Could a Lack of These Vitamins Be the Reason for Your Restless Nights? – CNET

You may have heard of the more common issues that are disrupting our sleep: blue light from screens, not having a relaxing nighttime routine or too much caffeine. However, lacking certain vitamins may play a role in keeping you awake at night. Vitamins can and do affect our sleep. Learn about how vitamin deficiency can affect a good night’s sleep and how to make sure you’re getting these nutrients in your diet. 

The role vitamins play in sleep 

Vitamins and other nutrients maintain our body’s functions, so it makes sense that vitamin deficiency can also affect how we sleep. 

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According to MedlinePlus, each vitamin helps a wide range of bodily functions and organs. Vitamin K helps blood coagulate. Vitamin E helps form red blood cells, vitamin C helps with healthy teeth and gums, vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and vitamin A helps with a wide variety of body parts, from bones to soft tissue. Biotin (vitamin B7) also helps with metabolizing proteins and carbs, as well as producing hormones. Folate helps vitamin B12 form red blood cells, and is also important for DNA production. These are just a few examples

Not getting enough nutrients can also play into sleep disruptions. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a study in 2018 suggested a link between vitamin D deficiency and sleep disorders. Iron deficiency may also lead to restless leg syndrome, which can cause sleep problems. Below we’ll cover other nutrients that affect sleep. 

Vitamin D deficiency 

Vitamin D is one of the vitamins that is most strongly linked to sleep loss. Lacking vitamin D has been linked to sleep disorders. A study found a both “direct and indirect” role vitamin D plays in sleep regulation. The study states that Vitamin D plays a role in melatonin production pathways, and melatonin helps with the regulation of circadian rhythms and sleep. (Find out what else you can try besides melatonin, such as these supplements and GABA.) 

However, while vitamin D has been linked to sleep disorders, more studies are needed to support vitamin D supplementation for preventing sleep problems. A 2022 systematic review did suggest that vitamin D supplementation helped with better sleep quality. 

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency 

According to Cleveland Clinic, the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency in adults include: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Bone pain
  • Muscle weakness, aches or cramps
  • Mood changes 

In children, vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets, which can manifest as:

  • Bowed or bent bones, leading to incorrect growth patterns
  • Bone pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint deformities 

Best food sources for vitamin D 

Cleveland Clinic also listed the types of foods that have high vitamin D:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel 
  • Beef liver 
  • Rainbow trout
  • Mushrooms
  • Egg yolks
  • Cod liver oil 
  • Fortified foods: milk, breakfast cereals, orange juice and yogurt 

Raw salmon filets on wooden cutting board with dill, rosemary and lemon.

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Vitamin B6 deficiency 

Vitamin B6 is also linked to sleep disturbance treatment. One study mentioned that B6 has been associated with reducing psychological distress, which could help with insomnia, although the study mentioned “mixed effects.” However, stronger evidence exists for the antidepressant effects of B6 for hormone-related depression in women, and depression is shown to affect sleep quality. B6 was also used as part of a B vitamin-magnesium-melatonin treatment for insomnia, which was shown to be effective in the study. 

Symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency 

Healthline lists the symptoms of B6 deficiency as: 

  • Skin rashes
  • Cracked and sore lips 
  • Sore, glossy tongue 
  • Changes in mood
  • Weakened immunity 
  • Lethargy 
  • Tingling and pain in hands or feet
  • Seizures 
  • High homocysteine, an amino acid associated with adverse health effects like heart disease and stroke

Best food sources for vitamin B6 

Some foods high in vitamin B6 listed by Healthline include:

  • Turkey breast 
  • Pork loin
  • Halibut 
  • Sirloin steak
  • Chicken breast
  • Coho salmon, wild-caught
  • Bananas
  • Baked potato with skin
  • Pistachios 
  • Sweet red pepper
  • Prunes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Avocado 
  • Lentils 

Vitamin B12 deficiency 

Vitamin B12 was another nutrient used in the study to help patients with insomnia, along with magnesium and melatonin. It had promising results for helping sleep in a three-month trial. According to the National Health Service in the UK, being low in vitamin B12 can also lead to psychological problems like depression. Depression is also a factor in sleep problems. 

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency 

The NHS also lists a wide variety of B12 deficiency symptoms:

  • Rapid breathing/shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Palpitations 
  • Vision problems
  • Weakness or feeling tired
  • Diarrhea
  • Sore tongue, mouth ulcers
  • Issues with memory, understanding and judgment 
  • Numbness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Psychological issues, like depression, anxiety, confusion and dementia 
  • Balance and coordination problems
  • Feelings of pins and needles
  • Incontinence 

Best food sources for vitamin B12 

To get B12 in your diet, Healthline recommends: 

  • Liver and kidneys 
  • Clams
  • Sardines
  • Beef
  • Fortified cereal 
  • Tuna
  • Fortified nutritional yeast
  • Trout
  • Salmon
  • Fortified milks and dairy products 
  • Eggs
  • B12-rich foods like liver, cheese and milk.

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Vitamin C deficiency 

One study summarized how important it is to get vitamin C to help with sleep. In fact, consuming more vitamin C may have helped increase sleep duration, reduce disruptions to sleep, help with movement disorders and even help reduce the effects of sleep apnea. 

Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency 

According to Healthline, some of the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency included:

  • Rough skin
  • Body hair shaped like corkscrews 
  • Bright red hair follicles 
  • Fingernails that are spoon-shaped and have red spots or lines
  • Dry skin
  • Easy bruising 
  • Wounds that heal slowly
  • Pain and swelling in joints
  • Weak bones
  • Bleeding gums/tooth loss
  • Poor immunity
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Poor mood and tiredness
  • Weight gain
  • Chronic inflammation 

Best food sources for vitamin C 

According to the National Institutes of Health, you can find vitamin C in:

  • Sweet red peppers
  • Oranges / orange juice
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Green peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Tomato juice / tomatoes
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower 
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach 
  • Green peas 

Read more: Trouble Sleeping? These Easy Tricks Can Help

Vitamin E deficiency 

One study looked at how vitamin E supplements affected postmenopausal women who had chronic insomnia. After one month of a vitamin E prescription, the study suggested improved sleep quality. 

Another study suggested that vitamin E can help undo some of the memory impairment caused by sleep deprivation. It was theorized that vitamin E’s antioxidant action in the hippocampus helped with improved memory function. 

Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency 

According to Healthline, symptoms of memory impairment include:

  • Difficulty with coordination or walking
  • Weakness or muscle pain
  • Visual issues
  • General feeling of unwellness 

Best food sources for vitamin E 

The National Institutes of Health lists where you can find this nutrient:

  • Vegetable oils: Wheat germ, sunflower, safflower 
  • Nuts: Peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds
  • Green vegetables: Spinach, broccoli 
  • Fortified foods: Breakfast cereals, juices or spreads 

Iron deficiency 

One study looked at how iron deficiency anemia affected sleep. In children with IDA, there were shorter durations or negatively altered states of REM sleep. IDA is also associated with restless leg syndrome, which can affect sleep negatively. Most participants with IDA in the study (68%) had impaired sleep quality. 

Another study suggested that iron supplementation could help patients who are displaying sleep disorders. 

Symptoms of iron deficiency 

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weakness 
  • Pale skin
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath or fast heartbeat 
  • Dizziness, headaches or lightheadedness
  • Cold feet and hands
  • Soreness and inflammation of the tongue 
  • Brittle nails
  • Pica, or eating non-nutritive items, like dirt or ice
  • Poor appetite 

Best food sources for iron 

To include iron in your diet, the Mayo Clinic suggests:

  • Red meat, poultry or pork
  • Seafood
  • Beans
  • Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach
  • Dried fruit
  • Peas
  • Iron-fortified foods: Bread, cereals, pasta 

Magnesium deficiency 

The Cleveland Clinic looked at if vitamins or supplements can help with sleep quality. It suggested magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate to help improve sleep quality. These supplements might change the number of neurotransmitters associated with calming effects. 

Magnesium was also included in the study seeking to improve sleep using a magnesium-melatonin-vitamin B complex, with promising results. That was the study that ran for three months with this supplementation complex and helped patients with insomnia. 

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency 

Cleveland Clinic lists these symptoms of magnesium deficiency: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea 
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Abnormal heart rhythms 
  • Numbness and tingling 
  • Personality changes 
  • Seizures

Best food sources for magnesium 

Foods to seek out containing magnesium, according to the Cleveland Clinic, include:

  • Greens
  • Dry beans, especially black beans 
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains 
  • Avocados 

Magnesium-rich foods like nuts, seeds and avocados.

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The importance of a balanced diet for good sleep 

There is a distinct connection between what you eat and your sleep quality. Low fiber and high saturated fat diets may decrease the quality of sleep, for instance. Eating too much sugar can make you wake up more often, as well.

To tailor your diet towards the goal of a good night’s sleep, Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends:

Reducing alcohol consumption. When alcohol wears off, it tends to wake people up in the middle of the night. Try tart cherry juice instead.

Avoiding caffeine. Don’t drink or consume caffeine late in the day, as this can keep you up hours into the night.

Limiting high-fat and protein-heavy foods. These foods can take a longer time to break down, disrupting sleep. In general, you might choose a high-fiber and low-fat protein diet, which is easier to digest. Foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables and low-fat protein like beans or white meat poultry are solid choices. You can also learn about the best foods for sleep

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