Can Low Potassium Make You Anxious Before You Sleep?

by Adam Cloe, Demand Media
    Low potassium may contribute to anxiety before sleeping.

    Low potassium may contribute to anxiety before sleeping.

    Potassium is an important mineral that plays a role in many physiologic processes, including maintenance of blood pressure and muscle function. Too little potassium in the body, also known as hypokalemia, can cause many different symptoms. Hypokalemia may play a role in triggering anxiety before sleeping via multiple mechanisms. If you are concerned about low blood potassium levels, talk to a medical professional.

    Hypokalemia

    Hypokalemia is defined as an abnormally low amount of potassium in the bloodstream. Medline Plus reports that the symptoms of hypokalemia include fatigue, constipation, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, paralysis and abnormal heart rhythms. A blood test is the most accurate way of assessing your potassium level. Typically, low potassium will be diagnosed based on blood tests that measure the amount of potassium and other electrolytes.

    Potassium and Anxiety

    Although it is not clear if low potassium levels can induce anxiety before sleep, hypokalemia has been linked to anxiety in different situations. A 1998 article in the "European Archives of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences" found that patients suffering from psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, were more likely to suffer from low potassium levels. Another study, published in a 2005 issue of the Korean Journal of Anesthesiology, found that people with low potassium levels were more likely to suffer from anxiety before undergoing anesthesia. This is relevant because the state of undergoing anesthesia is similar to that of falling asleep.

    Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis

    Hypokalemia has also been linked to a sleep-related disorder that may induce anxiety. Hypokalemic periodic paralysis is a condition that causes severe muscle weakness and paralysis and is due to a combination of genes and low potassium, MedlinePlus reports. This condition causes sporadic muscle paralysis, but it is more common immediately after a patient wakes up. As a result, if someone suffers from hypokalemic periodic paralysis, they may suffer from anxiety before going to sleep in anticipation of the anxiety-provoking muscle paralysis/weakness.

    Causes and Prevention

    There are many things that can cause low potassium levels. Chronic diarrhea, sweating, vomiting and eating disorders can cause the body to be depleted of potassium. Other causes include kidney diseases that prevent the body from retaining potassium properly, such as hyperaldosteronism, Cushing syndrome and Fanconi syndrome. Hypokalemia can also be induced by ingesting large amounts of licorice or taking certain drugs. A diet rich in potassium, including foods such as bananas, carrots, kiwi, avocados, milk, lima beans, molasses, spinach, bran and oranges, may help protect against hypokalemia and any resultant anxiety.

    About the Author

    Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.

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