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Vitamins and their Role in Sleep

Scientists researching the impact of nutrition on our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep have uncovered a great deal of information about the role that various vitamins play in our lives. As it turns out, Vitamin B plays a number of key roles, including the regulation of the body’s ability to regulate its use of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that helps our bodies produce serotonin, the feel good chemical that makes us fall asleep. Other important vitamin  contributions include:

  • Vitamin B3 extends the amount of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep that we get each night.  The more REM sleep we get, the less depressed we are and the less likely the chance that we will wake up in the middle of the night.
  • Vitamin B6 helps produce serotonin, which allows the body to achieve the calm needed for us to fall asleep easily.
  • Folic acid is another B vitamin. It helps our bodies to produce new cells and prevents birth defects when taken during pregnancy. A deficiency in folic acid is often seen in those suffering from insomnia symptoms.
  • Calcium has been found to have a sedative effect, which is probably why mothers throughout the years have encouraged milk-drinking before bed time.
  • Magnesium is another mineral that seems to help people fall asleep – a magnesium deficiency is commonly found among those who can’t fall asleep at night. 

In addition to these findings, Vitamin D has been the subject of many studies, and recent findings indicate that for those who suffer from severe daytime drowsiness, supplementing with Vitamin D may be the solution.

Many patients who report getting more than enough sleep during the night still find themselves exhausted during the day. They are forced to take constant naps in response to their drowsiness, despite the fact that sleep studies show no apnea or other signs of sleep disorders. Testing frequently reveals that these patients are suffering from low levels of Vitamin D. Supplementing with high levels (50,000 i.u. per week) shows marked improvements in their symptoms, with some showing a decrease in their level of drowsiness within two weeks of beginning the nutritional supplementation.

Vitamin D is available through food, but for most people the primary source is actually sunshine. The body manufactures Vitamin D after the skin is exposed to UVB light, but for many people who don’t get out into the sun often enough, who live in cold or grey climates or who block the sun’s rays with sunscreen in order to prevent their risk of skin cancer, a deficiency of Vitamin D can become a problem. In addition to drowsiness, a lack of vitamin D can cause metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and muscle pain and fatigue.

Scientists are not entirely sure why increasing vitamin D eliminates symptoms of fatigue, but some theorize that having enough of it in the body may actually shut down a drive for sleep. Whatever the cause, if you are suffering from daytime fatigue despite getting enough sleep, it may be worthwhile to have your physician test your levels.

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