The objective of this review was to present evidence of the relationship between allergic rhinitis and impairment of quality of life. The data sources were original articles, reviews and consensus statements entered into the Medline and LILACS databases between 1997 and 2008. The following search terms were used: 'allergic rhinitis'; 'quality of life'; and 'sleep disorders'. Quality of life is often impaired in patients with allergic rhinitis, due to the classic symptoms of the disease (sneezing, pruritus, rhinorrhea and nasal obstruction). In addition, the pathophysiology of allergic rhinitis often disrupts sleep, leading to fatigue, irritability, memory deficits, daytime sleepiness and depression. The total burden of this disease goes beyond impairment of physical and social functioning. It has also a financial impact, which becomes greater when we consider the evidence that allergic rhinitis is a possible causal factor of comorbidities, such as asthma and sinusitis. Nasal obstruction, the most prominent symptom, is associated with sleep disorders, which can have a profound effect on mental health, learning, behavior and attention. Finally, allergic rhinitis-a chronic condition that affects adults, adolescents and children-is often underdiagnosed or inadequately treated. The deleterious impact that allergic rhinitis-related sleep disorders have on patient capacity to perform activities of daily living is an important component of the morbidity of the disease. With an accurate diagnosis, there are various available treatments that can reduce the burden of allergic rhinitis.