Vitamin D for Sleep?

Once again I love it when a mystery is revealed, or at least partially explained.

I was reading a case study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine and it helped confirm a hypothesis I have had for a while about the importance of vitamins to your sleep.

Look at the busy B's: Did you know that vitamin B can help regulate the use of tryptophan?

  • B3: has been shown to increase REM sleep, help with depression in some cases and a decrease in nighttime awakenings.
  • B6: is essential in the production of serotonin, the "calming" hormone that helps calm the body before falling asleep.
  • Folic Acid: Deficiency in folic acid deficient can be found in those with insomnia.
  • Important Minerals: Calcium and Magnesium, taken in a 2:1 ratio, can be helpful for sleep.
  • Calcium: is a natural relaxant which has a calming effect on the nervous system. 500 mg daily can be helpful (soda can actually strip away calcium).
  • Magnesium: is a mineral that appears to help assist chronic sleep problems as well. It should be taken 250 mg daily with 500 mg of calcium.

But 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 patient was a 28-year-old female. She was suffering for about four months with excessive sleepiness. Her symptoms started slowly and continued to progress. She kept a standard bedtime between 10 and 11 pm, and she reported falling asleep within minutes. She would wake at 7:30 a.m. and reported that she did not think that she was sleeping poorly. She would get her kids ready for school and then be back in bed by eight am until noon. She would then nap from four pm to seven pm. She reported about 14 hours of sleep per day.

Her sleep study showed no signs of sleep apnea or other sleep disorder. During her clinic visit she showed no signs of narcolepsy, depression or anxiety. Her next day nap study was unremarkable. She reported muscle fatigue and pain, as well as headaches, her lab work showed a thyroid in the low, but normal range and she had low levels of vitamin D.

She was started on a vitamin D supplementation at 50,000 units once per week (IV) and within two weeks she started to see a decrease in her sleepiness and fatigue.

Vitamin D is actually considered a fat soluble hormone that can be received in foods (dietary sources and fish) or is self-manufactured by the skin after exposure to UVB light. 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.

So why do we think it helped her sleepiness? It is really hard to say, but I have seen this in some of my patients. It could be linked to a decrease in sleep disturbing pain. Or vitamin D may be something that will help decrease a person's drive for sleep. Only more research in this exciting new area can tell us.

Check with your doctor about vitamin supplementation. We all work hard, and eating right isn't always easy. And even when we do, we may not get what we need from the food we eat. Our bodies actually make vitamin D, but we have to get enough sunlight to make that happen effectively.

Have you started taking vitamin D and noticed an increase in your daytime energy? What about vitamin B? Share your stories -- would love to hear your experiences with keeping healthy and getting better sleep.

Sweet Dreams,
Michael J. Breus, Ph.D.
The Sleep Doctor™

Everything you do, you do better with a good night's sleep.™, twitter@thesleepdoctor, Facebook: The Sleep Doctor.