Cant Sleep? This may be the cause.

The Metabolic Effect 8-Week Sleep Program is now available and my last four or five blogs have been all about sleep, so please take a few minutes to read through those for some additional information.

At the end of my last blog I told you I was going to give you some information on a little known cause of sleep disturbance. That cause is allergies.

Many people misunderstand allergies so let's do a brief review of the several variations of allergic reactions.

A review of allergies

The types of allergy most are familiar with are what are known as acute allergies. These types of allergies include eating a peanut and breaking out in hives, or getting stung by a bee and having breathing difficulty.

There is another type of allergy most are not familiar with.  We call these "delayed allergies." These allergies are far more subtle in their effects.  With these allergies perhaps you eat some ice cream and notice that you are congested the next day. The body is reacting to something, but the cause is a little trickier to nail down.

So what do allergies have to do with sleep? Several things. Lets talk about immediate reactions to environmental allergens.

Immediate reactions

Let's say you go to bed and your comforters and pillows are old and filled with a bit of dust, pet dander or even dust mites, or perhaps you have carpets in your home and the dander, dust and other allergens get trapped there as well.  

When the body reacts to an allergen such as this, one of the hallmarks of its response has to do with histamine.  Histamine is what makes your nose run and your eyes water. It can also increase your heart rate and make your mind race.

In other words, histamine can act as a stimulant.  Have you ever wondered why Benadryl works so well to help many people with sleep?  It has antihistamine effects.

How do you know if you are dealing with these types of allergies? Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • During allergy season when the pollen is out, is my sleep issue worse?
  • Do I sleep better after I change the sheets on the bed?
  • Do I sleep better when I am at a hotel or someone else's house?
  • Does a histamine blocker like Benadryl help me sleep?
  • Do carpets bother me?

If any of these things are true you may want to try any of the following fixes:

  • Drink lots of water prior to bed.  Being hydrated is a natural anti-histamine.
  • Use nasal douches or nasal sprays containing saline or/or xylitol. These make it more difficult for airborne allergens to bind to mucus membranes and start a reaction.
  • Consider an air purifier for your room.  They remove allergens from the air
  • Get rid of old pillows and blankets and/or wash your bed sheets frequently
  • Get rid of carpets in your bedroom
  • Don't allow pets in your room.
  • Consider natural anti-inflammatory foods like blueberries (they have weak histamine blocking effects)
  • Consider natural anti-histamine supplements like Bromelain (A naturally occurring enzyme from pineapple)

Delayed reactions

The mechanism of action is a little different for the delayed reactions, but these too can activate the sympathetic nervous system. Remember, the sympathetic response is another name for the "fight or flight response" or "fear response."

It is interesting to some people that they can eat a pint of ice cream at night and unknowingly be causing sleep issues as a result.

Now to be clear, this is not the case with everyone.  Most people do not have these kinds of reactions to foods.  But if you do have them, you may not realize it.

What are some ways you could tell if this is going on with you?

  • Dark circles around your eyes (aka allergic shiners)
  • Getting a runny nose or having to clear your throat after eating certain foods
  • Snoring and/or sleep apnea
  • Any association with certain foods and digestive issues.
  • Any association with certain foods and sleep issues

Admittedly, these types of reactions are difficult to detect and there are not many reliable signs and symptoms.  But there are some things to try.

  • Bromelain.  This was mentioned before.  Taken on an empty stomach it can act as an antihistamine and it also has mechanisms that deal with delayed allergies as well. I tell my clients to take 1-3g of this before bed
  • Eliminate any suspected foods for a period of 2-4 weeks. See if sleep improves when the food is gone, or gets worse when you add it back in.

Final thoughts

Allergies are extremely common as are sleep issues.  If you have not looked at this issue before, it is a very important consideration.

I hope you have been enjoying the blog education on sleep. My hope is that this helps you figure out some of this stuff on your own.  But, many of you will need some help pinpointing where the sleep issue lies. That is what our new sleep program is for.

The sleep program covers allergies among a host of other issues. It is designed to give you a complete education so you can take your sleep issues into your own hands and deal with them proactively.





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