Sleep Sanctuary

Updated on August 19, 2017

Sleepless Zombie


NightTime

When I was really sick, I lived in a constant state of extreme anxiety, severe body pain, a looming feeling of dread, along with a whole host of other symptoms. My body was screaming at me that it was under attack. However, the worst of all was the horrific sleep. I say horrific because for about six months, I slept fitfully for at most four hours a night. I had really black, sadistic nightmares almost every evening – I have nightmares whenever I’m loaded up on mold toxins or my gut flora gets messed up. Eventually, I became so tired that I walked around in a quasi sleep state all the time – a sort of macabre altered reality. Anyone who has experienced this deeply knows first hand why sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique.

At its worst, I vividly remember pacing about for hours late at night trying to find a “safe” place to lie down – this was before I learned about Biotoxin Illness. Often, I ended up on the floor underneath the room air-conditioner. Even though I was completely exhausted, I felt like I was plugged into a wall-socket 24-7. It was nearly impossible to fall or stay asleep. My nervous system was on high alert. It’s the same feeling you’d get if you’d accidentally stepped out into a crosswalk only to be narrowly missed by a bus – adrenaline, fear, shock.

These feelings never let up. When I’d finally fall asleep, often there would be an unprovoked alarm reaction in my body that would literally jar me awake followed by that yucky feeling – when you’re really tired and finally get to sleep only to be woken up again and again – agitation, confusion, dread. Since this happened over and over and over again, I eventually reached the point where I looked forward to dying.

Make a Sleep SanctuarySleeping Woman

Although the road to eventually discovering the primary cause behind many of my symptoms was Biotoxin Illness was long and winding, one theme that came up over and over again while I educated myself was the importance of sleep. Sleep is when your body has a chance to do major healing. If mold toxins are an issue, sleep along with clearing mycotoxins and their related inflammagens should be at the top of the list – do whatever it takes.

It’s taken me quite some time to fully comprehend the wide range of mold toxin sources – food, buildings, weather conditions, and so on. It’s mind boggling. When you’re really sick, it just seems like you’re getting kicked around with no rhythm or reason. This fact coupled with the debilitating inflammation that prevents moldy people from thinking straight and a medical community that tells them it’s “all in your head”, just about guarantees many will never be able to figure out why they have the occasional “good day”.

If you read Erik Johnson, a mold survivor, you’ll see just how littered the environment is with toxins that’ll make Biotoxin susceptible folks sick. Eventually, he just packed up, went to the dry desert, and started to get better. Many have. If this isn’t an option, my suggestion for you is to create a mold-free place to sleep while taking binders to remove toxins from your body and testing your house thoroughly – more on testing in other posts.

Granted there are limitations on how clean your sleep haven will be depending on how moldy your house is, but if you can clean up the room you sleep in enough to gain back a bit of your health, this is a platform you can work from to further test your house and evaluate your situation more sanely. We’re trying to get you to the point where the binders can keep up with the influx of toxins and also shut down some of the inflammation. This begins by not steeping yourself in toxins while you sleep so your body can heal a bit. I can’t stress this enough!

Erik Johnson – The Role of Toxic Mold in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome PDF

  • Clean Ductwork & Custom Register Filter

    Most homes have forced-air heating and air-conditioning systems. It’s essential to have the ductwork, blower motor, and air-conditioner A-coil thoroughly cleaned. I’ve seen people who’re very ill deny that their ductwork needed cleaning even after I stuck a fiber optic camera down a register and showed them mountains of disgusting hair/dirt/debris. All I can say is that if you fall into this camp, then you have not read enough about just how debilitating mold mycotoxins and their related inflammagens are and just how clean your environment needs to be.

    Mr. Power Clean

    You know you’re talking to the right duct cleaning company when they describe using a large, truck sized vacuum unit and air-driven “whips” that they send through the ductwork to dislodge debris. They will also understand your concern about the use of strong smelling chemicals when cleaning the evaporator core and be able to provide options. After a good cleaning, make sure to install a MERV 11 or better furnace filter and replace it every month or so.

    Even after the ductwork is clean, you still may have issues. Your house may be moldy. The ductwork may pass through a moldy basement or crawlspace and unless the seams have been sealed (probably not) then those toxins are being drawn in and blown through out the house. In Mold Testing, I go through how to test if your house is moldy (this is no trivial matter), but for now, I would suggest you assume it is. As such, I completely seal the supply and return ducts to the bedroom. Use an electric space heater and window air-conditioner to moderate temperature. Just make sure to clean the window air-conditioner every few months.

    Alternatively, you could install a MERV 11 or better pleated air filter right at the supply register in the bedroom. You can go to any local HVAC shop and have the guys make up a “boot/adapter” that’ll plug right into the hole covered by your existing grill/register. Have the adapter sized to receive a standard 12x12x1 (11-3/4”x11-3/4”x3/4”) pleated, MERV 11 or better filter that you can buy online. Granted mycotoxins are so small that no filter fabric is fine enough to catch them all, but you’ll at least be catching the mold spores and debris that is also loaded up with these toxins.

    National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA)

  • Remove Carpeting and Fabric Furniture

    Again, spend some time reading about how small mold mycotoxins are. Think about how sick you are. Stop wasting time and get the fabric furniture and carpeting out of your sleep space. Every time you vacuum your old carpeting or sit down on your plush chair, stores of toxins are potentially released in a plume around you. Since you’re way to sick and enflamed to be able to tell where the source is coming from, get rid of as many potential sources as possible from your sleep haven. If you can’t remove the carpeting, at least get it thoroughly cleaned. We’re trying to get a thread of health going on in you so you can begin to learn for yourself what’s making you sick.

    Related to having a clean sleep space, although chemical sensitivity is something of an issue for me, I was able to deal with the water-based finish on the hardwood floors in my sleep haven by running an air-filtration unit with a carbon element. Furthermore, everything was taken out of the room on a sunny day and wiped down with either Thieves Cleaner or KCT QUAT – Dr. Shoemaker recommends QUAT. Finally, before returning the items, the room was air-washed.

    Thieves Cleaner
    KCT QUAT (quaternary ammonia)
    Four 1-Gallon Jugs of KCT QUAT – Many Year Supply

  • Air-Washing

    Box FanMold inspector, Martine Davis, taught me all about “air washing”. If you need help with mold issues, she’s a huge reservoir of information. She knows first hand about how sick mold can make a person and has spent decades learning first hand about recognizing and treating moldy buildings. Basically, after you’ve thoroughly wiped down all the fixed, hard-surface furniture, doors, shelving, and so on with either Thieves or QUAT or diluted alcohol, along with vacuuming the ceiling, walls, and floor with a true HEPA vacuum cleaner, there is still the potential for a huge plum of toxins to be floating in the air. Greg Weatheman also discusses the importance of “washing” the air and recommends using a fogging method. Since we’re just trying clean one room and not the whole house, we can save details related to full scale remediation for another post.

    Note: It is reported that remediation expert Greg Weatherman recommends mixing up 2oz of EverClear in 32oz of water. The dilute alcohol is sprayed on, left to sit for 3 minutes, and then wiped with clean, washable, inexpensive, wipes. Fold each wipe and use the front and back to clean a small area before setting it aside for rewashing in your washing machine. Never dip a dirty wipe in your bucket of cleaning solution. Follow up with 1 cup of borax in 32oz of water. Apply, let sit for 3 minutes, then wipe clean. (Yes, that’s EverClear as in the drinking alcohol.)

    To air wash a bedroom, buy 4 inexpensive box fans. Using cardboard and duct tape, seal one fan blowing into the room in an open window. In another window across the room, seal another fan blowing out. You need to seal around the fans so air is forced across the room instead of simply slipping past the fan, getting caught up in the blades, and being sent around again in in a mini air loop right at the window. If you only have one window, stack two fans in the window opening with one blowing out and the other blowing in.

    Use the other fans to mix the room air with jet-stream of air you’ve created. Start air-washing after the dew is off the grass and continue all day. Move the fans in the room to different locations in an attempt to thoroughly mix the air from all corners of the room. Many biotoxins are nano-sized and are very difficult to sweep up out of the room. Note: Placing a commercial sized portable air scrubber with a 2,000 CFM capacity in the center of a room does not clear the air without controlling the air flow and mixing the air well. As such, setting even the best HEPA filter in a moldy room will not clear the air of biotoxins – not to mention the fact that many of the biotoxins are so small they can’t be captured by a HEPA filter anyway.

    Leaf Blower

    In addition, you can use an electric leaf blower or portable air-compressor to clear the air. Starting at the window with the fan blowing in, work your way over to the fan blowing out. Imagine the room is filled with smoke. Use the blower air to work the “smoke” from your clean incoming fresh air window over to your dirty outgoing air window. Work the ceiling, walls, corners, and floor in systematic sweeping action. To minimize the mycotoxins in the fresh incoming air, air-wash on a still, bright sunny day. Note: Do not open the bedroom door and pull air from the house into the bedroom because you don’t know if your house is moldy. I mean this. It takes DNA testing to know if a house is moldy and your inflamed brain isn’t capable of making that call right now.

    Martine Davis – Indoor Environmental Testing Inc.
    Greg Weatherman – aerobioLogical Solutions, Inc.
    Greg Weatherman – Condensed Remediation Plan

  • All Natural Scent-Free Cleaners

    I’m guessing I don’t need to say a lot here. Stop flooding your body with additional chemicals in the form of cleaners and scents. Your body is already loaded with toxins. Stop making matters worse. When you stick your bare hand in that bucket of “lemony” smelling cleaner, you might as well load up a syringe with those chemicals and shoot it into a vein – it goes right through your skin into the bloodstream. There are several good books on the subject. For what it’s worth, I was impressed with “Super Natural Home” enough that bought a couple copies for friends and family.

    Super Natural Home

  • HEPA & Carbon Air Filtration

    Particle MonitorI run an air purifier continuously in my bedroom to mop up toxins that find there way into my clean bedroom. I’ve measured the output of an Austin HealthMate 400 using a ARTI HHPC-6 particle counter. It did OK, but by no means was capturing all the particles. I suppose if you ran it long enough, eventually it would trap most of the particles.

    On the other hand, I’m planning on purchasing an IQAir HealthPro Plus IQAir HealthPro Plus(has carbon and HEPA) and read zero when Martine tested it – no particles detected. I’m currently running a Faust 160R2 air filtration unit as my main concern with my recently built sleelping space was the VOCs. However, with the onset of spring, I personally don’t think the Faust is enough as we live in a heavily wooded area – getting more mold symptoms lately. If you don’t have the money, you can build your own inexpensive filtration unit using a box fan and MERV13 furnace filter.

    Update October 2014: I purchased an IQAir HealthPro Plus and I am happy overall with the machine. It is exceptionally quiet and the blower unit appears to be of quality. As noted, its filtering capability is top notch. On the flip side, I am a bit apprehensive about the all-plastic frame especially when prying on the two clamping bars to open up the machine. I don’t mind plastic, I just wish it was a bit heavier. Related to maintenance, I found that it’s easy enough to tip the machine on its side and vacuum the face of the exposed filter on the bottom. This is where the air enters and large debris collects that will eventually lower airflow if allowed to build up.

    My biggest gripe is with their customer service. Believe it or not but I accidentally order two IQAir machines 🙄 I had almost purchased the unit about a week earlier and failed to notice the extra unit in the shopping cart from last time – ugh. Since our long term goal is to have a unit on every floor of the house, I reconciled myself to keeping both machines even though I felt in no way responsible for the mistaken purchase – if you slip something into my cart (or don’t empty it upon my return) and I don’t notice this, that’s not my responsibility! Now I know this is just “good business” on the part of IQAir because folks end up keeping these items more often than not, but that doesn’t make it right. Trust me, my wife is deep into the marketing scene and she assures me this is why online carts work the way they do.

    IQAir Referral ProgramShopping cart etiquette aside, what really got me going was the IQAir’s Referral Program. The company offers a free pre-filter ($69 value) whenever you get a friend to purchase an IQAir. I wrote to the company explaining what happened and suggested they might like to consider including me in their program especially since I was willing to keep the second machine. In addition, I suggested that they might want to rethink excluding people like me that are making a strong investment in their products. After all, I am buying two machines and could have easily got a friend to buy my second unit in their name. Once again, this type of policy makes no sense to me other than a cold business model has calculated the way to maximize profits doesn’t include showing appreciation to people that purchase multiple units. They are wrong.

    Needless to say, my suggestion fell on deaf ears – no reply. Even though I used an email address that I’d received prompt responses regarding pre-sales questions, once the sale was complete, I was on my own 😕 So instead of having a loyal customer that speaks glowingly of their product, the first chance I get, I will move on to another manufacturer. Unfortunately, IQAir is in a league of its own right now but that vacuum will be filled soon enough and the moment it is, I’m gone. It’s very hard being moldy and I don’t want people or companies in my life that don’t treat me with respect.

    IQAir HealthPro Plus
    IQAir Website (better pricing as of Oct. 2014)
    Faust 160R2
    Build A Do-It-Yourself Air Purifier

  • MERV 11 Window Filter & Moldy Weather Conditions

    CloudsAccording to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) 2011, roughly 50% of all buildings in the U.S. have a degree of water damage – will make “moldy” people sick. If that wasn’t a big enough concern, Erik Johnson writes about moldy clothing and items of friends and family, compost piles, septic systems, and errant plumes blown in on the wind as being problematic. I’m still learning to read my body but I can attest to storms, buildings, septic systems, lawn mowing, low-lying wooded areas, and certain foods as sources of mold that will flare up symptoms in me. Personally, until I got healthy and informed enough about all the various sources for mold, it was impossible for me to sort through where the mold symptoms were coming from. I wish I could work with someone who could teach me this skill instead of having to learn it myself. Ugh.

    Weather Conditions That May Increase Mold Toxins – from Erik Johnson

    • Rain and Snow
    • First Sunny Day After A Storm
    • Low Pressure
    • Wind Blowing In From Moldy Source
    • Full Moon
    • Just Before Dawn
  • Window FilterGiven the number of weather conditions that can cause trouble and the fact that we live in woods (stupid I know), I buy custom sized MERV11 or better filters that fit into the opening of the slider windows in my bedroom – you can get custom filters for about the same price of standard filters. I just slide a window pane to the side, drop the filter into the track, and close the window so it’s tight to the filter. I then run the bath fan to draw air in through the filter – although it does breath on its own. When the window is closed, I gently (to prevent dislodging particles) move the filter into the garage. By the way, most newer homes have HVAC systems that draw in fresh air from outside into their ductwork. I strongly recommend getting an adapter made so you can install a MERV11 or higher filter on this ductwork – more in another post.

    Factory Direct Custom Filters
    Air Filters Incorporate (DIY pleated filter media)

  • Cross Contamination

    Just as a matter of course, I always take a shower and change clothes before going to bed. If I go out and feel like I got a mold hit, the clothes come off the moment I’m home and I at least wash my head. I always wear a jacket and hat when I go out that never gets past the closet in the entryway – makes me think I should put up a hanger in the garage instead. Anyway, you get the gist of it.

    When you enter your clean room, you and whatever items you’re taking in need to be clean. Even if you’re exhausted from over-exposure, strip down and climb in the shower. Don’t go lay down in your bed before cleaning up or you’ll have to wash all your bedding! I’ve set up our washing machine in the garage where I strip down before entering the house for a shower. Incidentally, DO NOT purchase a front-loading washing machine! I’ll do another post someday detailing why but trust me when I say that the level of mold in our front-loader was staggering – yes, we always left the door ajar and wiped the seal.

  • HEPA Vacuum Cleaner

    ProTeam BackPack VacuumMost so-called HEPA vacuum cleaners spew loads of toxin laden dust out the exhaust. The only three vacuums I know of that are truly HEPA (zero particle count) are the German made Meile canister vacuum, the Danish made Nilfisk (Martine has measured both of these), and the one I purchased and tested with the ARTI particle monitor – the ProTeam Super Coach Pro 6. Personally, I like the fact that the Pro 6 is a backpack vacuum. We have a lot of concrete floors and I’ve always hated dragging around a canister vacuum. The ProTeam does not come with a powered brush but it works fine where we have Berber carpeting – I think you can buy a powered head as an attachment. By the way, don’t try to reuse the bags – they’re lined with a filtering film that’s easily damaged when you empty the bag. Even with perfect filtration, I find that I still need to wear a face mask with P100 carbon cartridges – all that movement stirs up dust.

    Meile Vacuum
    Nilfisk Vacuum
    ProTeam Super Coach Pro 6 Backpack Vacuum
    Silicon Mask (has some plastic parts)
    P100 Carbon Filters

  • Mattress

    BedIn a perfect world, you’d get all your house and belongings tested, set up good filtration, and avoid getting exposed while clearing toxins and extinguishing inflammation in your body. If the house tested moldy, you’d leave behind any porous items that can’t be thrown in a washing machine with Borox soap or wiped down with QUAT and move to a mold free home in the desert. In an imperfect world, I’ve found mattress covers to work well in protecting my mattresses from contamination.

    I know for a fact that our mattresses have been in moldy conditions. These mattresses were always kept in zippered inexpensive plastic and better quality covers. I have removed the covers, beat on the mattresses, and then pulled a standard 5-min cartridge mold air-sample. They came back clean. Of course this isn’t definitive in any way, but my experience says that those covers work in keeping your mattress free of mold fragments – but probably not all mycotoxins.

    Update August 19, 2017

    Recently, I had a bad experience with a contaminated mattress at a rental property. I’m not sure if the mattress was sprayed with chemicals for bed-bugs, was contaminated with mold biotoxins, or otherwise. Whatever the source, the toxins in the mattress really lit up my sympathetic nervous system. In spite of the fact that I had proactively put the mattress into a non-breathable zippered mattress bag, all sorts of bizarre thoughts came up as I laid in bed wide awake.

    In an effort to make the mattress “safe”, I wrapped it in an additional 4 layers of heavy plastic. This worked for two days before I started reacting again. I concluded that I would not be able to make the mattress work and switched to a non-PVC air mattress that was recommended by fellow moldie Kim Goodwin. At last, I started sleeping well.

    My take-away from these experiences is that non-breathable zippered mattress bags appear to be able to keep mold toxins out when not in use in a damp storage locker. However, when mattresses are in use, a lot of air moves in and out of them as body weight repeatedly compresses and decompresses them. Given my experience, no amount of wrapping of a contaminated mattress is going to keep toxins encapsulated. Furthermore, even if you had a mattress in a non-breathable bag while in a moldy environment, if the mattress was used, it’s quite likely that the mattress is contaminated by the air that is invariably drawn in through the zipper and seems.

    Update End

    Magnetico Sleep PadAs an aside, I do own a Magnetico Super Sleep pad. The fact that the earth’s magnetic field is weakening doesn’t help folks with low energy issues. I bought it in particular to help with chelating all the heavy metals in my body from childhood exposure and years working in a foundry. I used the pad for four months but must admit I did not notice a particular difference – although my metal tests are down through the use of chelating agents and the pad. I do believe in the pad and I’ll be getting back on it in once I get my house cleaned up – hopefully in the next few months.

    Dr. Jack Kruse Talks About Magnetico Sleep Pad
    Magnetico Sleep Pad

  • Washable Natural Bedding & Clothes

    Except for a limited number of outer-wear items (jackets mostly), I’ve switched all my clothing to cotton and wool. When it comes to washing, if an item, and this includes bedding, futon couch covers, clothing, and so on can’t be washed over and over again with no fuse, then it’s useless to me. When I feel the onset of unexplained symptoms, everything goes in the wash including me.

  • Mold-Free Pillow

    PillowsYou have to understand that when I was really sick, I spent four days alone in the house getting sicker every day. When my wife returned, she stepped into the house and immediately yelled out that the house was full of gas. Sure enough, I’d bumped a burner knob creating a slow gas leak. I was so inflamed from mold mycotoxins, I couldn’t figure out what was going on.

    Given this, I was really pleased with myself when months later I was able to pinpoint a source of mold. I had a kapok pillow (cotton shells) that was totally toxic. I’d been getting more symptomatic for three days for no apparent reason – really bad. Finally, I’d remembered switching to an all natural kapok pillow for comfort days before. This pillow was totally moldy – all natural be damned! The next day the pillow went out the window and the symptoms abated. I felt so empowered knowing that with practice, I might be able to develop skills like Erik Johnson – to tell almost instantly when I was being exposed to mycotoxins by reading my body.

    Rest Easy on New Pillow
    Should You Throw Away Your Pillows?

    I’ve also tried the pure latex pillow. Wow, what a smell! I couldn’t get within 10 feet of the thing. Yes, I did leave it outside in the sun a few days with little effect. While I’m talking about stinky pillows, most people’s pillows are totally moldy. People perspire. If you’re like me, you have frequent night sweats. This combination with infrequent pillow case changes is a recipe for mold.

    I buy Aller-Ease polystyrene pillows. They are chemical and pesticide free – no flame retardants. They are too fluffy for me so my wife takes half of the stuffing out of a new pillow and turns it into two. I then put three cotton pillow cases over this modified pillow and change the outer case every other night – the inner ones get changed every week. At the slightest hint of contamination, the pillow goes into the trash. People hang onto their toxic pillows like Linus in the Peanuts cartoon hangs onto his old blanket. :unsure:

  • Sound – Ear Plugs & White Noise

    SleepMate White Noise MachineWhen I was really sick, the ringing in my ears (tinnitus) was deafening. It really hammered on my already fragile psyche. To give you an idea, I purchased a decibel meter and drove in the car with the windows open. The meter read 80dB and I could still hear the ringing! Actually, it’s more like a symphony – high pitch squeal, very low drone, and intermittent low pitched “Morse code”.

    During the day, I walked around with an mp3 player clipped to my shirt pocket playing “white noise” to drown out the cacophony of internal sounds. At night, I listened to a self-hypnosis audio program for tinnitus, and used a SleepMate Dual Speed white noise machine. The audio program helped only slightly but the consistent whooshing sound of the white noise machine was more helpful – no simple device was going to completely make up for the fact that my body was melting down. For me, I ended up putting the SleepMate under a wood box because it was still too loud even on the lower setting. I know that sounds contradictory, but noises bother me – especially louder abrupt noises of any sort are still very jarring to my system.

    SleepMate

    Earplugs

    Even before I got really sick, I’d taken up wearing an earplug in the ear facing up – I tend to lie on one side or the other. I like the “tri-flange” plugs. I pull one plug off the plastic cord and cut off the smallest flange leaving the larger two flanges intact. I don’t care if I look like a freak. The bottom line is, if it helps with sleep, go for it.

    Tri-Flange Ear Plugs

  • Jaw Clenching

    When I was loaded up on toxins, I clenched my jaw a lot at night. Upon waking up in the morning, certain teeth would just ache through out the day. They were also particularly sensitive to hot and cold. Others can get nagging headaches from clenching their jaw. Being really sick is stressful. At first I purchased an inexpensive mouth guard but I only got slight relief from it – I start biting through the guard!

    NTI TSS Splint

    My dentist suggested I get fitted with a NTI TSS splint over my two front teeth to prevent clenching during sleep. This “splint” clips onto your two front teech such that when you bite down, your two front teeth hit first. This triggeres a reflecive response (even when you’re sleeping) that keeps you from biting down hard and keeps any other teeth from touching. It helped a lot.

  • Light – Room Darkening Shades

    I don’t know that much needs to be said. If I have a bad night because of overexposure to mycotoxins and I don’t finally start sleeping soundly until 4am, then I don’t want the summertime sun to stream into the windows at 5am in the morning. I cut squares of cardboard from an appliance box that fit neatly into the window openings – we have recessed window openings. It cuts out light better than any room-darkening shades I’ve ever used. I also like to wear and eye mask.

Preparing For Sleep

  • Lights-Out Same Time Every Night

    Before getting really sick, I would stay up until all hours, sleep late, and take frequent naps at all times of the day. If you read about circadian rhythms, this is not a good idea. When the sun starts to go down, your body knows it and naturally prepares for sleep. Staying up late totally messes this up. Taking long naps, particularly later in the day, is equally disturbing to natural body cycles. I now go to bed at 8pm no matter what. It didn’t take too long before when I went to lie down; I’d fall asleep within 15 minutes – even though I might not feel totally sleepy at that time. Unfortunately, I still don’t sleep through the night but this was a huge step in the right direction.

  • Stop Eating & Viewing TV/PC 2 Hours Before Bed

    It takes work to digest your food. Even if you’re eating a healthy diet, your body is still activated after a meal – unless you just ate a food that your body is adversely reacting to so strongly that you don’t have enough energy left over to stay awake. Watching TV or sitting in front of a PC is fraught with issues ranging from EMF exposure to altered brain waves to artificial light. Of course, if you watch material that is stressful/shocking too, this just further depletes the already over taxed stress handling capability of your body. Having dinner and turning off the TV and PC two hours before bed has definitely helped improve my sleep.

  • Wear Blue-Light Blocking Glasses

    Orange GlassesIt sounds stupid but orange glasses late in the day really work. As bedtime gets closer and closer, I dim the lights in the house more and more. In addition, I totally avoid all bright lights – I squint if I open the refrigerator door. I do this because of material I read by Dr. Jack Kruse about how your body cues off blue light to tell it when it’s time to go to bed. To ensure I’m minimizing blue light exposure, I put on a pair of orange (block blue light) glasses an hour before bed. Believe me; if I take the glasses off with the lights on at any level, it seems super bright – feels like it’s time to “wake up”.

    Orange UV Extreme Anti-Fog Glasses (sort of fit over regular glasses)
    Pyramex Venture Ii Safety Eyewear (sleeker version)

  • Remove Electronics in Bedroom – EMF

    In our modern world, we’re exposed to staggering levels of electromagnetic fields. We steep our bodies in these fields as if it were nothing. I can assure you it matters – Health Damaging Effects of WiFi and Smart Phones. The body operates on light and subtle energies that we’re only beginning to understand and that reach way beyond the simplistic bio-chemistry models that most of us were taught.

    As an aside, what I find interesting is how EMF has been shown to promote more toxic and virulent mold growth. If you then look at how the use of herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides in farming has drastically altered the types and numbers of bacteria and fungi in the soil, you realize we’re changing the microflora on a planet-wide scale. On a human scale, imbalances in bacterial and fungal populations in the gut can lead to impaired immunity and a whole host of really bad health issues. Is it then so surprising to see that people that rely on the vibrant bounty of the earth for their health are becoming sick in droves in a ways that reflect the imbalances we’ve created on the planet? Biotoxin Illness is a result of an impaired immune system. There are so many connections to mold and imbalances in micro-flora. By the way, I only have a battery powered clock on my nightstand.

    Mold Produces 600 Times More Bio-Toxins with EMF

  • Stretching & Exercise

    Girl DancingEven if you’re super sick – move around. Your body relies on movement to work. When chronically sick people too ill to even take a walk “rebound” on a mini-trampoline, it stimulates the lymphatic system so they can clear toxins from the environment, hidden infections, and metabolic wastes. Besides, activity is healthy on an emotional level too – you’re not always focusing on how bad it is. Related to movement, stretching has really helped my sore lower back. I read a couple of books on sore backs and it turns out that the quads in my legs were way too tight and this in turn caused my back to arch too much. Stretch and move.

  • Take a Binder before Bed

    I seem to sleep better when I take either cholestyramine or a mix of clay and charcoal before going to bed. The body is making repairs and doing serious clean-up while you sleep. My thinking is that having binders to mop up toxins dumped into the gut at night is helping with sleep.

Monitoring Sleep

When my sleep was totally messed up, I used a Zeo and a Wrist Pulse Oximeter to try and monitor what was going on when my eyes were closed. Although there is all sorts of trash talk about how a Zeo doesn’t give you quality data like you’d get in a sleep study, I found that it did reflect my overall sense of what was going on when my eyes were closed – waking frequently during REM cycles with somewhat sparse deep sleep cycles. If you meditate or spend time checking in with your body upon waking along with reading a bit about sleep cycles like me, I think you’ll find that a Zeo just confirms what you already know. Nonetheless, I’m sorry to hear the company is going out of business because I think for some it was really useful to track their sleep data against various “hacks” they were doing to improve their health.

Wrist Pulse Oximeter PC-68BFor me, the Wrist Pulse Oximeter PC-68B was more helpful. Particularly when I’m really tired and too warm in bed, my breathing passageways become too relaxed. I know at times my tongue drops to the back of my throat causing me to choke but there also seems to be an issue with my nose getting plugged. If you’re like me and you can’t breath through your nose or mouth, you’ll end up waking up during REM cycles (dreaming) gasping for air. The dream almost always has a component of being out of breath like trying to hold a note to long as you’re singing in your sleep.

This can happen numerous times throughout the night. Unfortunately, I’m only conscious enough to realize what’s happening after getting enough sleep and can think to make a mental note when I awake breathless. It might take days before I get good enough sleep to allow this. By then, I believe some damage has been done to both my body and psyche. You can imagine that when I was really sleep deprived, this was freaking me out.

For a while, I didn’t know what exactly what was going on and if this was the only problem. The wrist meter keeps track of oxygen levels in the blood and heart rate through the night that you can then plot on your PC. It has alarms to wake you if either of these parameters gets out of control. The wrist meter gave me a precious bit of peace of mind when I went to close my eyes. At a minimum, it would wake me up if there was a serious problem and also give me more data to help me improve my sleep.

What’s interesting to ponder is that we know from Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker’s work that inflammation from Biotoxin Illness reduces blood flow in small capillaries (blood vessels) causing hypoperfusion (low blood flow) and hypoxia (low blood oxygen). Normally the body would make a growth factor called VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) that stimulates the body to produce new blood vessels so your body can get the oxygenated blood it needs. The mold toxins are all over this and actually drive down VEGF levels even though your body’s normal response would be to increase VEGF.

Without enough oxygen, your body can not properly convert the glycogen (sugar) stores in your body into ATP energy molecules. Instead of getting 38 ATP energy units for every unit of stored glycogen as in healthy people, mold-toxic individuals suffering from capillary hypoperfusion only make 2 ATP units of energy! In other words, the mold knows how to shut down your body and create a hospitable environment for itself. It wants you weak and sick. Related to this, I sometimes wonder if my choking at night isn’t related to mold too just like low VEGF – it doesn’t want me to breath. It’s just a thought.

Nose DilatorThe solution I found to choking in my sleep was silicon, anti-snoring nose tubes. You wouldn’t think they’d work for me because if your tongue drops to the back of your throat, then the nasal passages are blocked off too. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve got more that one issue going on but when these anti-sleep apnea “nose dilator” tubes are in place, I don’t wake up gasping for air. Sometimes they slip out and then I pay the price – I’m using the old model without the “nose lock”. Wash these daily.

Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker
Anti Snoring and Sleep Apnea Nose Tubes
Wrist Oximeter

Waking In the Night

  • Avoid Snacking & Relax

    I still wake up after about four hours of sleep. My body just aches too much and as mentioned in the post on MARCoNS, when MSH is low, you won’t have enough of the melatonin hormone so critical for sleep. I’ll typically stay up for an hour or two and then go back to bed for another four hours of sleep.

    While I’m awake I don’t look at the clock. Looking at the clock is just going to stress me out. Introducing mental worries about the time is counterproductive. Likewise, I don’t watch TV or sit at the computer. Instead, I relax. If I wake up, it’s OK. When I feel a bit tired again, I lay back down.While I’m awake, I’ll read a book (under low lights with my orange glasses on), stretch, or meditate. Since I read about all the important maintenance and repair operations that my body does throughout the night, I avoid detracting from these processes by eating food and firing up the digestive system.

  • Listen to Your Body

    When I wake up, I always take a few minutes to check in with my body. I’ve found this is really helpful. It led me to discover that I needed to add some padding underneath so my head wasn’t as low resulting in increased lower back pain. It showed me that if I changed around my leg and arm positioning, I could alleviate a lot of the pain that was keeping me awake. It told me when a MARCoNS staph infection had returned. As a way of coping, I got real good at ignoring what my body was telling me over the years. However, I’ve now learned the importance of quietly resting and then scanning my body to learn about how to improve my health.

  • Lumen Therapy

    Lumen Photon PadA lot of times, I can’t fall back asleep because my joints and muscles just hurt too much. My lower back, right shoulder, and left hip are the worst. What I’ve found is that infrared works really well at reducing the pain and allows me to fall back asleep.

    A while back I purchased a Lumen to heal with dental issues. Although I can’t say it was particularly helpful for my infected root canals, it has been really helpful with sleep. The pad has both infrared and red light LEDs (light emitting diodes). You can change between seven different frequency settings. I use setting 2 (inflammation) on these body aches. I slip the pad under my clothing, turn it on, and usually fall asleep before the built-in 30-minute timer shuts the unit off. If I wake up again, I’ll reset the unit and go back to sleep. I know there are some that’ll say the Lumen is nothing more than a glorified heating pad as heat is “infrared” after all. All I can say is that I liked what I read about the Lumen and really hoped it would spare me from having to have a tooth extracted. That didn’t happen, but it has improved my sleep.

    Note: The light diodes are embedded in a foam pad that has a strong foam-rubber smell. I’m not particularly chemically sensitive but for someone that is, I’m guessing this odor would be too much.

    Lumen Photon Therapy
    Dr. Sherry Rogers – Lumen Therapy

  • Dr. Jack Kruse

    Once you’ve read Dr. Shoemaker’s material, you’ll see why I was so interested in Dr. Jack Kruse’s material on Leptin and the use of CT (Cold Thermogenesis). This is a whole separate post, but I’m putting it here in brief in case you’re curious. I have actually cold acclimated according to Dr. Kruse’s protocol to the point where I was climbing into a tub of cold water. However, I had to stop because I was still too sick – the stress was too much. At some point, I hope to get back to this because when I was doing CT, I did sleep better (CT increases MSH and MSH increases melatonin). Incidentally, if you wake up in the night, Dr. Kruse also recommends doing 3-5 minutes of intense exercise (squats, pushups, sit-ups). It didn’t help me, but it’s worth a try.

    Dr. Jack Kruse – Cold Thermogenesis

Sleep SupplementsPills

I avoid pharmaceuticals whenever possible. When I was only sleeping a few fitful hours each night, I did take snippets of sleeping pills. In retrospect, I probably should have taken more but I was so messed up. Because no answers were forthcoming on what was really wrong, I decided I didn’t want to make matters worse by throwing in a bunch of drugs – even though conventional medicine was ready and willing to load me up. (At a certain point, I stopped going to a sleep doctor I’d been seeing before I figured out what was really wrong because I was afraid he was going to lock me up.)

My siblings also suffer from Biotoxin Illness and I’d seen what happened to them when they took the advice of psychiatrists. Granted, the shrinks are trying to help, but when you treat aberrant mental states that have inflammation as their underlying cause with psychotropic drugs, how is that suppose to stop the inflammatory source? It doesn’t. Essentially, it’s the equivalent of giving someone who is delusional from viral encephalitis (brain inflammation) an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) or some other mind-altering drug. Sure it may temporarily offer some symptom relief, but they sure aren’t going to get better.

I could go on about all the side effects of SSRIs and the like, but I’m guessing you’ve heard them. Basically, if you take a drug to block the re-absorption of a neurotransmitter like serotonin, you’re body responds by producing less serotonin – because you haven’t changed the primary driver that’s triggering your body to shoot for lower serotonin levels. Consequently, symptoms reappear so your psychiatrist prescribes a larger does of drugs and your body responds by making even less serotonin. Eventually, the well dries up and then the misdirected psychiatrist starts going after another neurotransmitter like dopamine using a DRI (Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor).

For a natural approach that actually supports your body by giving it the amino acids it’s missing thereby allowing it to return to normal functioning, take a look at the work of Julia Ross – “The Mood Cure”. I purchased and studied her Amino Acid Therapy Professional Training Series DVDs. I found the judicious use (dosages much less than normally recommended and only for a month or so) of amino acids specific to the symptoms I was experiencing to be very helpful – more in another post.

From what I’ve read, when someone does not respond to psychotropic drugs, or personal issues don’t see real movement toward resolution within a few quality psychotherapy sessions, this is a clear indication that there is an underlying physiological driver. Unfortunately, most shrinks are more than happy to talk to you ad infinitum about your childhood. After all, they’ve got kids to put through college. I have no respect for the money-based medicine that’s being practiced today.

I hope someday my family will find a way to engage the Biotoxin Illness that they suffer from. Their brains are so inflamed. Trying to get them to believe me and follow a protocol that will allow them to heal and dump the ever changing list of psychotropic drugs they are on is like trying to herd wild cats. This blog is yet another attempt.

Dr. Shoemaker – Inflammatory Basis for Psychiatric Symptoms
Julia Ross – Amino Acid Therapy Professional Training Series

  • Chamomile Tea

    When I first got really sick, I thought I was going crazy. I went to safe place where I was taken care of 24 hours of the day. We did really deep non-conventional psychological work. We ate really good food. Some of the work was very inspirational.

    Unfortunately, it didn’t address the underlying cause – mold toxins. When I reflect on this, what I can say is that for me it was people holding my hand and telling me I was going to get better that helped. It was learning that others had been through really tough times and had gotten better that gave me hope. I made some really good friends. Their love and care gave me the time and space I desperately needed to eventually realize that I wasn’t losing my mind – that instead, I was physically ill.

    So if you’re wondering how this relates to chamomile tea, here it is. In the middle of the night when I was going bonkers and could not fall asleep (nighttime is when all the demons came out to play), they’d sit with me and they’d make me strong cups of chamomile tea. It helped. To this day, I still have a small cup when I wake in the middle of the night.

  • Melatonin

    Biotoxin Illnesses causes low melatonin. Without enough melatonin, it’s impossible to sleep well. I generally take a time-release form of melatonin 30 minutes before bedtime and a fast acting, sublingual (dissolves under the tongue) when I wake in the middle of the night. In general, I like sublingual supplements because they don’t rely on a healthy gut that’s capable of absorbing nutrients – most with chronic health issues have gut issues.

    I take what I need to get decent sleep. When I was really sick, 20mg in a night wasn’t uncommon. Currently, I take 2-5mg before bed and another 2-5mg when I wake up half way through the night. It all depends on if I’ve been exposed to mold toxins and how badly I’m reacting.

    Sublingual Melatonin 5mg
    Time-Release Melatonin 5mg

  • Steve Gibson’s Healthy Sleep Formula (HSF)

    Tech guru Steve Gibson has developed his own Healthy Sleep Formula (HSF) that looks interesting. Steve recommends taking all five supplements together right before sleep. He talks about the formula in Security Now 559 at 1:10:00.

    Personally, I’ve found that taking 1000 mg of glycine, and 375 mg of GABA just before bed with a little melatonin that I repeat in the middle of the night upon waking, as I invariably always do, really helps deepen my sleep. I also feel much more relax when I awake in the morning. Glycine has the added benefit of raising VIP levels.

    Interestingly, in Blocked Detox, Chris Shade recommends people that are really sensitive to treatments start by taking liposomal GABA with L-Theanine to calm down anxiety producing Glutamate activity in the brain. These supplements dampen down reactivity so neuro-inflammatory patients can take much higher doses of remedies. Related to detoxing, this begins with taking Diindolemethane (DIM) to lift Nrf2 blocks.

    1. InterPlexus Seriphos 1000mg
    2. Now Food GABA 750mg
    3. Source Naturals L-Theanine 200mg
    4. Now Food Glycine 1000mg
    5. Natrol Melatonin 1mg

  • Inflammatory Supplements

    When I get a bad mold hit, my sleep suffers. I’m guaranteed to have nightmares – usually someone is trying to kill me or I’m forever trying to fix a house with a bad foundation. It’s my unconscious’s way of telling me there is a problem. I used to dread those dreams but when I realized I could use them to help me understand how my body was doing, they took on new meaning. It was awesome when I started dreaming of turning the tables and killing those same bad guys – I was getting healthier. The inflammation causes more aches and pains. When it’s bad enough, I’ll take naproxen sodium (Aleve) before bed. It definitely helps.

    I’m going to save my mold supplements for another post. For me, they are amazing at bringing down inflammation. Remember at the beginning of the post, I talked about cleaning up your sleeping space, taking binders to remove toxins, and addressing inflammation. Well, this post is all the stuff that I tried related to sleep. I’ll talk about binders and inflammation in other posts.

9 thoughts on “Sleep Sanctuary

  1. I just found your website. Thank you so so so much! Reading about your journey has made me feel not so alone. Every doctor I’ve seen has told me that I’m just depressed and should work to address my anxiety. You give me confidence that perhaps it’s not in my head- it’s in my body. Blessings to you.

  2. Do you have any information about building or buying a home? The chapter in Surviving Mold was interesting. I’m looking for a full treatment explaining all the considerations

  3. Hey Greg — thanks for putting together such a wealth of information in one place. I’ve been working my way through your site the past few days and have been learning so much. It’s a breath of fresh air (figuratively and literally!) to finally start understanding what I need to do to heal my body after years of unchecked inflammation.

    I was diagnosed with CIRS at the end of last year but didn’t fully accept it at the time. I had several markers indicative of the illness (HLA type, low MSH, high TGF beta 1) but my symptoms were (relatively) mild.

    That all changed when I moved into a new house in DC this February. Within minutes of being there I started having headaches, breathing changes, strange aches and pains, etc. Three days later I was feeling like I was on the verge of completely falling apart. Then after sitting under an air vent blowing on me for 20 minutes straight, I stood up and experienced what felt like a mini-stroke: I was unable to talk for 10 seconds and my face went numb — very scary! Ended up going to the ER where I was told that everything was normal.

    Sure enough, it turned out that there was significant mold in the HVAC system. Definitely know that this stuff is the real deal now!

    I’m still in the process of getting the house remediated properly, but in the mean time I’m trying to at least make the bedroom as safe as possible. I’ve been using this post as a guide and it’s been *hugely* helpful. Had a few questions for you when you get a chance:

    1. I just bought an IQAir for my bedroom. In this article you describe using it as a kind of failsafe to clean up any mold that finds its way into the bedroom after doing a thorough initial cleaning of the room. But how well would it work for doing the initial cleaning of the room’s air? Let’s say I empty the room, clean the surfaces, and then leave the IQAir running on high for 24 hours in the middle of the room. Would that have a similar effect as the air washing you describe (either by blowing out windows or using a fogging chemical)?

    2. Where can I get the tooth clip you mention in the video to prevent clamping down on teeth at night? Teeth clamping/grinding has always been an issue for me that has come and gone but has been especially bad after my most recent exposure.

    • Wow, that really does sound scary. Thanks for sharing that story as I’m sure others can relate.

      I’ve updated the Sleep Sanctuary article to include answers to your questions. In short, you must air-wash or fog to clear the air. By the way, Greg Weatherman has a MCS safe fogging product. In talking with others, jaw clenching seems to be fairly common. I use a NTI TSS splint over my two front teeth.

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