2010 #permalink

It is genetic, from your mother's side. Sorry--really!

By Super Sally (not verified) on 12 Jun 2010 #permalink

Due to multiple allergies, I'm chronically nasally congested, but sometimes I wake up (not as) early in the morning and find that I'm breathing clearly (an effect which, alas, vanishes within seconds of getting vertical).

Who's got an explanation for that?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 12 Jun 2010 #permalink

My allergist told me it's because of all the pollen that sticks in our hair all day long that we then rub on our pillows at night. We're exposed all night and wake up already sneezing and puffy. He has recommended evening rinse-off showers, especially of the hair, to get out allergens, and washing sheets in hot water at least once a week. This has done a lot to help me!