How many hours do you sleep each night? If it’s seven or more hours, you’re doing well! A growing number of people are not getting a good night’s sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 30% of people complain of sleep issues and 10% are impaired during the day because of fatigue because of sleep problems. Women are more likely to suffer from sleep issues than men and poor quality sleep becomes more common with age.
We also know that sleep is vital for health! Research links poor sleep quality and too little slumber with a higher risk of accidents, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality. Lack of sleep can also impact your mood and your immune system. People deprived of sleep are more susceptible to pesky cold and flu viruses that circulate during the winter months.
A variety of factors can make it hard to sleep. Stress is major, but lifestyle habits play a role too. In fact, some vitamins and supplements that people take to improve their health can make it more challenging to fall asleep or stay asleep. Here are some you should know about.
With vitamin D deficiency being common, more people are taking vitamin D supplements. Deficiency of vitamin D is a problem because so few people get daily exposure to the sun, the stimulus that causes your body to produce vitamin D. While it’s important to correct vitamin D deficiency, taking a high dose of vitamin D could make it harder to sleep–but why?
One theory is that large amounts of vitamin D interfere with the body’s natural production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. As evening approaches, the release of melatonin by the pineal gland in the brain increases as a signal that it’s time to sleep. Interference with this process has a negative impact since melatonin sets your body’s circadian rhythms and helps bring on sleep. Melatonin has other important roles. For example, it’s a powerful antioxidant that plays a role in aging and cancer prevention. The brain produces less melatonin as we age, and this may explain the increased frequency of sleep problems among the elderly.
It’s possible that vitamin D interferes with melatonin, but don’t give up your vitamin D supplement just yet! Some research shows vitamin D deficiency causes sleep disturbances and insomnia too. In fact, research suggests that a vitamin level below 20 ng/ml increases the risk of insomnia
What does this mean? There may be a “sweet spot,” a level of vitamin D that optimizes sleep, but when you take more than you need, it negatively affects melatonin levels and makes it harder to sleep. It’s also possible that the timing of a vitamin D supplement matters. Don’t give up your vitamin D supplement if your level is low but realize it could impact your sleep. A possible fix is to take your vitamin D supplement in the morning.
Weight Loss Supplements
Weight loss supplements often contain stimulants that activate the nervous system and make it harder to sleep. Caffeine is one such stimulant, based on the knowledge that caffeine boosts metabolic rate and may suppress appetite too. However, many weight loss supplements contain herbal stimulants other than caffeine that can interfere with sleep.
Sometimes, weight loss supplements are formulated with components that have stimulant properties similar to amphetamines. For example, a study found that 9 out of 21 dietary supplements contain beta-methylphenethylamine, a compound that resembles amphetamines in structure.
In addition, independent testing shows weight loss supplements may contain ingredients not listed on the label, including prescription medications with stimulant activity. There are so many reasons to avoid weight loss supplements and sleep problems are just one of them. You don’t always know what you’re getting when you swallow a weight loss supplement.
Vitamin B12 Supplements
Although a deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause sleep problems, people who take vitamin B12 supplements may experience insomnia. As with vitamin D, too much or too little vitamin B12 can make it harder to sleep. Unless you’re deficient in vitamin B12, which you can determine via a blood test, it’s best to avoid taking large doses of vitamin B12. However, people who eat a vegan diet need to supplement with this vitamin since plant-based foods don’t contain it. Know why you’re taking a vitamin supplement. Don’t do it based on clever marketing. Even so-called natural supplements can have unexpected side effects.
A 2008 study published in the journal Sleep finds that people who take a multivitamin have more problems maintaining sleep. Multivitamin users accumulate fewer hours of uninterrupted sleep and wake up more often during the night. This doesn’t show cause and effect though. It’s possible that people who have problems sleeping are more likely to use multivitamins hoping to correct their sleep problems. However, researchers try to control for these factors, and they did that in this study.
It’s possible that multivitamins have differing effects depending on the individual. Plus, multivitamins come in a variety of formulations. They contain other additives that may impact sleep. Therefore, why there’s an association isn’t clear. Most multivitamins contain some vitamin B12 and vitamin D and this may be a factor. There’s still much we don’t know, but if you’re having problems sleeping and are taking a multivitamin, try discontinuing it for a few days and see if your sleep improves.
The Bottom Line
If you’re having problems falling asleep, look at your lifestyle first, but don’t forget to scrutinize the supplements you’re taking. Some medications can cause sleep disturbances too. Talk to your physician about whether the medications you’re taking could interfere with sleep. Make sure you’re making enough time for sleep. It matters!
· Sleep Med. 2008 Jan; 9(1): 27–32.
· Nutrients. 2018 Oct; 10(10): 1395.
· LiveScience.com. “Some Weight Loss Supplements Contain Amphetamine-Like Compound”
· National Sleep Foundation. “Insomnia”
· National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. “Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency”
· ConsumerLab.com. “Can Supplements Cause Insomnia?”
· J Physiol Pharmacol. 2011 Feb;62(1):13-9.