Sleep is intrinsically linked to overall health and well-being, that’s a scientifically proven fact backed by countless scientific studies. However, in this fast-paced world and with increasingly hectic lifestyles, more and more people are not getting a healthy amount of sleep on a regular basis. Coincidentally, a large portion of the U.S. population is deficient in Vitamin D. This is a growing concern since vitamin D is linked to mood, energy levels, immune system, bone health, and sleep quality. But how exactly does vitamin D help you sleep? Can increasing vitamin D improve sleep quality too?
Does Vitamin D Help You Sleep?
Vitamin D plays a number of important roles in the body. The most well-known of which is that it aids the body in better calcium and phosphate absorption to promote stronger bones, teeth, and muscles. However, it actually does more than that; vitamin D helps regulate the immune system, control inflammation, regulate mood, and reduce depression. Recent research also linked vitamin D inadequacy to serious health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. This is why doctors always advocate getting enough “sunshine vitamin.”
However, getting consistent sun exposure on a daily basis can be difficult for some people, as this depends largely on your geographical location, not to mention daily schedule, hectic lifestyle, and time of the year, these can all affect one’s exposure to sunshine vitamin. Moreover, changes in routine, stress, multiple trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night, side effects from medications, and pain from chronic health conditions can all interfere with getting a good night’s sleep as you age.
While vitamin D is present in fatty fish like mackerel and salmon, also egg yolk, red meat, liver, etc., it can be extremely difficult to get an adequate amount of vitamin D from food sources alone. This is why doctors often prescribe dietary supplements and fortified foods to make it easy for people to get enough vitamin D. Sleep doctors prescribe it to their patients too.
The link between vitamin D and sleep
A low level of Vitamin D in the blood is associated with different measures of sleep, from sleep time to sleep quality, and even daytime sleepiness.
- Sleep time refers to the total amount of sleep
- Sleep quality is the measure of sleep based on the time it takes for a person to fall asleep, and the number of times a person wakes up throughout the night
- Daytime sleepiness is the measure of sluggishness, or the feeling of wanting to sleep throughout the day
Basically, vitamin D deficiency can lead a person to sleep less, and feel tired and sleepy throughout the day. Moreover, low vitamin D levels often lead to a host of sleep issues, such as insomnia, sleep disruption, and overall poor sleep quality.
What is encouraging to know however is that, bhttp://: https://www.tmjandsleep.com.au/articles/breathing-problems-at-night/y improving vitamin D levels simply by taking supplements, one can see improvement in their sleep quality. Researchers have found that the brain actually has vitamin D receptors that control sleep. These receptors are found in the cerebellum, thalamus, hypothalamus, basal ganglia, and hippocampus. Thus, they theorize that by improving vitamin D levels, one can experience improved sleep.
Getting enough vitamin D from other sources
Vitamin D is quite different from other vitamins. As a matter of fact, many consider it as a hormone that is produced by your skin as a result of exposure to sunlight. Since there are very limited sources of vitamin D, it can be quite difficult to meet your needs, especially if you are not getting enough sunlight exposure. This is where the benefits of supplementing with this vitamin come into the picture.
Better absorbed with meals
What you need to understand is that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means water cannot dissolve it. You need to pair it with high-fat foods so that your body can absorb it better and it gets into your bloodstream. Thus, for better absorption, it is best to take vitamin D supplements with a meal. On top of that, taking vitamin D supplements on an empty stomach can cause side effects like gastric upset.
For best results, make sure to include avocados, nuts, seeds, eggs, and full-fat dairy products in your meal while taking the supplement.
Also, if your goal is to truly increase your vitamin D levels, it is best to avoid broad-spectrum multivitamins. In many cases, these supplements don’t necessarily include meaningful amounts of the right nutrients you need, rather, they try to cram everything in one capsule. Vitamin D is better combined with vitamins A and K. So look for supplements with vitamin A, D, and K.
The easiest way to remember is to take your supplements in the morning, with a heavy breakfast or brunch. You can also take it with you for lunch.
While research links vitamin D with better sleep quality, taking vitamin D supplements late in the day, especially, may affect your sleep. This is because vitamin D suppresses melatonin – the hormone in the body that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Thus, taking it at night may disrupt your sleep.
How much vitamin D do you need?
Many doctors have differing opinions on the amount of vitamin D you should take to stay healthy. While there are no hard and fast rules on how much vitamin D to take, the current guidelines recommended by the Institute of Medicine are 600 IU (international units) for people up to age 70 years old and 800 IU for those above 70. The safe upper limit is 4,000 IU, while some doctors may prescribe more through vitamin D supplements to address the deficiency. To put this into perspective, 3 oz. of salmon contains 425 IU vitamin D.
Check with your doctor
If you are not sure where to start, or how much to take, you can ask your doctor to get your baseline levels. This requires a blood test every six months or so to check the vitamin D level in your blood, along with other key nutrients in your system needed for your body to function. Your doctor can prescribe you the right dosage of vitamin D, as well as other vitamins and minerals your body needs.