Suffering from insomnia is one of the most frustrating and debilitating symptoms experienced by many people with chronic diseases.
Lack of sleep significantly impacts the quality of life. There are numerous health and life circumstances that cause insomnia. Not being able to sleep unfortunately can create additional anxiety and feelings of defeat. Hopelessness often emerges. Without adequate sleep, we don’t feel well, nor do we heal well. We experience fatigue, lack of focus, brain fog, anxiety, frustration, and even panic. Sleep is when your brain detoxes via the glymphatic system.
- Insomnia can be caused by mold exposure. Yes, you can’t sleep due to mold. There are a few concepts to understanding the relationship between mold illness and insomnia.
- Mold is most often inhaled. This provides direct access to the brain as the sphenoid sinuses are adjacent to the blood barrier and toxins can pass directly to the brain without having to be systemically distributed through the body’s metabolism and blood stream.
- The autoimmune response to mold can wreak havoc across numerous body systems and synergize to exacerbate numerous chronic illnesses.
- Insomnia can linger in the body after a person begins to get well and long after due to the release of toxins that are stored in fat, and potential mold colonization in the sinuses and the gut.
- The use of medications is the physician’s primary means to treat insomnia symptoms. Unfortunately, efficacy is short term and does not address the root cause of insomnia.
- There are precautions you can take to ensure it is not your home that is making you sick.
Can’t Sleep Due to Mold
Insomnia is very rarely a primary diagnosis. It’s most often diagnosed as a symptom of many chronic illnesses. There are numerous causes of insomnia. Obvious causes are anxiety and daily stress. In these cases, the cause of anxiety and stress must be addressed to relieve the sleep problems. Insomnia is comorbid with many chronic diseases, leaving patients vulnerable to additional acute infections and compromised immunity. Chronic diseases and symptoms can be exacerbated by mold. These diseases include, but are not limited to diabetes, immune system dysfunction, obesity, and heart disease.
Mold Exposure to the Brain
The brain can have direct exposure to mold when the mold or mycotoxins are inhaled into the sinuses.
The pituitary glands (indicated above) are adjacent to the brain and can provide direct access to the brain causing toxicity without being in your bloodstream.
Penetration into the sinus tissue is more common than ingesting mold or absorption through the skin. Chronic fungal sinusitis is a common ailment that impacts almost 60 million people in the United States. However, there is a much darker side of this phenomenon. The nose has a very rich vascular network with direct access to the brain and pituitary gland. Because of that, it is much more sensitive than the other senses. The pituitary is the control center for eight of the body’s most important hormonal systems. Whether it is mold, mycotoxins, or even candida, the sinus walls adjacent to the brain and pituitary glands can provide direct access to the brain causing toxicity and may cause both cognitive and motor function symptoms as well as impacting the body’s hormonal systems. Mycotoxins that remain in the body are also known to be stored in fat and can be released later if that fat is burned. Brain exposure in this manner is unlikely going to appear in a mold diagnostic test of urine.
Toxins can affect nearly any aspect of your body as the pituitary is the control center for eight of the body’s most important hormonal systems.
It is also important to note that the chemical and natural binders physician’s prescribe to remove toxins from the body work primarily in the gut. They may have no impact to the brain detoxification.
Can’t sleep due to mold? Cognitive dysfunction is the most feared symptom from mold exposure. Headaches, fatigue, memory loss, motor function, brain fog, depression, and insomnia can be debilitating and leave patients unable to function normally.
Insomnia and Your Health
Much of current literature today suggests adequate sleep is equally important as clean air, clean water, a balanced diet, healthy behaviors, and exercise. Unfortunately, most physicians have been trained and practice empirical medicine which focuses on symptoms. Empirical treatment is often provided without knowledge of the cause or nature of the disorder and based on experience rather than logic. The symptoms from mold illness are very similar to many common chronic diseases. As a result, environment causes to illness are rarely diagnosed, frequently misdiagnosed, and are often not considered a key cause of illness. Therefore, the burden to diagnose mold illness falls on the patients to investigate. Keeping track of mold and moisture issues can mitigate mold risk and promote wellness.
Sleep is a critical component to health. It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health. Research shows that lack of sleep increases the risk for obesity, heart disease, and infections. Insomnia can also be the cause of brain inflammation. Extensive research has shown that brain inflammation is connected to virtually all types of mental illness. Insomnia and mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, can collectively contribute to sleeplessness. For mold sufferers, insomnia can amplify many debilitating symptoms. Behavioral and cognitive dysfunction are common.
Insomnia also affects growth and stress hormones. This impacts appetite, breathing, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health. Chronic inflammation caused by living in a moldy or water damaged home can lead to fungal infection of the respiratory system and can explain the insomnia. In these cases, removing yourself from the suspected mold source for several days, or repairing and removing of the mold source, will determine whether mold is contributing to the cause.
Mycotoxins, chemical metabolites from some molds must be metabolized by the liver and kidneys and excreted by the body’s natural functions. This can take time. The glymphatic system, responsible for brain detoxification, only functions during healthy sleep. Unfortunately, mycotoxins are stored in tissues and fat. As a result, even after a healthy body and symptomatic relief is realized, toxicity can return as the toxins are released over time from fat cells. This is common amongst patients who lose weight while on their path to becoming healthier. Detoxification requires patience. It can take a year or more to remove toxins from the body.
Medications and Insomnia
Having spent decades of my career in the pharmaceutical industry, focused on neuroscience medications, I am sensitive to the efficacy and dangers of prescription medicines for sleep. It is a relatively common scenario for a physician to prescribe a sleep aid to address sleeplessness. Medication has become the common solution for anxiety and bouts of sleeplessness due to stress. However, these medications are seldom the solution for long-term insomnia due to a medical syndrome, like mold toxicity or other environmental illness.
Hypnotic or Sedative Medications have many drawbacks and do NOT address the cause of mold-induced insomnia. As a matter of fact, as you will see below, many of their side effects can compound or exacerbate neurological symptoms related to mold toxicity. Thus, their use should be carefully weighed and considered. For reference, common sleep medications and their cited negatives include:
- Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Ativan) are anxiolytics that are used to induce drowsiness, so you can fall asleep. The dosing and varying half-lives of the medications determine how long a patient can expect to sleep. When used, there is a danger of lingering effects that can impact alertness and motor function. These effects can be dangerous during daytime activities, such as driving. These drugs can be both addictive and easy to develop a tolerance to requiring escalating dosages for effectiveness.
- Non-benzodiazepines (Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata) are medications that are molecularly different than traditional benzodiazepine chemical structures. These have similar mechanisms and slightly fewer drawbacks; however, addiction and tolerance are still a problem. Memory problems are also associated with these medications.
- Barbiturates and quinazolinones (amobarbital, pentobarbital, phenobarbital & “Quaalude”) are older drugs, dating back to the early 1920s-70s, and are rarely used as hypnotics/sedatives in controlled settings. These molecules may be used for a broad range of sleeplessness. Their effectiveness ranges from mild sedative, being used as an anesthetic, or being used to induce sleep and block pain for patients suffering from severe discomfort, such as cancer victims.
Another drawback of prescription medications is a general decrease in alertness and motor functions that can be dangerous for some daytime activities, such as driving. Driving under the influence of these medications is illegal and treated the same as driving drunk. Rebound insomnia is a significant issue as well. This is the sudden return of sleeplessness after usage of sleep aids, which could be worse than the initial insomnia bout.
Precautions to Address Mold as a Contributor to Insomnia:
- Maintain a mold free room for sleeping. Testing for mold using ImmunoLytics Mold Test plates will always provide adequate visual or laboratory evidence of mold issues in your bedroom. Regular cleaning and vacuuming can make a significant difference in your sleep. Spraying with Remedy Mold Spray or misting with a Haven Mist Kit, followed by HEPA vacuuming and/or wet wiping can remove the majority of mold and mycotoxins in the room. A HEPA air purifier, like Austin Air HealthMate Plus is a healthy addition to keep any room mold free. Washing linens with Remedy Laundry Detergent will remove mold that can form on sheets due to the common mix of perspiration and skin cells.
- CitriSafe Acetyl-Glutathione will aid your body’s detoxification process.
- Agrumax Citrus Seed Extract, distilled water, and SinuGator Sinus Irrigation System by Neilmed with an antimicrobial rinse will clear sinuses of mold spores and rinse out debris and microtoxin chemical fragments.
- Practice Sleep Hygiene. Sleep hygiene is the process of maintaining a healthy routine for preparing for bed every day. This aids the body’s natural sleep cycle and circadian rhythms. Sleep hygiene also includes avoiding products and activities that can disturb the body’s ability to relax.
- Go to bed and awake at the same time each day, including weekends
- Use your bed for sleeping only
- Avoid caffeine during afternoons and evenings
- Avoid eating late meals and snacks
- Go to bed without stimulating bright or ‘blue’ light that emits from TV, phones, and tablets.
- Exercise daily
- If you cannot sleep, get out of bed, relax, and return to bed when you become sleepier
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