Mold-Related Sleep Problems Are Common, But Difficult Symptoms to Address

by Dr. Susan Tanner, MD

We all know sleep is essential for good health and healing, but in a mold injured-patient, getting quality sleep is even more imperative. During sleep, especially deep sleep, the brain repairs itself to some extent. The liver and kidneys are actively processing so that detoxification can continue unopposed by usual daytime activities, and the musculo-skeletal system has a chance to repair and strengthen connective tissues. In addition, hormone levels have the opportunity to normalize and “rest”.   Lack of restorative sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, heart rhythm problems, obesity, and fatigue. (A study published in 2018 in the American Journal of Physiology — Endocrinology and Metabolism found that just losing one night of sleep may significantly affect the liver’s ability to produce glucose and process insulin, increasing the risk of metabolic diseases such as hepatic steatosis (fatty liver) and type 2 diabetes.) When sleep patterns become disrupted and sleep issues are persistent, then more investigation as to the cause is necessary. This is especially true if you are a mold-injured patient, or suspect that you may be, because your immune system cannot recover and your body cannot heal sufficiently until your get your sleep back on track.

How Mold Impacts Sleep

Understanding how mold-related illness impacts sleep can be complicated, because mold impacts so many different systems in the body. Some mold symptoms have an obvious connection to sleep and may be obvious, while others are not quite as evident. But, it is my belief that understanding and taking steps to address each can help improve sleep quality and duration, thus helping your body to heal.

Respiratory Symptoms

The most obvious is to observe if there are breathing issues relating to nasal and sinus congestion. If fungal sinusitis is present and resultant swollen airways occur, then breathing is more difficult when reclining; sleep apnea and snoring commonly occur and cause sleep patterns to be interrupted and non-restorative. A sinus X-ray, and even better, a CT scan of the sinuses can show if there is a problem here. Consistent use of nasal irrigation with a Breathe Easy kit that contains a saline irrigation system and CitriDrops Dietary Supplement go a long way toward reducing nasal obstruction and improving sleep. These washes can kill mold spores and reduce swelling in the airways. Obviously, if there is a large fungal ball in the sinuses then this requires the attention of an otolaryngologist, like Dr. Dennis. If you have fungi in your sinuses, they are continually producing mycotoxins very close to the brain! This increases your overall toxic load substantially and causes increasing hormone imbalances as I will discuss in the paragraphs below.  Most importantly, though, you must remember, if you are still living in a moldy environment, then you are not getting to the root of a problem. The air you breathe must be addressed to get well!

Pituitary Symptoms

Less obvious than the nasal symptoms are the hormonal impacts from mycotoxins that affect sleep quality.   The pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain, secretes a number of hormones, but two in particular directly relate to sleep quality. One is MSH, or melanocyte stimulating hormone. MSH is an integral part of the immune system and helps with immune stabilization.  MSH is protective against infection, but you don’t want levels so high as to produce allergies. It also helps to sustain and deepen sleep. The production of MSH is almost always reduced in patients with mold illness; therefore, sleep is impacted.   In fact, of all the mold-injured patients on whom I checked MSH levels, I never saw one with amounts even close to normal! Correction of this is done by detoxifying and binding the mold mycotoxins from the body. As an adjunct, the use of very small supplemental doses of Melatonin may help, usually only 0.5 mg to 1 mg taken at bedtime.  I found that melatonin is better tolerated and seems to work better in low doses. Dr. Deitrieck Klinghardt has also reported that diffusing (not nebulizing) the essential oil, myrrh, at bedside may also help improve the levels of MSH. Klinghardt found that increasing MSH was a game changer in improving the health outcomes of his mold patients.

Growth hormone is also produced by the pituitary gland and is important for sleep. A study by Dennis, Black and Robertson demonstrated the loss of growth hormone from mycotoxins in hundreds of patients. Growth hormone does stimulate the production of MSH, but has other functions as well. What is important to understand is that, even though adults have stopped growing in stature, proper amounts of growth hormone are still necessary to promote good sleep, good immune function, and healthy body mass. Much of this is due to the fact that growth hormone is considered a “master hormone”, meaning that its production dictates the secretion of most other hormones downstream from it. Without optimal amounts of growth hormone, other systems cannot function as they should. Growth hormone supplementation itself if very expensive and requires a daily shot, but the use of CellTropin may help stimulate the pituitary gland to produce growth hormone and thus improve sleep. The fact that it is inexpensive and very easy to take make it an ideal treatment for helping restore pituitary function for a self-treatment regimen.

Adrenal Symptoms

The function of the adrenal glands and their impact on sleep is vast and far-reaching. Persistent urination, especially at night, is a frequently mentioned complaint. This can be a two-fold problem, because thirst and dehydration are also elevated. You see, the adrenal glands themselves are less able to conserve the proper balance of salt and water in the cells because of the damage from the mycotoxins and a trigger no longer happens to produce “anti-diuretic hormone” at night. Thus, many mold patients drink and drink, but urinate constantly and remain chronically dehydrated, because their cells are essentially unable to effectively absorb the water. The correction for this is basically continuing all the detoxification regimens for mold and mycotoxins discussed on this website; as the body load decreases, then this part of the system re-regulates itself.

That is not the complete story of the adrenals and sleep by a long shot, however. Adrenals also have control over the “fight or flight” mechanism. Chronic physical ( mycotoxins) and emotional ( chronic illness) stressors wear out this process and proper signaling does not take place. Excessive adrenal function at the wrong time is a huge sleep disruptor. Two very helpful agents in regulating this are phosphotidylserine ( 100 to 300 mg at bedtime) as well as the herb Ashwaganda, also taken at bedtime. These may help gently reduce this hyperactive function and restore better sleep. Phosphotidylserine is an amino acid which helps to block the secretion of excessive cortisol from the adrenals. Cortisol is very necessary during the day, but at night, high levels cause wakefulness, blood sugar problems, and brain overload. Ashwaganda is an herb, very well tolerated by most, which helps the adrenal gland adapt to stressors. It has been observed that overall wellbeing, memory, and daytime fatigue may be helped by its use. There are a number of adrenal support programs and supplements on the market of which I have found to be helpful, but for the purposes of this article am mentioning primarily those that impact sleep directly. Future articles will address the adrenal system in much more detail.

Tips for Better Sleep

A few other tips for better sleep include the following:

  1. Avoid use of cell phones, tablets and computer within two hours of bedtime. The blue light from these devices decreases Melatonin and your body’s circadian rhythms.
  2. Do not keep phone or tablet chargers at your bedside, even plug-in alarm clocks may be a problem as the electromagnetic fields can cause havoc in sensitive individuals.
  3. Keep bedroom as cool as possible. 68-70 degrees seems to be the most helpful temperature range.
  4. Make sure air quality in the bedroom is as good as it can be. The use of a portable air purifier/filter, such as an IQ air, can keep particulates to a minimum and lessen any nasal congestion.
  5. Eat a small protein snack about an hour before bed, not to exceed 100 calories. This might be a piece of cheese ( if not dairy sensitive), a bit of almond butter, or part of a protein shake or bar. This can help normalize insulin and blood sugar levels that can bounce around a bit when the body is under stress.
  6. A short sleep meditation, prayer, or other affirmation can help to quiet the brain and prepare your body for sleep.

In conclusion, here a few brief take-home points:

  1. To get well, you must have restorative sleep.
  2. To have restorative sleep you must address hormonal and biochemical imbalances.
  3. To rectify hormonal deficiencies, you must first have a clean environment. Then, you can put the proper detoxification pieces in place to get the wheels spinning properly again.
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