Vitamin D: Energy the Old Fashioned Way

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

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

For example, 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 can be found in those with insomnia.

Calcium and magnesium, taken in a 2:1 ratio, can be helpful for sleep:

  • Calcium is a natural relaxant that has a calming effect on the nervous system; 500 mg daily can be helpful (drinking soda can actually strip away calcium).
  • Magnesium is a mineral that appears to help assist chronic sleep problems as well. Recommended dosage is 250 mg daily with 500 mg of calcium.

Another case study has shown that a patient with severe sleepiness, and a vitamin D deficiency, improved daytime sleepiness dramatically with vitamin D supplementation:

  • The patient was a 28-year-old female. She was suffering for about 4 months with excessive sleepiness. Her symptoms started slowly and continued to progress.
  • She kept a standard bedtime between 10 and 11 p.m., 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 8 a.m. until noon.  She would then nap from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. 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 labwork 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 (via IV). Within 2 weeks, she started to see a decrease in her sleepiness and fatigue.

Vitamin D is actually a fat soluble hormone that can be received in foods (dietary sources like 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, those who are obese, and pregnant or lactating women. Also, vitamin D deficiency is actually very common in areas with a high degree of sunshine – this seems counter-intuitive, 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 – 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 – I’d love to hear your experiences with keeping healthy and getting better sleep.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD

The Sleep Doctor™