I've spent a year trying to figure out what was causing my illness. Now that I've figured it out, I want to post my info in case it can help someone.
Long, long, long story short (Ok, as short as possible ).......The root cause of my problems is low serotonin. This caused many symptoms, including middle ear problems (I know this sounds strange at first). For months, my eustachian tubes did not work properly and I had dizziness and tinnitus. 2 ENTs (and a host of other doctors) failed to figure out the problem. Luckily, a trip to the dentist provided the big clue. She said that I've been grinding my teeth at night. I ignored this at first, but within the next few weeks I ran across info that bruxisim (night time teeth grinding or jaw clenching) can cause eustachian tube dysfunction. Digging deeper, I found that bruxism has been proven to be caused by an underlying sleep disorder (specifically sleep micro arousals).
This started to make sense for me. I have a history of sleeping problems. I thought I was sleeping OK since I was falling asleep and staying asleep, but I always woke up unrefreshed and tired. I honestly had no clue that it was poor quality of sleep that was making me feel horrible every day. I thought it was some unexplained illness that was causing my fatigue.
The bruxism (for me, jaw clenching) was causing my facial muscles to spasm, which was transferring to the muscles that control the eustachian tubes. I never had any pain, so I had no clue this was happening. It wasn't until I started trying to relax my jaw muscles that I realized how tense they were. Tense was the normal state for me and I somehow had no clue about this. I also went to an acupuncturist and she was pretty surprised when she tried to put a needle in my right jaw. The muscle was hard as a rock. But I never had one ounce of pain.
It was then that the light bulb really started to go on. Earlier, in the spring, my middle ear problems had cleared up along with the rest of my symptoms. I felt great for a month, only to have all of my symptoms come rushing back. I didn't know what made be better back then, but now I've confirmed it. It was the supplement 5-HTP, which raises serotonin levels and promotes deep sleep. I originally took it for sleep problems but stopped taking it when I got better because I thought I was sleeping fine.
I started taking it again a couple of weeks ago. The first morning I woke up feeling better than I had in weeks. Within 2 days, I started hearing popping and clicking in my tubes as things started to loosen up. On the 5th day, my tubes started to open every time I swallowed. That hadn't happened at all for months. My anxiety issues have cleared up as well.
So the low serotonin caused anxiety and a sleep disorder, which caused bruxism. The bruxism lead to muscle spasms, which lead to eustachian tube dysfunction, dizziness, tinnitus, etc.
This was tricky to figure out, so I wanted to post my story here. I suspect there are others out there suffering from the same thing who have no clue they are bruxing at night and have no idea they have a sleep disorder/serotonin problem. Hopefully this will help someone.
Lenny.. I am so glad that you posted this because I believe I have been experiencing the same symptoms for the same reason, low serotonin. I have actually experimented with 5-htp and realized that I woke up the next day with a drastic reduction in almost all of my symptoms..most significant the cloudy head I was dealing with disappeared. Unfortunately I had a reaction to one of the supplements I was taking and stopped taking the 5-htp because I mistakenly thought it was the culprit.. I actually started taking the 5htp again today and have a few questions for you...
When do you find is the best time to take the 5htp and how much?
Do you take it on an empty stomach and are you currently on any other supplements?
Does it ever produce anxiety symptoms in you?
...for example I took around 40mg tonight as this is my first night back on the medicine and I was very wired and anxious for about an hour or so then I began to feel calm and relaxed and seem ready for bed..
anyway thank you so much... I really think you helped me understand what has been causing all of my problems and I hope many others with these symptoms give 5-htp a shot
i have been on 5 htp for the past 9 days, so far I havent notised any improvement except maybe I am sleeping a little bit more better ?
I have terrible anxiety and dizzies, I have always grinded my teeth at night.....my husband wakes me telling me to stop!
Ive been told by my dentist that I have TMJ cos my jaw was all loose when they told me to open wide, Ive been reading about 5htp lately and although some studies found it works for anxiety and depression , other studies found no link ? This has concerned me but I will keep taking it.
Yeah, I figured I must not be the only one going through this! I shudder to think of people going from doctor to doctor with no idea what's going on and no relief.
I was originally taking too much 5-htp, I suspect. Right now I'm taking 200mg per day but I want to reduce that as I feel better. I'm way better than a couple of weeks ago when I started, but my jaw muscles still are tense. I'm taking 100mg in the morning, 50mg in the afternoon and 50mg 45 min before bed. If I don't feel sleepy at bed time I take some melotonin, but hopefully I won't need much of that. For me, the most important dose is the bed time one. Although I'm taking less at bed time right now, I'm taking straight 5-HTP with no B6 added for the bed time dose. I take a B Complex with dinner so I feel I have plenty of B6 available. My thought is that more 5-HTP will make it into my blood stream if the B6 is not delivered at the same time but this is a complicated issue.
I've been pretty much taking on an empty stomach, although some say it's fine to take with food so once in a while I happen to take it near a meal.
I am also taking a bunch of supplements right now. I think a multi-vitamin and a b-complex are important right now. Also taking fish and flax seed oil. Also, magnesium and calcium (delivered together) and vitamin C.
I've never noticed any anxiety from 5-HTP. If it works like it did last time, I expect my anxiety to continue to dissipate over the coming weeks. I do have some xanax from the doctor. I try to take it as little as possible and I only take a very small dose. I'm trying to stick with more natural remedies, but the xanax has given me some comfort. Just the fact that I have it in case I need it helps. If all goes well, I won't be needing any much longer.
Taking it before bed like you are is important to help solve the sleeping problem. It will be interesting to see whether the wired feeling diminishes over time. I do get a strong feeling of joy and contentment sometimes almost to the point of being wired.
I've also taken muscle relaxers, ibuprofen and used moist heat to try to break the cycle. I also have a mouth guard from the dentist but right now I'm not using it.
Oh, one other thing. Studies have shown that sleeping on your back is a bad idea if you are bruxing. Sleep on your left side as much as you can. Right side is second best. Also, if you have any issues with acid reflux, try to take care of that before bed. If you have problems with that, it's best to try to eat as little as possible after dinner. I take something like Pepsid Total to try to eliminate that as a factor. Basically, acid reflux has been shown to cause bruxism.
Good luck! Let me know if there's anything else I can do.
I would give the 5-HTP a while longer. At least a couple more weeks before judging. If lack of serotonin is a problem for you than 5-HTP will help. It does, without a doubt, increase levels of serotonin. It's just a matter of whether that's a problem for you and whether there are other things going on. There are some other things you could take, including other amino acids, but that's a bit touchy with anxiety. You could try St John's Wort in conjunction with the 5-HTP if depression is a problem for you.
As I said above, I would definitely avoid sleeping on your back and would take care of any acid reflux issues before bed.
I can't thank you enough for this post! I recently made a visit to my Dr. "again" for headaches, dizziness, foggy heavy head, ears popping and crackling, major fatigue, sore muscles and a host of other symptoms.
I AM a major jaw clencher especially when asleep. I have developed TMJD that he claims is the culprit in all these symptoms. Some how it seems to be effecting my ears (Eustachian Tube) as well. Upon waking up in the morning my jaw muscles feel sore and tight, and my ears feel clogged and When I do yawn and open my tubes (my ears pop) and I get a sharp piercing pain inside my ears. I spend my days for years feeling like I am drunk, on a boat (off balance) and my head has tons of pressure. I was prescribed a strong muscle relaxer to help stop the clenching during sleep, and to elevate the tension headaches. (keep in mind there is not a day that goes by that I don't have a tension headache) This has been going on for years and I was continued to be told it was anxiety related, but for me I felt there was more going on.
After reading your post I see the connection to me as well and was told a night guard may be the treatment I should look into. These guards can cost up to a thousand dollars.
I am interested in this supplement you are speaking of 5-HTP Where can you purchase it? My Dr. suggested antidepressants as well, being that they are know to help in this situation, But I wasn't happy about taking them when past experiences with them caused me to have increased anxiety.
Can this supplement be taken with xanax? I am a xanax user as needed as well. I guess for me the dizziness, and foggy head seems to be the worst of all the symptoms and at this point I would try anything to help alleviate these symptoms. I feel the muscle relaxers just make me feel drugged and sedated and I do not care for feeling like that. I too have a horrible sleep pattern which explains the fatigue, and waking up unrefreshed.
Thank You again for posting!! boxerlover
I also want to thank you for this post. I've been suffering for 4 years now with the same thing you have Boxerlover. I have daily tension headaches, ear fullness, pressure, dizziness, tinnitus and pain.
I've been to countless Drs. and that all say they can help me but eventually write me off as being crazy. I happened to mention everything to a dentist friend of mine and he thinks I am grinding and clenching. I got a new bite splint which has helped some with the ear pressure and dizziness but nothing for the daily headaches.
I'm so tired of feeling like crap everyday that I just don't know what to do anymore. I have an appointment with another new doctor tomorrow so I'll see what she says.
Thanks again for this post and I hope all of you find relief soon.
The Following User Says Thank You to Jill43 For This Useful Post: prtibha (09-28-2011)
Sorry to hear about what you are going through. But if you've identified the root cause you can at least get busy trying to solve it. I feel so much better now that I at least know what I'm facing.
Whether or not the mouth guard will help you is debatable. It will definitely help protect your teeth, but it certainly won't help to eliminate the root cause of your bruxing (a sleep disorder). I have chosen not to wear mine because I started to notice a strange front to back grinding motion (my teeth against the mouth piece) just as I was falling asleep. Don't know why, but I do not notice that when I'm not wearing it. If I were you, I might focus on the root cause of the bruxism first unless you are causing harm to your teeth. The dentist might make the argument that the mouth piece will decrease the amount of force that you are using when you are grinding/clenching. And that might be true. It also depends what type they recommending. The NTI type, for example, might help quite a bit in the short term. You just have to be careful using those long term.
I also had muscle aches for the first several months. Every day, for months, I felt like I was run over by a bus the day before. This disappeared early in 2007 for some reason. But it's clear to me now that the sleeping problem caused my muscle pain. I never had any pain as a result of the bruxing. The daily fog definitely diminished quickly when I started taking 5-HTP.
Definitely do your homework on 5-HTP. It is an over the counter supplement but by taking it you are definitely increasing the amount of serotonin in your brain. I, personally, would always try 5-HTP before a prescription SSRI (anti-depressant). Increasing serotonin by providing your body with the raw fuel it already uses to make serotonin is a hell of a lot more natural and sensible, IMO, than the re-uptake inhibition that SSRIs use. You can buy 5-HTP at any vitamin shop. I would recommend starting at a lower dose than is often recommended. I would start at 50mg about 45 min before bed and if that goes well add another 50mg in the morning to see how that goes. Increase the bed time dosage if needed. If serotonin is a problem for you than you should wake up feeling more refreshed. I'm taking around 200mg per day now but I'm hoping I will only need 50mg a day when things settle down. I also might alternate between using 5-HTP and tryptophan. The body makes 5-HTP out of Tryptophan so Tryptophan supplementation will also cause an increase in serotonin. 5-HTP is best to start with, IMO. Everyone should do their homework with this, though. It's not like taking a vitamin.
The muscle relaxers can't hurt but I would not take them at night. I would avoid anything that could possibly contribute to poor sleep quality. That means no pain killers, anti-anxiety meds, benedryl, etc. I would try to use nothing but 5-HTP at bed time and, if falling asleep is a problem, a small amount of melatonin at first. Muscle relaxers, ibuprofin, message and moist heat might help to relax the muscles in an effort to break the cycle, but attacking the sleep disorder that's causing the bruxism is the only way to solve this if muscle spasm is causing your middle ear troubles.
You can take xanax with 5-HTP. 5-HTP should not be taken with SSRIs, at least not without careful consideration with a professional, but xanax is OK.
Definitely sleep on your left side as much as possible. You might want to go to a massage therapist who understands TMJ or an acupuncturist. I also have seen a doctor who specializes in osteopathic manipulation (sort of like a chiropractor). I did have some structural problems. It's a good idea to make sure you are structurally sound.
There are lots of studies on this subject available on the internet. Bruxism has been shown in many studies to be caused by sleep micro arousals. They are able to induce bruxism (in someone who already bruxes) in the lab by causing a sleep micro arousal. To my knowledge, you will never solve your problem unless you address this.
I'll write some more on this later. It's important to understand the dynamics of the deep sleep you are after.
Thanks Lenny. Do you have any idea what would promote a deep sleep so you wouldn't clench and grind? I agree that this will not resolve unless I can stop doing this while I sleep but have no idea how this can be achieved if you are not even aware that you are doing it.
Thanks again for the information. This is a very good post.
Thankfully, there are a lot of studies available on the internet pertaining to bruxism and sleep. Of all the subjects I've studied in the last year, none had as many detailed studies available as this.
I'm not sure that everyone who's posted in this thread so far has a serotonin deficiency, but we all apparently have a sleep disorder. Our inability to sleep deeply and to go through the sleep cycle properly can cause fatigue, bruxism and many other symptoms.
There are 5 stages of sleep. 3, 4 and 5 are the deepest. 1 is a very short, light sleep cycle. 2 is longer but it's still not a deep, restful sleep cycle. Studies show that stage 2 is easily the heaviest for micro arousals and subsequent bruxism. To make matters worse, it's been shown that micro arousals during stage 2 can prevent someone from moving on to stage 3. Basically, you get to the end of stage 2 and when you're at the point where you should move on to stage 3 you get busted back to stage 2. This is horrible for sleep and for bruxism. For the last 5 years or so, I not only had problems falling asleep but I would often spend a few hours sort of teetering on the edge of sleep. I believe now I was spending a bunch of time in stage 1 and especially stage 2. And bruxing like crazy!
5-HTP is apparently a very rare substance in that it has been shown to increase the REM stage of sleep by up to 25% and increase the deep sleep stages 3 and 4 while not increasing the overall length of the sleep cycle. This means that stage 2 is decreased! And since stage 2 is where bruxism is heaviest, it's better for us to not spend any more time there than we have to. This is why 5-HTP worked so quickly and dramatically for me and pretty much proved that I suffer from low serotonin.
Here's why I mentioned earlier that people should address any acid reflux issues before bed. Micro arousals definitely cause disturbed sleep and bruxism. Micro arousals are often preceded by swallowing (65% of the time in one study) and swallowing has been linked strongly with acid reflux. I was on PPIs (Prevacid) when I got sick initially, but I found a good study that found a 75% resurgence in acid reflux during sleep. Based on that study, I've been taking an H2 inhibitor (Pepcid) at bed time. The nightly H2 inhibitor was shown to eliminate the night time return of high PH acid reflux in (if I recall correctly) 96% of patients. Apparently, if we have acid reflux during the night, we subconsciously swallow saliva to protect our esophagus.
I, personally, am trying to avoid acid reflux medication except for at night. Stomach acid is definitely needed for proper digestion. If you don't have adequate stomach acidity than I'm not sure you can break down food properly. You might have trouble assimilating protein, including the amino acids you need to replenish your supply of neurotransmitters. I don't have any studies to back this up. I hope that long term studies will eventually help clarify this.
The funny thing is , even tho every one tells me I grind my teeth at night, I can never rember doing it ?
I will keep taking the 5 htp, thanks for your help Lenny .
I don't want to sound like a shill for 5-HTP but I think you are doing the right thing.
I took ambien and lunesta for years. Those things definitely help you get to sleep and stay asleep but I know of no other substance, other than 5-HTP, that will increase the deep sleep stages while reducing stage 2. Most substances that help you sleep cause you to spend more time in stage 2 or, at best, have a neutral impact on the sleep cycle.
For those who try 5-HTP and find that it doesn't help, you might have a problem other than low serotonin. Like sleep apnea, for example. If 5-HTP doesn't work I think it would be worthwhile to have a sleep study done to see what's going on with your sleep.
Thank you Lenny - very informative thread! I too have night bruxism. My jaw muscles are sore all day and I have lines on the inside of my cheeks. I have been wearing a night guard for years, but this is mostly to protect my teeth. All of my back teeth have crowns on them because they have all been CRACKED by my constant nighttime grinding.
I'll have to look into the 5-HTP. I used to use Ambien but it made me feel too weird the next day. I haven't had much trouble falling asleep in the past week or so - because I have been so exhausted. But I do wake up a few times a night and feel tired the next day. Plus my ear are always "full" and popping and I also have that "lump in throat" sensation. I probably have some acid reflux going on. I wonder if taking a few tums at night would help. Hmmm, I'll have to add that to my gazillion supplements to take.
Once again thank you for your help. I am so glad that someone else has seen this connection between our symptoms and low serotonin. Last night was kind of rough for me. As I said I tried about 40mg of 5htp on an empty stomach last night. for about an hour afterward I was uncomfortable and anxious...then I felt very relaxed and sleepy. At this point I went to sleep. Not even sure if I fell asleep but I got up about and hour or two later and felt very anxious and uncomfortable again. Not sure what the problem was but I did notice that in the past at the time that I took 5htp and felt it was really working was when I was also taking a b-complex vitamin...
have you even taken 5htp while not on the b-complex??
my bcomplex had both the regular and co-enzyme form of b-6 which I think really helps 5-htp convert to serotonin.
if possible can you recommend a good bcomplex and also how do you take it??