Many people struggle with getting enough sleep, especially as the seasons shift and the amount of daylight we are exposed to goes down. But less daylight also leads to a common problem that millions of Americans experience every year: vitamin D deficiency.
In fact, vitamin D deficiency and sleeplessness are more related than you might think.
This guide will break down exactly how vitamin D affects your sleep cycle and its quality, plus how and why you should look into supplementing vitamin D intake to end your sleeplessness.
Vitamin D: An Overview
Vitamin D (also called the sunshine vitamin) is extremely important for our bodily health. In a nutshell, vitamin D can:
- Act as a precursor to a certain fat-soluble hormone that provides better bone strength
- Help our bones to assimilate the calcium we consume–without vitamin D and K2, calcium can calcify arteriesRegulates the expression of several hundred different genes–meaning that vitamin D is responsible for certain genes “turning on and off”
Suffice it to say, vitamin D is responsible for dozens of critical processes throughout the human body. This is one of the reasons why having a vitamin D deficiency – which is increasingly common in our increasingly-indoor society – can lead to all kinds of physical conditions or disorders, including seasonal affective disorder, depression, irritable bowel disease, and even sleep disorders.
How Does Vitamin D Affect Sleep?
Getting a good night’s rest is critical for multiple reasons. Our bodies use sleep as a restorative period to repair daily wear and tear that our bodies accrue from normal activity, plus to build up new bone and muscle mass so we can grow or maintain our shapes and strength.
Furthermore, sleep is important for our mental health. The exact link between mental health and sleep is being refined more and more each day, but science is sure that your brain needs sleep to reorganize itself from the events of the day, categorize information, and transform short-term memories to long-term memory.
Yet while there are many aspects to getting a good night’s rest, including when you go to bed, whether or not you use an electronic screen before bed, and what your exercise routine is like, vitamin D can also play a role in your sleep quality.
For instance, one study’s authors found that subjects with increased levels of vitamin D throughout their body enjoyed:†
- Better sleep quality
- Greater amount of sleep
- Better subjective sleep experience
- Lower sleep latency
But why does vitamin D have these effects? Science is still looking for concrete answers. But it’s thought, at least in part, that vitamin D is responsible for regulating tryptophan hydroxylase or TRPH’s expression. This is an enzyme that limits how much serotonin your body produces. Since serotonin production is related to melatonin production, vitamin D is linked to the production of both hormones in this way.
Let’s break it down even further:
- If your body doesn’t make enough serotonin, it won’t make enough melatonin
- This means that your body won’t receive the correct signals that it’s time to go to bed at night
- This can throw your entire sleep schedule out of whack and make it more difficult to get a good night’s rest
Basically, vitamin D levels can affect whether or not your body succumbs to sleep naturally and easily, or if you have to fight for every wink.
How Does Increasing Vitamin D Help Your Sleep?
Some researchers have found that there are certain vitamin D receptors in your brain that control the quality and timing of your sleep. If you don’t get enough vitamin D, these receptors could fire off improperly, leading to you not being able to sleep when appropriate, not sleeping for long enough, or your sleep quality not being deep enough for real restoration.†
By increasing your daily vitamin D intake:†
- You’ll likely experience a smoother sleeping pattern
- You should have an easier time going to sleep every night
- Your sleep may be more restorative and fulfilling
- You’ll also likely rise a little easier in the morning since your hormone balance will be a little better
Furthermore, taking adequate vitamin D means that your body will benefit from all the other benefits the compound provides.
Just how much vitamin D is necessary? The National Institutes of Health provide the following information:
- Infants younger than 12 months need only 10 µg
- After that point, almost everyone only needs about 15 µg of vitamin D per day
- The exception is adults over the age of 71, who need around 20 µg instead
Granted, Vitamin D alone can’t fix a bad sleeping pattern. There are other sleep-boosting habits and strategies you can try, like:
- Avoiding using an electronic screen for about an hour before you go to bed. This will prevent the electronic blue light from affecting your brain’s receptors and accidentally tricking them into thinking it’s the morning
- Going to bed at the same time every night. Building up solid sleep habits involves training your brain and body into resting regularly
- Getting up at the same time every morning
All of this can be helpful. But they’re not the same solutions as the potential benefits you can immediately reap if you just consume more vitamin D. So let’s take a look at how you can increase your daily vitamin D intake.
Ways to Increase Vitamin D
Eat Vitamin D-rich Foods
The first way to boost your daily vitamin D intake is to simply eat foods that already have the vitamin in large amounts naturally, or that have been fortified with the vitamin thanks to actions from the government. There are, fortunately, plenty of tasty foods you can easily incorporate into most diets or meals. Examples include:
- Lots of fatty fish varieties, like salmon, tuna, and mackerel. You can also get the same benefit from consuming omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
- Certain animal livers, like beef liver. Pick this if you enjoy eating meat and want to vary your diet a little bit while getting enough vitamin D.
- Egg yolks are particularly rich in vitamin D – it’s just another reason why eggs are often considered a superfood.
- Cheeses can also have vitamin D, though it’s dependent on the exact cheese variety.
Ultimately, fish is probably the best food option to get enough vitamin D. Just 3 ounces of cooked salmon usually has around 570 IU or international units of the vitamin.
Take a Vitamin D Supplement
You can also tackle your vitamin D deficiency a little more directly by taking a vitamin D supplement. Livingood’s Daily Vitamin D Supplement is a prime example of the solution. A single capsule contains 250% of your daily value of vitamin D, meaning once a day is all you need to reach the recommended daily amount. It’s a perfect supplement if you live in a cloudy environment or if it’s the winter, when daytime hours are shorter and there isn’t as much opportunity for sunshine exposure.
The supplement is also a great choice since it’s bolstered by other key vitamins and minerals, like vitamins E, A, and K, plus minerals like zinc and magnesium. All in all, it’s a great supplement to take with a morning meal to support holistic bodily health.†
Get Plenty of Sunshine
Of course, you can also improve your vitamin D intake by exposing your skin to the sun. When sunlight hits your skin, UVB radiation reacts with certain molecules in your skin to synthesize vitamin D from scratch. Pretty cool, right?
This being said, you have to be careful not to expose your skin too much to sunlight, particularly at higher altitudes. Be sure to wear some sunscreen if you are going to expose your skin for multiple hours at once, and try to avoid getting sunburned so you minimize the risks of skin cancer.
Of course, this method isn’t as useful during the winter months. So be sure to complement sunlight exposure with the other two above methods to make sure you get enough vitamin D every day and your sleep patterns go back to normal.
In the end, it’s important to get enough vitamin D for lots of reasons, but one of the most important is to make sure your sleep cycle is as restorative and complete as possible. We’d wholeheartedly recommend trying out the supplements listed above, as they’re an easy way to make sure you get plenty of vitamin D every day without having to drastically alter your daily routine or go outside in the cold.