Getting a good night's rest sounds simple, but more than a third of American adults don't get enough sleep on a regular basis, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. By now you probably know that avoiding blue light and screens before bed, sleeping in a dark and cool room, and creating a wind-down routine can all improve your sleep, and according to experts, vitamin D may also improve your sleep quality.
What Role Does Vitamin D Play in the Body?
Although vitamin is in the name, vitamin D isn't actually a vitamin, Monisha Bhanote, MD, FCAP, founder and CEO of Integrative Medicine, told POPSUGAR. "It's a hormone that is mostly produced in the skin in response to sun exposure (approximately 90 percent)," Dr. Bhanote, explained. It's also possible for vitamin D to be absorbed through food (approximately 10 percent), she continued.
Vitamin D is most known for its ability to aid in calcium absorption which helps keep your bones strong, Nicole Avena, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, told POPSUGAR. It also supports a healthy immune system, brain and nervous system health, cardiovascular health, respiratory health, mental health, bone health, and can influence the expression of genes involved in cancer, both explained.
A lack of vitamin D in the body can lead to weakness and softness of the bones (rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults), diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, decreased mental health, and higher feelings of depression, according to Dr. Avena.
Can Vitamin D Improve Sleep?
It's obvious that vitamin D is essential to our well-being but can it help improve sleep? "We are just beginning to understand the relationship between vitamin D, melatonin, and sleep, but what we do know is that vitamin D deficiency can affect many things," Dr. Bhanote said. More research is needed, but some studies have shown that individuals with sleep issues were able to improve their quality of sleep and reduce sleep latency (the length of time it takes to go from being awake to being asleep) with vitamin D supplementation, she said.
Dr. Avena explained that vitamin D levels in the body have been shown to be directly related to sleep quality. "The higher the levels of vitamin D in the body, the fewer sleep disturbances and disorders recorded," she said. A potential explanation for this, according to Dr. Avena, is because there are numerous vitamin D receptors in the brain, which is the "control center" of the body's sleep function.
Should You Supplement With Vitamin D For Better Sleep?
Generally speaking, many people may be vitamin D deficient, being that we don't spend as much time outdoors in the sun, and when we do, most people tend to wear sunscreen which inhibits the skin from absorbing ultraviolet rays, Dr. Bhanote said; this especially true for people with darker skin.
Although spending around 20 minutes in the sun will allow you to meet the daily vitamin D recommendation, the part of the world you live in and your lifestyle can make it difficult to be in the sun. Eating foods rich in vitamin D, such as trout and Chilean farmed salmon (Dr. Avena recommends this as it has no mercury and contains other nutrients), can also help you meet the recommended daily vitamin D intake. If you can't get consistently get vitamin D from food sources or the sun, Dr. Avena said supplementation is fine.
But before deciding to take vitamin D supplements, Dr. Bhanote said to have your healthcare provider check your vitamin D levels to determine if supplementation is necessary, and if so, they can advise the best dosage based on your health. The only way to know if vitamin D will improve your individual sleep quality is to try it for yourself, but make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your nutrition and lifestyle.