Sleep is a hot topic. People are more sleep deprived than ever. One simple step everyone should take for better sleep is to ensure vitamin D blood levels are in the optimal range.
A research group from the University of Texas recently noticed conducted a study of 1,500 people who experienced headaches and insomnia and found that they were all vitamin D deficient. The researchers gave them vitamin D, and found that by raising the subjects blood vitamin D level to between 60 and 80 ng/ml over a 2-year period, they experienced normal sleep and much fewer headaches.
A few important points came out of the study: First, the subjects were given 20,000 IUs a day of vitamin D3 to raise levels into the “adequate” range quickly. The effect on sleep from the large dosing was immediate—sleep quality improved right away.
Over a period of months, as the subjects’ vitamin D blood levels increased, they returned to completely normal sleep cycles. During the 2-year study, researchers observed that when vitamin D blood levels dropped below 50 ng/ml or went over 80 ng/ml, sleep difficulties were reported. In addition, supplementing with vitamin D2 prevented normal sleep in most patients. Vitamin D2 is the inactive form and should be avoided in favor of D3, which is the active form.
The mechanism via which vitamin D influences our ability to sleep has to do with the fact that there are vitamin D receptors throughout the brain. A large concentration of these receptors are in the cells of the brainstem that allow us to sleep. If vitamin D is deficient in the blood, the sleep-wake cycle is disrupted. In addition, vitamin D influences many other hormonal processes in the body, including reproduction, metabolism, digestion, and cardiovascular health, all of which influence fatigue and sleep regulation.
Researchers suggest that the increasing rate of sleep disorders over the last 40 years is due in part to widespread vitamin D deficiency since we are spending the majority of our lives indoors, or wearing sunscreen out of doors. It’s true that vitamin D deficiency is rampant in warm sunny climates and the northern latitudes, making supplementation critical for health.