Potassium can help you fall asleep easy as it is very important for proper function in all cells, tissues and organs and plays a key role in muscular and cellular functions, cardiovascular function, muscle contraction, nerve transmission and even converts glucose into glycogen. Potassium is an electrolyte, a substance that conducts electricity in the body along with other minerals and is found in all meats, some fish (salmon, cod and flounder), many fruits, vegetables and legumes as well as dairy products. Also called a natural diuretic, potassium is easily absorbed and due to its alkaline property it helps our body maintain its pH balance and water levels. Potassium also keeps our blood pressure under control, fights fatigue and reduces our chances of acne, allergies and kidney stones.
If you have a potassium deficiency or hypokalemia you can suffer from fatigue, muscle weakness, acne, skin problems, heart deterioration, hypertension, restless leg syndrome, depression, tinnitus and constipation. A person can have a potassium deficiency if they are not getting enough potassium in their daily diet, if they are taking medications that lower potassium levels, over exercising or are diabetic. Bartter syndrome or Gitelman syndrome can also lead to a potassium deficiency. Hypokalemia can be life threatening, because of the need for potassium to control muscle action, hypokalemia can cause the heart to stop beating. Diarrhea due to laxative or enema abuse is an occasional cause of hypokalemia in teen and adults. Laxative and enema abuse is often part of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. If you feel you are potassium deficient for any reason see your doctor to get your levels checked to determine your treatment and care.
Depending on the findings in your consultation with the doctor, he will determine which test is best to get a proper diagnosis. Testing for low levels of potassium can be made with a sample of blood, an electrocardiogram (for those experiencing abnormalities in heart behavior) or urine. The urinary potassium test is useful in cases where the patient is denying the practice of laxative or enema abuse.
A potassium deficiency is treated through diet or medication depending on the cause or severity of the deficiency. A diet rich in potassium is sometimes all that is needed. Foods with a high content of potassium are; oranges, bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon, beans, some type of cereals, dried fruits such as peaches, dates, apricots, raisins etc., meat, grapes, milk, egg-yogurt, and spinach, to name a few. Keeping the right amount of potassium in the body depends on the amount of sodium and magnesium in the blood. Too much salt in your system can cause diarrhea, vomiting, excess sweating, malnutrition, Crohn’s disease which can cause a deficiency along with heart medicines called loop diuretics.
Low potassium levels contribute to sleep disorders such a restless leg syndrome (RLS). Potassium regulates smooth muscle contractions and lower levels have been associated with RLS and leg cramps or “charley-horses” that afflict pregnant and older adults during the night. Increasing your potassium levels can eliminate muscle spasms and reduce RLS and/or leg cramps that contribute to restlessness and discomfort by allowing you to fall asleep easy and stay asleep through the night. Low levels also contribute to feelings of general fatigue because potassium synthesizes proteins that metabolize glucose and glycogen a prime energy source for the body. Improving one’s diet or taking a potassium supplement can help your body make more use of its nutrients and improve general health and vitality. Like magnesium, lower potassium levels can exacerbate anxiety and irritability and increasing potassium has been known to improve your mood and even lessen depression. Before taking any supplements it is advised to talk to your physician to avoid drug interaction or interference with treatment for other health issues.
Besides helping with sleep related issues low levels of potassium have also been linked to bone loss, high blood pressure, stroke and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). A person with IBD or Crohn’s disease often has trouble absorbing minerals which results in lower levels of potassium.
Many foods are rich in potassium but potassium is also available as a supplement in a tablet, capsule, powder and liquid form and can be purchased at your local health food store or pharmacy. Potassium is also found in multivitamins and in supplements with herbal mineral combinations like Sleep Minerals 11. Make sure you are taking potassium supplements under a doctor’s supervision and never give child potassium unless their pediatrician tells you to due to the side effects. Side effects include; diarrhea, indigestion and nausea. If you take too much potassium you risk muscle weakness, slowed heart rate and abnormal heart rhythm. If you have any of these symptoms while taking potassium, contact your doctor.
The recommended daily intakes of dietary potassium are listed below:
• Infants birth – 6 months: 500 mg or 13 mEq
• Infants 7 months – 12 months: 700 mg or 18 mEq
• Children 1 year: 1,000 mg or 26 mEq
• Children 2 – 5 years: 1,400 mg or 36 mEq
• Children 6 – 9 years: 1,600 mg or 41 mEq
• Children over 10 years: 2,000 mg or 51 mEq
• 2,000 mg or 51 Meq, including for pregnant and nursing women
People suffering from kidney disease should not take potassium supplements nor should those taking an ACE inhibitor, potassium sparing diuretics or antibiotics such as trimethoprim or sulfamethoxazole. Other medications that can increase potassium are; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, heparin, cyclosporine and beta-blockers that treat high blood pressure, glaucoma and migraines. Medications that can lower potassium levels are; thiazide diuretics, loop diuretics (lasix), corticosteroids, amphotericin B, antacids, insulin, fluconazole, theophylline and laxatives. Low blood levels of potassium increase the likelihood of toxic effects from digoxin, a medication used to treat abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure.
If you are taking any of these medications, it is important for your doctor to test your potassium levels to see whether or not you need a supplement. Do not start taking a supplement on your own. Potassium can help you to fall asleep easy, but it is always recommended that you consult with your doctor before taking any supplement. The content provided is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.