All the apples in the world can’t keep the doctor away if you’re short on sleep. Most people find it challenging to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night, but we get by and catch up where we can. What turns a sleepless night from frustrating to debilitating is when it is followed by another and then another, as it is for the tens of millions of people suffering from chronic insomnia. For many people, the source of insomnia is a hopeless enigma. It’s often attributed to anxiety and stress, particularly in women (who are disproportionately affected by it). However, there are also a number of physical causes of insomnia, one of which has only recently started to gain attention: mercury poisoning.
Mercury And The Mad Hatter
Mercury, also known as quicksilver, is a naturally occurring element found in the air, ground, and water. It’s also released into the air through coal burning. There are small amounts of mercury everywhere, and those traces aren’t dangerous – our bodies can process and excrete it. However, larger amounts can be dangerous and there are a number of sources of concentrated mercury, including fish and tooth fillings. These higher concentrations can cause mercury toxicity, with symptoms ranging from pain to insomnia to various neurological symptoms. Have you ever read or seen Alice in Wonderland? The Mad Hatter was actually a reference to mercury poisoning. Old methods of making hats involved the use of mercury and many hatters suffered severe neurological symptoms as a result – mercury poisoning was originally called “the mad hatter’s disease.”
From Mercury Exposure To Mercury Toxicity to Sleep Disorder
Most people will detox small quantities of mercury naturally, but larger quantities are harder to handle. Worse, the symptoms of mercury toxicity might not be evident right away – mercury accumulates over time until the concentrations are high enough to cause noticeable effects. As the concentration builds up, the mercury crosses the blood-brain barrier and starts to cause neurological symptoms. This can cause depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.
Mercury is believed to disrupt the levels of serotonin in your brain, which in turn affects your melatonin levels. Melatonin is responsible for regulating our internal clock and letting our bodies know when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. If mercury interferes with the production or use of melatonin, it can cause sleep disruptions, insomnia, or superficial sleep (rather than going through thefull four-stage cycle of healthy sleep). So if you’re suffering from sleep problems and can’t pinpoint a cause, high mercury levels may be to blame.
Where Are We Getting All This Mercury?
Common knowledge of mercury usually begins and ends with the thermometer, which means many people believe they’re safe unless they’re dealing with a broken thermometer. In reality, there are plenty of sources of mercury in high enough concentrations to cause mercury toxicity. It settles in streams, rivers, and oceans and gets absorbed by fish and shellfish – and by us, when we eat those fish and shellfish. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency advises against eating fish caught in rivers, lakes, and coastal areas due to heavy metal contamination but fish with mercury levels beyond what’s safe for human consumption are sold and eaten every day – it’s notoriously difficult to track where your fish comes from.
Amalgam silver dental fillings are another common source of high levelsof mercury. They’re made of a mixture of different metals and over time, the mercury in them is slowly released as a vapor – which then ends up in your lungs.
You may also be exposed to mercury through an encounter with a broken thermometer, by living in an area with lots of coal burning or exposed mercury, or by working in an industry that uses mercury. For example, miners of gold and other materials can be in extra danger of exposure since mercury is sometimes used or exposed during processing of other metals.
In other words, mercury is a lot more common than we usually think and we should be taking proactive steps to avoid it. That means reducing the amount of fish and shellfish in our diets and being mindful of where our seafood is sourced. We can also insist on other types of fillings and consider having our amalgam fillings removed (you’ll need to see a specialist because the removal process can be tricky).
Is Mercury Toxicity Causing My Insomnia?
It’s often difficult to pin down the cause of insomnia and doctors are prone to assume the issue is psychological. If that doesn’t seem right to you or if you’re having other symptoms like pain, dizziness, or disorientation, it’s time to seek out a second opinion and look for other culprits.
If you eat a lot of fish or believe you have been exposed to mercury in your area, you should schedule a visit with your doctor to be tested for the level of mercury in your body. It just takes a simple blood, urine, or hair sample.
High levels of mercury are extremely dangerous and will require immediate medical treatment. Some of the damage may be irreversible, but prompt treatment can prevent further damage from occurring. Depending on the type of exposure, you may need activated charcoal, dialysis, or chelation to help remove the mercury from your body. This is not a matter to take lightly – without treatment, you risk blindness, deafness, permanent neurological damage, and other health consequences.
If you’re having trouble sleeping and you don’t think the cause is psychological, get tested for mercury poisoning. It’s a simple test and the sooner you find out, the better your prognosis. There’s no need to become a Mad Hatter – get that mercury out of your system and get a good night’s sleep!