7 Important Vitamins For Insomnia
Insomnia is often defined as, "the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep long enough to feel rested, especially when the problem continues over time."
According to WebMD, one in four US workers suffers from the condition, leading to carelessness at work, an increased risk of being involved in an accident, and even a higher chance of suffering from a cardiac arrest.
In a desperate attempt to combat the lack of sleep, many people turn to prescription medications.
Others however, are looking for a more natural approach to treating their insomnia. If that’s you, in this article we’ll be taking a look at 7 of the most important vitamins and minerals that have been shown to combat the condition, and improve sleep quality and duration.
7 Important Vitamins For Insomnia
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is more commonly known for helping to build strong bones and allowing the body to absorb calcium properly.
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It can however, also influence your quality of sleep – specifically your sleep maintenance, or your ability to stay asleep throughout the night.
A 2014 study showed that a higher intake of Vitamin D was significantly associated with a reduced risk for experiencing difficulty maintaining a full night’s sleep.
You’ll get plenty of Vitamin D if you get regular sun exposure and occasionally eat fish, but sometimes a supplement can also be useful.
In a choice between Vitamin D-3 and D-2, you’re best bet is to probably go for the more natural, bioavailable form – D-3.
As the Bulletproof Exec Dave Asprey points out though, you don’t want to overdo it, “And to correct vitamin D-related sleep disorders, you have to be careful about the amount of vitamin D you take and when you take it. Take 1000 IUs of Vitamin D-3 per 25 pounds of body weight, but not more than 10,000 IU’s”.
2. The B -Vitamins
The B-Vitamins are a group of water soluble micronutrients that play an important role in cell metabolism and many other important bodily functions - it seems that one of which is related to sleep quality.
As the guys over at Sleep Tips point out, most of the B-Vitamins play a role in improving symptoms of insomnia:
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) often promotes sleep in people who have insomnia caused by depression and increases effectiveness of tryptophan. It is reported to help people who fall asleep rapidly but keep waking up during the night.
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is good for relieving stress and anxiety. A deficiency of B5 can cause sleep disturbances and fatigue.
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid) deficiency has been linked to insomnia.
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is reported to help insomniacs who have problems falling asleep, as well as promoting normal sleep-awake cycles.
B-Vitamin rich foods include bananas, avocados, fish, wholegrains, pulses, and eggs. You could also consider taking a B-Vitamin complex supplement, or a good quality multivitamin.
Like Vitamin D, Calcium is more commonly known for its role in maintaining a robust skeletal system. It does however; also influence your sleep cycles.
A 2009 study showed that a lack of the micronutrients calcium and magnesium can cause you to wake up after a few hours and not be able to return to sleep.
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William Sears, M.D commented, "Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are one of the top sleep-inducing foods."
As well as dairy products, calcium is also found in abundance in leafy greens, pulses and wholegrains.
According to the Medical Encyclopedia, “Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, supports a healthy immune system, keeps the heart beat steady, and helps bones remain strong.”
It also aids in the absorption of calcium, and plays a role in regulating sleep.
One of the main symptoms of a magnesium deficiency is insomnia, and an inability to maintain good quality sleep throughout the night.
As mentioned above, maintaining adequate levels of magnesium via whole foods or supplements helps you to remain in a deep sleep without waking.
Magnesium-rich foods include leafy greens, dark chocolate, almonds, cashews, molasses, and kelp.
If you decide that you want to supplement with additional magnesium, the magnesium threonate form may be the best to go for, as it is able to penetrate cell membranes, allowing for better absorption.
Zinc plays an important role in wound clotting, regulating the immune system, maintaining thyroid function, and much more.
And as well as helping to regulate sleep, Zinc has been shown to improve the vividness of dreams.
As explained over at Nutrition Central, “When researching the signs and symptoms of vitamin B6 and zinc deficiency Dr Carl Pfeiffer, from the Brain Bio Center in New Jersey, found that an alarming proportion of deficient people couldn't recall their dreams. After supplementing with B6 and zinc, often in doses as high as 1,000 mg of B6 and 100 mg of zinc, dream recall would return. If they took too much B6 and zinc dreams became too vivid and the person would wake up in the night.”
Zinc is found in abundance beef, chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin seeds, quinoa and shrimp.
With regards to supplements, zinc picolinate seems to be the most easily absorbed by the body.
Zinc is also often combined with magnesium in a product called ZMA, for a potent one-two combo that improves sleep quality and aids in post workout recover
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid typically found in pulses, leafy greens, fish, poultry, dairy products, and eggs
Ever felt sleepy after consuming your Turkey-filled Christmas Dinner? That’s the tryptophan taking its effect…
Tryptophan is important as it allows for the production of the sleep hormone serotonin, which helps the body wind down and enter that parasympathetic, ‘rest and digest’ mode.
The guys at Web MD state that, “Taking L-tryptophan might decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and improve mood in healthy people with sleep problems. There is also some evidence that taking L-tryptophan might decrease episodes in some people who periodically stop breathing during sleep (sleep apnea).”
Last but not least, melatonin is a natural hormone made by the pineal gland - a pea-sized gland found at the centre of the brain. Levels of the hormone in the blood usually start to rise at around 9pm, inducing a feeling of sleepiness, and they remain elevated for a further 12 hours. As well as being produced in the body, melatonin is also found in some foods, including pineapples, bananas, rice, tomatoes, oranges and oats. Many people also choose to take a supplement.
Dr. Merola has the low down on melatonin supplementation for us, “Ideally, it is best to increase melatonin levels naturally with exposure to bright sunlight in the daytime (along with full spectrum fluorescent bulbs in the winter) and absolute complete darkness at night.
If that isn't possible, you may want to consider a melatonin supplement. Keep in mind that only a very small dose is required — typically 0.25 mg or 0.5 mg to start with, and you can adjust it up from there. Taking higher doses, such as 3 mg, can sometimes make you more wakeful instead of sleepier, so adjust your dose carefully."
So by all means experiment with a melatonin supplement, but take care to control the dosage and measure your results.
What vitamins and minerals do you take to improve your sleep quality and control your symptoms of insomnia?