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Do Certain Vitamins Help You Sleep?

by
author image Jessica Lewis
Jessica Lewis has published professionally since 2005 and is a registered dietitian and nutritionist. Her work is regularly found in the "National Post" and "Oxygen Magazine." She holds degrees from the University of Guelph and McMaster University. A marathon runner and yoga enthusiast, she is also interested in alternative medicine.
Do Certain Vitamins Help You Sleep?
A man taking a nap in a hammock on a sunny day. Photo Credit red_pepper82/iStock/Getty Images

As nice as it would be, taking vitamins won’t help you fall asleep, but a diet that helps you meet the recommended intake of certain vitamins can encourage healthier slumber. Sufficient rest is important for keeping your energy levels up, as well as reducing overall stress. Ensuring you have a healthy, well-balanced diet can put you on the path to a better night’s sleep.

Vitamin B-6 and Tryptophan

Vitamin B-6 comes in three primary forms, one of which, pyridoxal, aids in the production of tryptophan. Tryptophan is needed for your body to produce niacin as well as serotonin, which is associated with healthy, deep sleep. The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin B-6 is 1.3 to 2 milligrams per day. Widely available in foods, vitamin B-6 can also be taken as a supplement. Foods rich in vitamin B-6 include bananas, cooked salmon, turkey, chicken, spinach and potatoes. Many cereals are also fortified with vitamin B-6.

Vitamin B-9 and Serotonin

Vitamin B-9, also known as folate or folic acid, aids in the production of neurotransmitters, including serotonin, and it keeps your nervous system healthy and well-functioning. Folic acid is commonly taken as a supplement during pregnancy, and the natural form, folate, is available in a range of foods. Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and collards are especially high in folate, as are turnips, beets and Brussels sprouts. Beef liver, whole grains and salmon are also good sources of folate. In the United States, all cereal products are fortified with folic acid. The recommended dietary allowance is 400 micrograms, rising to 500 and 600 micrograms for breast-feeding and pregnant women, respectively.

Vitamin D and Sleep Quality

Vitamin D can be taken as a supplement, although your body can synthesize it on its own when your skin is exposed to direct sunlight. A 2014 issue of “Sleep Medicine Review” found that chronic low vitamin D levels increased inflammatory substance levels in the body, including those that help regulate sleep cycles. Low vitamin D levels were also found to increase the chances of developing or experiencing sleep apnea, which can lead to poor sleep. An earlier study, published in 2012 in the “Journal of Sleep Medicine,” found that low vitamin D also led to higher levels of daytime sleepiness, which influenced regular sleep cycles, encouraging insomnia and poor nighttime sleep. In both cases, scientists concluded that the human studies showed great promise, but further research is still required to understand the specific relationship between vitamin D and sleep. The RDA for vitamin D is 15 to 20 micrograms for all adults.

Iron and Restless Leg Syndrome

Iron is an essential mineral, not a vitamin, but low levels of iron can lead to poor sleep, as it is linked with restless leg syndrome. Restless leg syndrome is a neurological condition that often occurs at night, during sleep, and is characterized by an uncontrollable sensation to move your legs while asleep. A 2000 issue of the “Journal of Nueroscience Research” found that restless leg syndrome was more common in people with an iron deficiency. Scientists conducting this human study determined that increasing iron in the diet, either through foods or supplements, could reduce the instances of restless leg syndrome, leading to a better night’s sleep. Iron is found in high concentrations in dried fruits, beans, eggs, red meat, liver and oysters. It is also often added to cereals. The RDA of iron is 8 to 18 milligrams per day for all adults.

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