If it’s 2am and you’re reading this article in hopes of finding a solution to your endless tossing and turning, you’re not alone, the Sleep Health Foundation reports that 1.5 million Australian adults now suffer from sleep disorders.
Unfortunately, chronic sleep deprivation can have serious health consequences. One study published in the journal Sleep found that sleeping less than seven hours per on a regular basis doubles your mortality risk and sleeping less than six hours quadruples your risk.
But there may be more to blame than your stressful lifestyle, graveyard shift work, or staying glued to your smartphone while lying in bed. “An often over looked factor in sleep problems is a vitamin deficiency,” says Dr Arielle Levitan, “We need adequate levels of key nutrients to get good quality sustained sleep.” Following are some of the best-known vitamins and minerals that could help you get the ZZZs you need.
You probably already know of vitamin C’s importance to your immune system, but did you also know it’s vital to sleep? According to a 2014 study published in PLOS ONE, people who have low levels of vitamin C had more sleep issues and were more prone to waking up during the night. You could also pop a vitamin C gummy for extra assurance.
Iron helps transport oxygen throughout your body, which is why a deficiency can leave you feeling fatigued. Remember how Popeye eats spinach and becomes strong and powerful? Yep, spinach is packed with iron. An iron deficiency has been linked to restless leg syndrome, a condition that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an urge to move the legs when falling asleep. Dr Levitan says iron deficiency is common – particularly among women. If you have iron-deficiency anaemia, you may need to take a supplement.
This essential mineral assists your body in producing the sleep hormone melatonin. Magnesium also relieves muscle tension that can prevent restful sleep; it can even help ease tension by encouraging production of an amino acid known as GABA, which that relaxes the nervous system. The Australian Department of Health reports that 60 per cent of men and 70 per cent of women aren’t getting the recommended dietary allowance of magnesium, and a supplement may be helpful. However, always check with your doctor particularly if you have kidney failure or an excessively slow heart rate. In this case enjoy foods with higher magnesium content, such as green leafy veggies, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and Brazil nuts.
Vitamin B12 keeps the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps the body create energy. Dr Levitan sees many patients – particularly vegans, vegetarians, and older adults – who are deficient in vitamin B12. Low vitamin B12 can cause fatigue, sleep disturbances, numbness and tingling, and other symptoms.
L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid – your body uses amino acids to build proteins. You need tryptophan to make niacin, a B vitamin vital to serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that helps produce healthy sleep patterns. Since your body cannot make tryptophan on its own, it must come from your diet (foods such as eggs, poultry, chia seeds, and sweet potatoes) or supplements.
At night, the pineal gland of the brain produces a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin helps regulate the body’s day/night circadian rhythm, including the timing with which other hormones are released. Research suggests that taking a melatonin supplement can help you get your beauty rest. Clinical nutritionist, Dr David Friedman recommends starting with a low 1 mg dose and says it’s crucial to time it right for your sleep pattern: If you are able to fall asleep, but have a hard time staying asleep, try taking a controlled-release formulation 30 minutes before going to bed; if you have a hard time falling asleep, a better option is a quick-release sublingual or liquid form, taken an hour before bed. If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t take melatonin to go back to sleep, as this will throw off your internal clock.
Research suggests there may be a link between low levels of vitamin D and poor sleep quality. Your body can only produce this fat-soluble vitamin when sunlight hits your skin, and as it’s difficult to get enough from food, Dr Levitan finds many patients need higher doses to maintain normal serum levels. It’s important to talk with your doctor about your individual nutrient needs, as too much vitamin D can lead to constipation, nausea, vomiting, and kidney stones.
A study in The Journal of Sleep Research that found calcium deficiency could disrupt the dream cycle of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). When the researchers brought calcium levels up to normal, the volunteers regained normal REM sleep. You can get the mineral from dairy or you can also eat more foods like kale, mustard, collard greens, sardines, and sesame seeds to boost your calcium intake. The Australian Department of Health’s intake recommendations are 1000 mg per day for adult females aged 19 to 50 and 1,300 mg for those 51 and older, for males it’s 1000 mg per day for those aged 19 to 70 and 1300 for those 71 and older. If you’re not meeting that amount, you may need to take a supplement to make up the difference.
Omega 3s are healthy fats that known for their many benefits to heart and brain health. Some research has also linked omega-3 supplementation with better sleep. Fatty fish like salmon have a lot of omega-3s.
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