Histamine Intolerance, Inflammation and RLS (PART 4): INSOMNIA

ImageRestless Legs Syndrome and Insomnia go hand in hand. However, the insomnia is not caused by the restless legs. The restless legs result in a “lack of sleep”, which sounds like the same thing, but really isn’t.

Insomnia is caused by a racing brain, a stress or an overall intensity within. Having suffered from both insomnia and RLS, I can tell you that when my legs got better, my insommnia lived on. It took a long time and a lot of work, but I managed to retrain my mind and body so that I was able to get to sleep relatively quickly at night. I was also able to totally change my sleep cycle and get to bed and fall asleep before midnight almost every night.

Having said that, I still have periods of unexplained intensity, racing mind and stress that prevent a good night’s sleep. I think I now know why.  
In this segment of the series on histamine, I am presenting information on how increased histamine levels lead to a “racing” mind often resulting in insomnia.

It’s not all bad news. The next post will feature many natural solutions to histamine intolerance and the “racing brain” that the increased histamine levels can cause.

from Dr. Joan Mathews-Larson
I’ll bet your concept of histamine is of some vague body fluid that gets released in allergic reactions and causes sneezing, mucous and swelling. You may not realize what serious mischief this chemical can do. Inside the brain it has an important role, in all sorts of reactions. It causes our tears to flow, determines our pain sensitivity, and our sexual libido. If brain levels get too low we become paranoid and suspicious, our ears may ring, we may see or hear things abnormally. We will probably make grandiose plans but never have the energy to carry them out.

ImageWhen brain histamine levels soar out of control, other frightening symptoms occur. The tendency to hyperactivity, compulsive behavior and black depression increases as histamine rises abnormally. We may grow obsessive about sex, have abnormal fears, compulsive rituals, cry easily and may even think about suicide often.

Many high-powered, energetic politicians and public figures show this high histamine combination of obsessive drive and high sexual libido. Without their abnormally high histamine, they would lack the stamina to fuel their careers so intensely. Unfortunately, their accompanying high sex drive sometimes is their undoing, despite being splendid statesmen in every other way. Once we see ourselves and others in the light of the chemistry we are dealt, we tend to become more understanding about the corresponding behaviors.

In your hypothalamus, histamine stimulates the release of the important neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Another role of brain histamine is to counterbalance dopamine in that area of the brain that filters sensory information coming into your brain. With too little histamine, dopamine levels are elevated. The result of too low histamine can be thought disorders or even hallucinations that feel like your mind is playing tricks on you.

Other psychiatric symptoms develop when too MUCH histamine heightens and distorts the release of these key neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. When abnormally high, histamine will cause over stimulation, aggressiveness, compulsivity, and a racing brain (among other symptoms).

Imagefrom the Histamine Intolerances Blog
A lot of histamine patients seem to have issues sleeping. As my allergist so eloquently put it and I quote: “histamine is a wake-amine”. As for me, I wake up from the slightest light or sound. It gets so bad I wake up multiple times per hour. You can imagine this is quite hard. It means waking up just as tired as when you went to bed. I’ve tried a wide variety of tricks, but nothing really does seem to do the trick.  

from Medical News Today
A study by scientists with the Veterans Affairs’ Neurobiology Research Laboratory and UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute shows that brain cells containing the chemical histamine are critical for waking.

Detailed in the May 27 edition of the journal Neuron, the findings show that the cessation of activity in histamine cells causes loss of consciousness during sleep The findings also help explain why antihistamines, often taken to control allergies, cause drowsiness.

from American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Histamine is found in the brain and helps keep you alert and awake. An “anti”-histamine crosses over into the brain and makes you sleepy. In addition to helping treat allergies, antihistamines are also known to make you very sleepy.

Antihistamines are the most common ingredient in sleep aids that you can buy at a local drug store.

Studies show that antihistamines do help patients sleep better.

(Editor’s Note: Please keep in mind that as a RLS sufferer you cannot take over-the-counter antihistamines. You have to take “natural” ones. There are hundreds of articles and studies that demonstrate that over-the-counter antihistamines increase the intensity of Restless Legs dramatically!).

from The Last Psychiatrist
Most people think of sleep as the opposite of wakefulness, a line with two poles, you slide the switch back and forth.

In fact, there are two regions in the brain, working at the same time. A wakefulness promoting region and a sleep promoting region, battling each other, and your mind, for supremacy.

Simply as a convenience to me for the purposes of writing this post, I’ll call the “wakefulness promoting region” the tuberomammillary nucleus, and the “sleep promoting region” the ventrolateral preoptic area of the hypothalamus.

The tuberomammillary nucleus (TMN) is the sole source of histamine in the brain. The TMN sends histamine projections all over the cortex. Histamine causes arousal, increased attention, perhaps increased learning and memory.   

Imagefrom Dr. Judy Tsafrir MD.  
I have had insomnia since I was a child, probably due to life long undiagnosed histamine intolerance. A sense of calm and peace replaced the chronic anxiety I was experiencing, my spirits lifted and I felt much less tired and more alert. Given the strength and immediacy of my response to lowering the histamine content of my diet, I believe that histamine intolerance should be considered in every case of anxiety disorder, depression, sleep and attentional disorders, especially if a person is aware of food sensitivity issues.

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