Wellness

4 Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies That Can Mess With Your Sleep

You don’t have to be tired all the time.

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Sleep is crucial for your physical and mental health, but many factors, both internal and external, can impact how well you sleep at night. For one? Vitamins. You probably didn't know that vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be linked to insomnia, but the relationship between vitamins and sleep is complicated.

"Nutrients are the building blocks of calming neurotransmitters that help our brains settle down, so not getting enough of those key nutrients can make it difficult to get really solid sleep," Robin Foroutan RDN, a registered dietitian, tells Bustle.

The body needs a wide variety of vitamins and minerals to function properly. You get them from your diet, the environment, and your body's own internal processes.Having a vitamin or mineral deficiency can cause different health issues, with sleep problems as a side effect, but supplements aren't always the way to go. It's worth getting a full health check to see if the issue is that you're not getting enough of a sleep-enhancing vitamin, or if your body isn't processing that vitamin correctly (or, you know, if your sleep issue is something else entirely). Your doctor can confirm many potential deficiencies 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

Vitamin D deficiency is generally 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 published in Journal of clinical sleep medicine in 2013 found that erratic levels of vitamin D, including both not having enough and having too much, were associated with sleep issues. Too much vitamin D, and people felt sleepy during the day, which ruined their sleep cycles during the night. Too little, and they generally slept for fewer hours a night. A meta-analysis of nine studies published in Nutrients in 2018 found that this is the case for many people; the less vitamin D you have, the worse you sleep.

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. More recently, meta-analyses of various studies, including one published in Journal of Food Science in 2017, have found possible links between B12 and sleep issues.

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, especially if you're vegan or vegetarian.

3
Magnesium

"Magnesium contributes to the regulation of the circadian rhythm, which is the natural sleep and wake cycle," registered dietitian and nutritionist Shana Minei Spence RDN, CDN, tells Bustle. "Studies show that magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant and inducer of deeper sleep." She explains that magnesium also helps your brain produce melatonin and a neurotransmitter called GABA, both of which help you feel sleepy at night.

If you do want to raise your magnesium levels, Spence suggests filling your fridge with green leafy greens, legumes, nuts, milk, and yogurt.

4
Iron

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 thus a rocky night.

Without enough iron, your body also can't make an amino acid called tryptophan, according to a study published in Scientific Reports in 2019. Spence explains that your body uses tryptophan to create melatonin and serotonin. "Serotonin influences your mood, cognition and behavior, while melatonin influences your sleep-wake cycle," she says. A study published in Neuron in 2019 found that serotonin is necessary for good-quality sleep. Without iron, this whole chain falls apart.

Want to raise your iron levels? Supplements are a good way to go, as are iron-rich foods like red meat or spinach. There can be various health issues that can cause anemia, though, so it's good to 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 vitamins and minerals might be the cause.

Experts:

Robin Foroutan RDN

Shana Minei Spence RDN CDN

Studies cited:

Gao, Q., Kou, T., Zhuang, B., Ren, Y., Dong, X., & Wang, Q. (2018). The Association between Vitamin D Deficiency and Sleep Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 10(10), 1395. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101395

Ji, X., Grandner, M. A., & Liu, J. (2017). The relationship between micronutrient status and sleep patterns: a systematic review. Public health nutrition, 20(4), 687–701. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980016002603

Lichstein, K. L., Payne, K. L., Soeffing, J. P., Heith Durrence, H., Taylor, D. J., Riedel, B. W., & Bush, A. J. (2007). Vitamins and sleep: an exploratory study. Sleep medicine, 9(1), 27–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2006.12.009

McCarty, D. E., Reddy, A., Keigley, Q., Kim, P. Y., & Marino, A. A. (2012). Vitamin D, race, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 8(6), 693–697. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.2266

Pereira, N., Naufel, M. F., Ribeiro, E. B., Tufik, S., & Hachul, H. (2020). Influence of Dietary Sources of Melatonin on Sleep Quality: A Review. Journal of food science, 85(1), 5–13. https://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.14952

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