Let’s get the basics right to start with. Vitamin D is actually a hormone rather than a vitamin (1). The body makes most of the vitamin D it needs; only about 10% comes from our food! Did you know this? I certainly didn’t. We get most of this vitamin from sun, so there’s no accident it’s called the sunshine vitamin. In fact, all the rest 90 per cent of your body’s supply comes from sunlight (2). So what’s the relationship between sleep and vitamin D? Let’s start digging.
Dr Michael J Breus reveals that in recent years our understanding of the functions of vitamin D in the body has expanded. Vitamin D is now understood to play an important role in metabolic and immune system functions. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a number of illnesses and chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, pulmonary disease, and chronic pain.We’ve seen piling evidence that vitamin D deficiency is now also associated with sleep problems, particularly with daytime sleepiness. A new study examined the link between daytime sleepiness and vitamin D.
Nutritionist Ani Richardson (Nurture With Love ) tells more about the relationship of vitamin D and sleep: “Scientific research is beginning to show a relationship between poor sleep and low levels of vitamin D, the associations are still being investigated but research is building. Many individuals have low levels of vitamin D (due to lack of sunlight exposure, poor diet or other factors), which is also linked to a variety of other issues such as chronic pain and heart problems. It is important not to self medicate with high doses of vitamin D since it can be toxic. It is best to see your doctor and get your vitamin D levels checked, the levels to aim for are between 50-70ng/ml. If your levels are low then you can speak with your doctor who will probably recommend a vitamin D3 supplement of around 1000-2000iu per day and will then test your levels again after 6 months to see if they have risen”.
A vitamin D deficiency has been noticed as a global issue and recently found in underserved populations, patients in northern latitudes, people with darker skin tones, the elderly, obese and pregnant or lactating women. Also very common in areas with a high degree of sunshine (this seems counterintuitive, but think about all that sunblock!). Recent studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to metabolic syndrome, muscle pain and even type 2 diabetes.
Dr Michael J Breus tells that a recent case study has shown that for a patient with severe sleepiness and a vitamin D deficiency, a vitamin D supplementation improved daytime sleepiness dramatically. The results of the study support a strong correlation between excessive daytime sleepiness and vitamin D. They also indicate that race is a factor in the relationship between vitamin D and daytime sleepiness.
There are other important questions that arise. Is vitamin D deficiency directly responsible for excessive daytime sleepiness and other sleep problems? Or is poor sleep a consequence of other medical conditions associated with vitamin D deficiency, such as chronic pain? What are the biological mechanisms by which vitamin D — and a lack thereof — affect sleep functions in the body? There’s a lot we don’t yet know about the relationship between vitamin D and sleep so we can also test and try. I am now taking a little bit extra vitamin D oomph in the mornings (with vitamin K and Calcium) and also in the evenings (with Magnesium) and this seems to work really well. I am more alert during the days and sleep better in the nights! Of course there might be other reasons for this outcome too (such as morning walks with our puppy), but my gut tells that D helps too.
If you’re at risk for vitamin D deficiency, talk to your doctor. Supplements, dietary changes, and safe and controlled exposure to sun can all help boost levels in the body. Making sure your body has sufficient levels of vitamin D offers important health protections and, perhaps, a welcome boost of energy in place of daytime sleepiness.
So how can you get the vitamin D you need? By Dr Mark Porter.
- This is your main source: Sun, so spend time on direct sunshine. Expose your face and arms for sun regularly. At elast for 20 mins min 3 times a week without sun blockers.
- Include following foods in your diet: oily fish, eggs, bread, milk, breakfast cereals.
- Supplements. Note NHS provides free supplements for some eligible groups (elderly, pregnant).
- Stick to your recommended dose. Note: you can check your D-vitamin levels with a blood test.
Having that morning walk on every sunny day certainly makes a lot of sense now. It doesn’t only boost the production of a sleep hormone (called melatonin) but also vitamin/hormone D! Up and out!
Hey you there! Have you noticed anything interesting about the relationship between vitamin D and sleep? Did this post reveal you something new?
Wish you a relaxing day and a peaceful night.