This past week I attended a lecture about approaching sleep dysfunction. I finally discovered the secret behind one of the great mysteries in my universe--why histamine affects sleep. You might have pondered this mystery yourself. Why is it that antihistamines (anti-allergy agents) such as Benadryl and Unisom work well for sleep?
There is a cluster of neurons in the brain called the tuberomammillary nucleus (or TMN for short). The TMN is part of the ascending arousal pathway in the brain; in other words, it helps keep you awake. The TMN is activated by histamine. In most cases, a neurotransmitter called GABA will suppress the TMN at night so you can sleep. However if you have too much histamine in your body and not enough GABA, you will have difficulty sleeping. Enter the antihistamine agents such as Benadryl and Unisom. These lower histamine in your body, thereby lowering your state of arousal (wakefulness) so you can sleep.
Are there natural agents that lower histamine? Yes! One of my favorite examples is quercetin. This is a bright, yellow substance that can be found in plants. Quercetin has been shown in clinical studies lower histamine. It is one of my favorite agents to help with allergies. It does have the potential to interact with prescribed medications, so check with a qualified healthcare practitioner before starting quercetin.
Histamine, GABA, and many other neurotransmitters affecting sleep can now be tested through our office. If you have tried good sleep hygiene habits and still are having difficulty sleeping, consider making an appointment to look at the possible influence of neurotransmitters, hormones, and the immune system on your sleep quality.
1. "Neurophysiology of Sleep and Wakefulness: Basic Science and Clinical Implications." Curr Neuropharmacol. 2008 December; 6(4): 367–378
2. "Cataplexy-active neurons in the hypothalamus: implications for the role of histamine in sleep and waking behavior." Neuron. 2004 May 27;42(4):619-34
3. "Flavonoid inhibition of human basophil histamine release stimulated by various agents." Biochem Pharmacol. 1984 Nov 1;33(21):3333-8