4 Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies Linked To Insomnia & Poor Sleep
Sleep is crucial for your physical and mental health, but many factors, both internal and external, can impact how well you sleep at night. You probably didn't know that vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be linked to insomnia. The relationship between vitamins and sleep is a complicated one that science is still trying to understand; having a vitamin or mineral deficiency can cause many health issues that can have sleep problems as a side effect, but it's not advisable to think that supplements can solve all your problems. If, however, you have a history of a particular deficiency or suspect you might have developed one, it could be linked to an inability to get refreshing shut-eye.
The body needs a wide variety of vitamins and minerals to function properly, and you get them from diet, the environment, and your body's own internal processes. When it comes to deficiencies of essential minerals and vitamins in the body, disturbed sleep can be a possible symptom, but it's worth getting a full health check to check for other underlying issues that could be keeping you up at night. Your doctor can confirm a potential deficiency (as well as its cause) through a blood test, and then work with you to find a treatment plan to combat any symptoms, including poor sleep.
Here are four vitamins and minerals that are linked to sleeping badly.
1. Vitamin D
Deficiency in vitamin D is tied to a lack of sunlight; we produce vitamin D through exposing our skin to UVB light. If you do have low levels of vitamin D, sleep disturbances can result. A study in 2013 found that erratic levels of vitamin D, including both deficiency and over-production (having too much), were associated with sleep issues. Too much vitamin D and people felt sleepy in the day, which ruined their sleep cycles during the night. Too little and they generally slept for fewer hours a night, a finding backed up by another study of men that found vitamin D deficiency was linked to under five hours' sleep every night.
If you want to combat vitamin D deficiency, you should get lots of oily fish into your diet, take supplements, and make sure you get into the sunlight when you can.
2. Vitamin B12
The link between sleep disturbances and vitamin B12 is still being investigated. The New York Times reported in 2016 that doses of B12 seem to have helped sleep disturbances in small-scale studies, but that further investigation is needed. Dr. Ayan Panja, a general practitioner, told The Guardian in 2017 that B12 deficiency "can sometimes explain clusters of symptoms such as migraines, cramps, food digestion and sleep problems, dementia and depression," but not everybody agrees with Panja's assessment.
The reason for this link may have to do with depression, a symptom of which can be trouble sleeping. Vitamin B12 deficiency can bring on depressive symptoms, according to Harvard Health. If you're feeling increased levels of general low mood, it may be a good idea to discuss vitamin B12 levels with your doctor.
The New York Times reported in 2018 that magnesium is an essential mineral for sleep function. It appears to help us sleep because of its role in enzyme production, particularly when it's related to a neurotransmitter called GABA that controls our sleepiness. Magnesium deficiency is often tied to insomnia and other breakdowns in bodily function.
If you do want to raise your magnesium levels, though, the New York Times points out that supplements aren't actually as useful as magnesium-rich foods. Peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, whole grains, and oily fish are important sources, but there's magnesium in a whole host of foods that can be a big part of your diet.
Iron deficiency, otherwise known as anemia, can cause a host of symptoms, but its link to sleep issues is an intriguing one: anemia makes you more prone to restless leg syndrome, a condition where limbs jerk unconsciously in the night, causing sleep disturbances. The lower your iron levels, the more likely you are to have restless legs and so experience less restful sleep.
Want to raise your iron levels? Supplements are a good way to go, as are iron-rich foods like red meat. There can be various health issues that can cause anemia, though, so if your low iron levels aren't budging, check in with a GP.
The key thing to remember with vitamin deficiencies is that they might not be treated with supplements alone; the deficiency could be caused by your body not absorbing the vitamin properly, or other reasons. It's best to check in with your doctor if you're having trouble sleeping and think a vitamin deficiency might be the cause.