How to Get A Good Night’s Sleep, When Mold Won’t Leave You Alone
Have you tried EVERYTHING to tackle your mold illness-induced insomnia to no avail? Are you falling asleep, but not staying asleep, and waking every hour or two, so much so, that you awake unrested and irritated? Do you feel chronically tired, fatigued, and sleep deprived even when you do rest? You are not alone. I get emails from readers seeking advice and tips for getting to sleep, staying asleep, and combatting mycotoxin-induced fatigue almost every week. This is because sleep issues are at the top of the “most problematic and debilitating” symptom list for many people suffering from mold toxicity. And, while sudden-onset insomnia in an otherwise healthy individual should, in my opinion, be a clue for doctors to look for mold and mold exposure as the potential cause, or to at least rule it out, unfortunately, since insomnia is a symptom and side effect of almost every illness and drug, quite a long period of sleepless nights usually accumulates before mold is finally discovered.
I know too well how the whole sleep or lack thereof quandary can send even the most level-headed person into a downward spiral. My own experience of insomnia from mold toxicity put me over-the-edge and into a dark place of feeling anxious, overwhelmed and incredibly hopeless. I thought I was tough and could handle whatever the illness threw at me. Then I stopped sleeping. I was toast, because let’s face it, when you’re only sleeping 4 or less hours per night, your body is NOT recovering. It doesn’t even have the time to do all of its sleep-induced upkeep, like muscle and tissue growth and repair, immune system boosting and fortification, growth hormone release, appetite balance and regulation, brain energy and function enhancement, memory consolidation and retention, among many others. Without sleep, you stay sick and pretty much walk around with gauze over your eyeballs and in literal brain fog. Not getting sufficient sleep also causes your body to shut down to an even greater degree than it already is from the mold-toxin overload, which is obviously incredibly unhelpful when you are trying desperately to heal. (Note: During sleep is the only time the glymphatic system removes toxins from the brain via cerebral spinal fluid.)
So, to address this huge problem and to answer some of your questions in a longer format than I can in an email response, I thought I would write another post on sleep and insomnia in particular. (To read my previous post about sleep click HERE. That post establishes why mold in your environment can cause sleep problems.) This post will be focused on getting a good night’s sleep no matter where you are in the recovery process. Now, I realize that if you are living without sleep right now, this may seem impossible, but I assure you that there is always something that can be done and a remedy that can be tried no matter what. Some things will work for you and some things won’t. No one solution will be instant–sleep is one of those things that when you find what works, you may have to titrate up until you hit the perfect “dose” to get you sleeping through the night. You just have to keep plugging away and trying different things until you find what clicks for you. It may even be a combination of many things that creates the perfect solution. For example, I found insomnia relief from sleeping on the floor. Sounds crazy, but I will explain more in a moment. So, please don’t lose hope. A solution could be only one step away and could make an enormous difference in your mental, emotional, and physical health.
Why Being Mold-Toxic Affects Your Sleep
To start, and so that you can better understand my rationale behind some of my advice, here is a Cliff’s Notes– version of some of the biological changes happening in your body when you have mold toxicity that make it difficult for you to sleep: Mold toxins are assimilated inside your cells and stored in fatty tissue—thus, the rapid onset of neurological and cognitive issues for many people. Mold toxins tend to congregate in the brain—the brain is mostly fat—causing pituitary damage, low or lowered thyroid, exhausted and low cortisol, and low growth hormone. Natural melatonin (a hormone primarily released by the pineal gland that regulates sleep-wake cycles and acts as a powerful antioxidant and free-radical scavenger in the body) production also dips and stops altogether for some people. It is truly a metabolic and hormonal disaster for many sufferers.
Then, while hormones and metabolic processes are down-regulating, mold-toxic people are also suffering from increased brain activity and inflammation in the frontal cortex. This is likely because your body wants to “wake” you as a protective mechanism to get you out of the toxic environment. This chaotic signaling creates anxiety, alertness, and a brain that does not want to rest, because it is in the “flight or fight” mode, trying to stimulate you to get out of the mold. It is being damaged by mycotoxins, after all, not sure I’d go down without a fight either. The conscious, thinking brain has not caught up, so it is very difficult to calm down and ease into sleep naturally. A more scientific description of this electric brain activity from Dr. Rick Sponaugle after compiling brain chemistry research on over 4,000 mold toxic patients is as follows:
“… Brain Chemistry research has proven that mold toxic brains suffer from excessive electrical current. Glutamate and PEA, two powerful excitatory neurotransmitters, are frequently elevated, causing excitoneurotoxicity. During the initial onset of mold toxicity, patients may only notice insomnia when trying to sleep. As their brain continues to accumulate more mold toxins, the brain’s electrical current continues to rise, causing daytime anxiety in addition to night time insomnia.”
Accompanying this kinetic brain activity is the aftermath of total body fatigue from the mycotoxin onslaught– immune suppression, neurotoxicity, brain destruction, lowered hormones, displacement of DNA base pairs, and many other things. Ugh. No wonder you feel so awful, angry, and crazy.
What Can Be Done?
While all of these symptoms can resolve with getting out of the mold and proper treatment to remove the mold toxins from your body, wellness doesn’t happen overnight. Thus, just being able to sleep could help so much, but for some, it becomes almost impossible. Additionally, the sleep piece, even when out of the mold, sometimes takes a long time to resolve, because there are so many different things at play in the body that need to be “fixed” first. So, as you can see, I’m not sugarcoating things here: Doing whatever you can to get out of or to fix the moldy environment must come first. Then, using some of the tools and tips I will outline below can work better to further enhance your body’s ability to sleep. And, when you find what works, you may have to stay the course indefinitely to safeguard your sleep. IT IS WORTH IT. Getting good sleep is one of the most important things for recovery and continued wellness and cannot be discounted.
My Tips and Tricks for Mitigating Mold-Toxicity Induced Insomnia/Sleeplessness:
(First, are you out of the mold? If you are still living in the moldy environment and haven’t been able to either leave or remediate effectively, all of my advice may be for naught, because, unfortunately, your body will still be in hyper-reactive-to-the-mold mode and will be hard to “quiet” enough to make sleep aids–many of which are VERY addictive and can lead to additional neurological disorders and illness–and supplements very effective. Before I knew that my insomnia had anything to do with mold, I tried every holistic and OTC sleep remedy known to man—none helped me even a little bit. It was only through righting the ship mold-wise that I experienced any relief or help from supplements later on. That is why, as you will see, I place having a mold-free bedroom at the top of my list of advice. It is definitely not as easy or straightforward as taking a pill to solve the problem, but it is the most important action you can take in your recovery. In other words, there is no way to solve the sleep problem without removing the cause of the problem.)
1.) Keep a mold-free bedroom. Don’t stop reading. I know this sounds rigid, and like I’m beating a dead horse, but if you can’t totally get out of the mold, and can’t remediate completely, if you do nothing else for your environment, do whatever you can to sleep in a mold-free space. IT IS THAT IMPORTANT. In order to get your brain and body out of that fight or flight mode (your autonomic nervous system or limbic system that controls the “danger-sensing center” of your brain) that it goes into during mold exposure, the room where you sleep needs to be totally free of the things that trigger you. For example, for me, that still means no scents, dust, mold, and other chemicals. Making a conscious and concerted effort to make and keep my bedroom a mold-free zone is tremendously helpful to my sleep.
To do this, I recommend the following actions:
(I STILL do all of the things listed below, by-the-way.)
- Test your room and bedding frequently for mold. I just use the cheaper EC3 Mold Screening Test Plates.
My goal is to keep the mold counts in our bedroom and our mattress lower than 3 colonies. I have learned that 3 is my threshold. Yours may be lower or slightly higher. I am not doing any diagnostics here—just counting mold colonies after collection and incubation. To do this, I TAP test and air test in our bedroom every other month. You may need to do this more frequently at first and modify your cleaning, etc. to get things down where they need to be and to make sure that the counts are staying down. These tests will be your barometer, and will give you a great gauge of not only how your environment is doing, but also with how your body is doing. In other words, are you feeling well in your bedroom? With regular cleaning, are your mold counts staying down? It can be pretty eye-opening when you are actively testing your environment and you SEE how your body and symptoms respond to ambient mold levels. Let’s never forget that this illness was CAUSED by mold. To get well, you can’t be surrounded by high levels of mold. Eventually, your body can become more resilient, but please do what you can to help it heal. I also tell any doubters out there that this single action will make you a believer. If you live with a mold-susceptible person and see mold counts levels climb in your home and a day later, the person is very sick, the correlation is a lot easier to accept.
- Use a HEPA-certified vacuum to vacuum bedroom floors, furnishing, drapes, etc. 2 times a week. I know 2 times a week sounds like a lot, but dust collects quickly, especially in bedrooms. You need to keep dust levels very low, because you will be inhaling that dust as you sleep. Dust contains mold, bacteria, mites, and other allergens that can affect your sleep. I actually use the dusting attachment on our vacuum to dust our dressers and lamps too. I opt for and suggest vacuuming dust up over using a cloth, because you want to actually remove the dust as much as possible over just pushing it around. Doing this improves your air quality immediately and has a significant impact on spore counts.
- Fog once a month or use the EC3 Mold Solution Spray on all hard and soft surfaces in the bedroom one time a week.
This is an either or. I just mist or fog and walk away. I do this after I vacuum. It will eliminate any mold spores that I may have stirred up and makes our room smell fresh and clean. You will experience an almost instant improvement in air quality from doing this as well.
- Wash ALL bedding, comforter and decorative pillow covers included, once per week. Your comforter and pillow covers are key to wash, because they are the outside “shield” of your bed and, as a result, tend to collect more dust, dirt, bacteria and allergens. We also bury our faces in them for hours/day. When I started doing this, it really, really helped how I felt upon waking in the morning. I had less congestion and upper respiratory symptoms. Think about it this way, your bed is often where you place things, sit when you have your outside clothes on, and it is open to the air and settling dust in your room, while your sheets are usually covered. It needs to be cleaned. When you do your wash, use unscented detergent and something with antifungal/antibacterial properties, like the EC3 Laundry Additive or Borax—sometimes, I use both.
- Consider keeping pets, pet beds, litter boxes, etc. out of the bedroom, bedroom closets and bathrooms adjacent to the bedroom. I hope you don’t hate me for this one, but until you are sleeping better, this can help to give your overworked immune system a break. Pets naturally harbor mold and bacteria on their fur, which is easily spread to your bed and pillows—the spores and bacteria can be carried in the air or can get into and on your bed, if your pet jumps on it. (Note: You can spray their coats and paws with EC3. It’s non-toxic and will not harm them. This is especially useful when they have been outside and are coming back in.) Pets also sometimes move around at night a make noises that could inadvertently wake you or keep you up. The whole idea is to minimize disruption and further reaction to antigens as much as possible.
- Place a HEPA air filter/purifier in your bedroom to clean the air and to dedicatedly remove particulates and dust in your sleeping space. This one can be a game changer for many sleep-deprived mold sufferers. I use an IQ Air HealthPro Plus and love it. There are other, less expensive models out there too. The main thing is that it is HEPA certified and with staged filtration to eliminate bypass. A filtration device like this in your bedroom will also help to cut down on dust accumulation. I enjoy the gentle sound of an air purifier running as it can be very soothing and helpful for lulling me to sleep.
- Clean your body and hair and put on clean clothing before getting into bed. I like to shower before bed, but, at the very least, wash your hands and face and put on clean clothing that you did not wear outside of the house before getting into bed. This was tremendously helpful for my son as well. I have been working on an antifungal body wash to share with you, but in the meantime, the Candida Freedom Probiotic Soap is wonderful and really helps to eliminate fungus on the skin that causes inflammation. My children also bathe with this soap.
2.) Remove scents from the bedroom. Do not use candles, diffusers, perfumes of any kind, or scented cleaning products. You want to keep it a totally neutral-smelling zone. I know that some essential oils create calmness and sleepiness, and even combat mold, but it is my experience that anything that emits VOCs, natural or otherwise, will prolong inflammation related to toxicity. Scents also stimulate the brain, and you don’t need anything rousing your senses and clouding your recovery.
3.) Remove any “smart” or wireless devices or routers from your bedroom. Better yet, turn your wireless “off” completely at night before you go to bed. Some people even decide to have a “kill switch” installed in their homes, so that they can just flip it and “kill” the wireless whenever they need to. Many people affected by mold illness are also sensitive to and stimulated by Electro Magnetic Fields (EMFs). It is the sensitivity issue that usually occurs with or closely after Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.
I literally feel a buzzing in my body, if I lay down and our wireless is still on. Drs. Klinghardt and Mercola have a lot of information about the negative effects on EMFs on their sites and how to mitigate them for further reference. This is not to mention the work and experimentation currently being done on EMFs and their influence on the harmfulness of mold. One study often cited by other doctors was done by a scientist in Switzerland. He incubated toxic molds on a test plate and observed the molds’ activity first under a cage that guarded against EMFs, and then outside of the cage. He found that the production of biotoxins went up more than 600 times when the molds were not guarded against the everyday EMFs. And, not only did the EMF-exposed molds suddenly put out significantly more mycotoxins, but also much more virulent and poisonous mycotoxins. Also, researchers at NYC’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University found evidence that certain types of fungi have the ability to use radioactivity as an energy source for growth. (Read more here.) Those two studies alone were enough for me to limit wireless use in our home.
4.) Keep indoor lights low at bedtime and block or shut off blue light from electronics and screens at night. Choose the time of night you are going to bed and 2 hours prior, try to conduct things with lowered and dim lighting to encourage the down-regulation of your nervous system and to stimulate melatonin. Many mold patients have decreased melatonin production already, so anything that can be done to “tell” the body that it is nearing bedtime is a positive step. Blue light also disrupts circadian rhythms and keeps the brain turned “on” and alert. You can invest in blue light blocking glasses or you can block blue light on your phone or other devices with apps or special covers and filters. We just shut everything off and do not use screens or watch television in that time before bed. The big ones to avoid are your TV, Tablet, or Phone.
5.) Sleep on the floor. The first night I tried this was my “Aha moment” for finally getting to sleep. I had read so much about the importance of proper spinal alignment for sleep and for improved circulation that I decided, what the heck, I’ll just lay on the floor and see what happens. Well, the first time I did it in desperation at 4 AM, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up at 7 AM to my alarm to get the kids to school. It worked, so I tried it again the next night. It worked again and continued to work for me. To this day, if I am having any sleep anxiety or trouble settling, I just grab my pillow and a comforter and situate myself on the floor–no elaborate set-up required. Within minutes, I am asleep. If you aren’t ready to give up your bed, you can try laying on the floor until you start to drift off and then getting in the bed to sleep. Many people work up to a full night by sleeping on the floor for longer and longer increments until they can last the duration.
6.) Purchase a grounding mat to put under your bed or to sleep on. Grounding, or direct contact with the earth’s surface, is one of the key mechanisms by which your body maintains equilibrium and health. The human body evolved in constant contact with the Earth, and your body needs this continuous interchange of energy in order to function properly. Consistent grounding also helps calm your sympathetic nervous system, which supports your heart rate variability, which then helps in balancing your autonomic nervous system. Pain relief, improved sleep, and a sense of well-being are but a few of the health benefits reported from grounding. According to Clint Ober, a leading expert in this field, a lack of grounding may actually be an underlying factor of most chronic disease—a phenomenon Ober calls “electron deficiency syndrome.” It makes sense that because we are charged beings and the Earth is also charged, that in order to be well, we must directly exchange energy. It also makes sense that, if you are deficient in electrons, your body would be weaker and less effective at combatting inflammation. Dave Asprey of Bulletproof fame actually did his own grounding-sleep experiment and found that sleeping over a grounding mat significantly decreased cortisol and inflammation levels and improved his sleep by 30%.
7.) Use CellTropin 2-3 times a day to support your pituitary, endocrine and immune systems. This is the sublingual homeopathic spray designed by Dr. Dennis to support the endocrine and pituitary systems. The spray can be used every day and in conjunction with other medications to address hormone dysregulation—a MAJOR issue for mold sufferers. The endocrine system’s hypothalamus and pituitary work together to monitor hormone levels and send signals to the glands to either make more or make or less of the hormones that regulate the body’s physiology. This communication system is complex and exquisitely, tightly managed. When mold toxins interfere, signaling is disrupted and hormone production slows and sometimes halts. CellTropin introduces Pituitary factors 3x, 6x, 12x, and 30x to normalize the hormone deficiencies, L-Arginine to support improved circulation, and astragalus root to decrease the DNA damage inherent with toxic exposures. To learn more about CellTropin, click HERE. The bottom line is that it encourages healing at the cellular level. Consistent use will help to rebalance the hormones that you lack to be able to sleep.
8.) Choose to ONLY use supplements that encourage your natural sleep cycle, rather than OTC sleep aids, or highly additive prescription sleep aids. At this point, everything you take should be to replenish depleted levels and depleted production to restore homeostasis and an optimal environment for healing and health. The truth is that you probably NEED some supplements right now. Your body is lacking and not assimilating nutrients and vitamins/minerals efficiently when you are mold toxic—your cells are holding onto the toxins and essentially dumping everything else. I am also of the belief that you do not need to add fuel to the inflammation fire right now. If at all possible, eschewing prescription sleep aids or OTC remedies containing diphenhydramine, like Benadryl is advisable. Diphenhydramine is an anticholinergic drug, which means it blocks activity of a brain chemical called acetylcholine, which plays a role in muscle activation and also in brain functions like alertness, learning and memory. It can also cause constipation and inhibit detox. Prescription sleep aids have been linked to increased cancer risk, mortality, depression, and anxiety. You don’t need that heaped onto you with all you are dealing with right now. Plus, and to me this is the most important reason for not using them, none of those sleep aids address “why you aren’t sleeping,” so are temporary aids and not helpful solutions.
Here are some supplements that I recommend specifically for helping with sleep:
(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This is not medical advice, nor am I making promises that these supplements will work for you. Please go over any supplements you wish to take with your own trusted medical authority to make decisions about your health. Drug interactions with some supplements can occur, so only take )
- Melatonin – I find supplementing with melatonin extremely helpful and continue to do so. It has helped to re-establish my normal sleep/wake cycle. Fortunately, melatonin has been studied and shown to be effective for managing disturbances in circadian rhythms. A meta-analysis of 17 studies concluded that melatonin supplementation decreases the time it takes to fall asleep while increasing sleep efficiency and total sleep duration. In fact, melatonin has been shown to increase the speed of falling asleep and the quality of sleep in about 60% of people who use it. The only caveat is that it must be taken 30 minutes to 2 hours prior to going to sleep, depending on the brand.
I like QuickSilver Scientific Liposomal Melatonin for that reason, because it is a faster delivery. My children have great results from Nordic Naturals Sleep Gummies.
- Glutathione – Glutathione is one of the body’s most powerful detoxifiers. It can support healthy immune function and can neutralize a broad spectrum of free radicals. Taking oral glutathione will not usually cut it, though, because your body digests it before you can use it. Liposomal glutathione is therefore superior and helps your liver to clear toxins better while you sleep. HERE is my in-depth post on glutathione.
- Methyl B-12 – Supports nerve tissue, brain cells and promotes better sleep. Many mold sufferers are deficient and have a difficult time absorbing it due to low stomach acid and leaky gut. Liposomal delivery is the best way to take it to ensure absorption. This is another supplement that I like QuickSilver Scientific’s product the best so far. Taking it will also help with methylation and glutathione synthesis.
- Magnesium – Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, and is fundamental to a number of important physical processes, including converting carbohydrates and protein into ATP (the body’s energy source), blood clotting, activating B vitamins and relaxing muscles. Magnesium is needed to transport electrolytes like potassium and sodium in and out of cells assists in calcium and potassium absorption. Supplementing with it creates a relaxing and calming effect in the body as it continues the flow of energy that causes muscle relaxation. If you are on binders and having trouble with motility, Natural Vitality’s Calm is a great product for relaxation, magnesium supplementation, and moving the bowels. If a laxative effect is something you need to steer clear of, taking an Epsom Salt Bath, or using a magnesium cream or body oil can be options.
- Non-THC CBD Hemp Oil – Creates a calming effect in the body that sets you up for better sleep. CBD does not put you to sleep, but, rather, encourages normal sleep patterns. I use it as a precursor to sleep and take it at night about an hour before bedtime. My favorite brands are Endoca and Pure Spectrum. I take tinctures and oils by mouth.
- L-theanine – L-theanine reduces stress and relaxes your brain by increasing alpha wave activity. Alpha waves occur when you are awake, alert and relaxed. They help you to concentrate and promote creativity. L-theanine, which exerts its stress-reducing effects without causing drowsiness, is also able to cross the blood-brain barrier. When taken in combination with melatonin, it promotes a healthy sleep cycle and increases melatonin’s effectiveness for inducing restful sleep. It also works well to combine it with GABA.
- GABA – GABA supplements are recommended for calming the nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety, helping with sleep disturbances, as well as boosting the immune system and stimulating natural Human Growth Factor (HGH). GABA is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps induce relaxation and sleep.
- Phosphatidylcholine (PC)– A natural phospholipid molecule and the major lipid, or fat, of cell membranes and blood proteins. It serves as the body’s main source of choline, an essential nutrient. PC is a powerful anti-inflammatory, supporting gastrointestinal health, cell repair, as well as normal liver and lung function. Supplementing with it encourages cellular healing and absorption of other antioxidants. My preferred way to supplement is with IV PC, but obviously you need a doctor or naturopath to prescribe and administer it that way.
The next best thing, in my opinion, is QuickSilver Scientific’s Micellized Pure PC.
- EPA/DHA – The body needs fatty acids to survive and is able to make all but two of them: linoleic acid (LA), in the omega-6 family, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in the omega-3 family. These two fatty acids must be supplied by the diet and are therefore considered essential fatty acids (EFAs). Omega-3 fatty acids, found in coldwater fish (and fish oil), perilla and flaxseed oils, are essential elements of a healthy diet. Omega-3 oils contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are usually lacking in the typical Western diet, which is filled with foods containing high amounts of omega-6 fats. Taken in combination, EFAs reduce inflammation, promote circulation, and enhance feelings of satiety and well-being, all of which is helpful for sleep. I like the all-in-one convenience of Logos Nutritionals Essential Omegas. Udo’s Oils 3-6-9 Blend is also a favorite of mine. I love the taste and take it by the tablespoonful.
9.) Don’t forget all of the “sleep hygiene” basics. Sometimes, we miss the forest for the trees and overcomplicate (and sometimes overmedicate) things. Sleep is one of those. It is so easy to get caught up in all of the latest and greatest sleep aids, that we fail to do the simplest, easiest things that could help.