February 23, 2022

Vitamin D and its Important Role In Sleep!

Posted by Jessica Penner

Vitamin D written on a chalk board with foods laying around it

Vitamin D? This vitamin is so important for your sleep, we should really call it Vitamin Z… zzzz!

While scientists are still figuring out exactly how Vitamin D affects sleep, there are three factors that point to its importance:

  1. It’s believed to be involved in managing the body’s daily sleep-awake cycle
  2. It may reduce levels of inflammatory cell-signaling proteins that can interfere with sleep
  3. It also may play a role in reducing chronic pain, which can prevent a person from getting restful sleep!

A Vitamin D deficiency puts a person at higher risk of suffering from poor sleep quality, shorter sleep time, or daytime sleepiness. If you are deficient in Vitamin D, you’re more likely to be diagnosed with a sleep disorder.

In one study, individuals with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) had significantly lower blood levels of 25 (OH)D (the precursor to the active form of Vitamin D). The more severe the OSA, the more likely a person was to be deficient.

So scientists decided to conduct an experiment to see if improving Vitamin D status would also improve sleep quality!

In this study, the researchers gave half the participants Vitamin D while the other half got a placebo pill. All participants were assessed as having poor sleep quality but were not diagnosed with any sleeping disorder.

At the end of the study, the group that was given Vitamin D reported being able to fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and have an improved quality of sleep! The group given the placebo had no improvement in any aspect of sleep.

More studies are needed to confirm these promising results. But Vitamin D is generally regarded as safe to take, and it’s estimated that over a third of Canadians are actually deficient in this important nutrient.

Where can you get Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because our body is able to produce it from cholesterol when our skin is exposed to the sun. In a way, we’re kind of like plants: we can photosynthesize a key nutrient for our health!

However, we can’t 100% rely on the sun for our daily Vitamin D needs. This is especially true here in Canada between October and April when the sun’s rays are not strong enough for our bodies to produce any Vitamin D at all!

Sadly, we also can’t rely on getting enough from food! There are only a few naturally occurring sources of Vitamin D, including fatty fish, eggs, and mushrooms. Some foods have Vitamin D added to them, such as milk and alternatives, and margarine. But you would have to consume at least 6 cups of milk a day to get the minimum amount of Vitamin D required for an adult! 8 cups if you’re over 70 years old.

That leaves us with supplements, which I usually don’t recommend because food can typically meet our nutritional needs. Vitamin D is the only supplement I recommend universally because it’s just not realistically possible to get enough from other sources!

How much Vitamin D do you need?

The Institute of Medicine has set minimum daily needs of 600IU (international units) for ages 1-70 and 800IU for adults over 70. These amounts were set based on how much Vitamin D is needed to maintain optimal bone health. However, many experts believe that for some of the other roles Vitamin D plays in the body, such as regulating sleep, a higher daily dose may be required. If you want to try taking Vitamin “Z” as part of your “get better sleep” plan, discuss what daily dose may be best for you with your healthcare provider!

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