A long night of sleep should make Tatiana Brovko feel rested and refreshed. Instead, she felt exhausted.
"I would wake up with headaches, more sinus headaches right in my sinus area, middle forehead," she said. "I'd have huge, dark circles under my eyes and I wouldn't be able to breathe."
Not getting enough air and a night of tossing and turning led to Brovko's morning headaches. Next would come the sneezing. If it was an allergy, why didn't it bother her outside? The symptoms didn't come and go with the seasons either.
Allergy specialist Dr. Marc Meth said the answer lies in her bed.
"They're in the mattress, they're in the rest of your bedding, they're in your pillow, they're in your box spring, they can be in your carpeting , they're sort of throughout the bedroom," he said.
What Meth is referring to are dust mites, microscopic creatures that live and breed in mattresses and pillows. Their body parts and feces are a component of common house dust. Meth says they contain a protein that causes allergic reactions in many people. They're the reason you may wake up sneezing, with a headache and stuffed up.
"It would be nice if you could just take an antihistamine and be OK," Meth said. "I'd say with most patients with dust mite allergies, antihistamines usually aren't enough."
That can escalate into using prescription nasal sprays, and ultimately, allergy shots. But the best thing to do is create a barrier between you and the dust mites.
For your bedding, it's a great idea to encase your pillow, mattress and box spring in dust mite proof covering. It's also a great idea to wash your bedding in 140-degree water once a week. That helps kill a lot of the dust mites. Vacuuming your bedroom with a HEPA filter vacuum is another great idea to help eliminate some of the particles that people become allergic to.
You may love your humidifier, but guess what? So do dust mites. They thrive in warm humid environments. And don't wash your sheets with fabric softener because that actually creates more dust.
If you've used softener in the past, add a quarter cup of white vinegar to your rinse cycle to get the residue out of your sheets.
Meth says dust mites hate high altitudes, so he says it's tough to find them in places like Denver.
Brovko is facing the problem head on: allergy shots help boost her immune system and dust mite proof covers on her pillows provide a barrier. These days, she's waking up headache-free.
"I don't have the dry cough anymore. I can sleep better and actually breathe through my nose," she said.