Vitamin deficiencies are often associated with a host of health problems, but the link between vitamin deficiency and poor sleep is usually overlooked. Studies have started to show relationships between certain vitamins and quality of sleep. Additionally, these vitamins are usually connected to mental health, and symptoms like stress and insomnia.

Dr. Leaf, neuroscientist and author of Eat and Think Yourself Smart, tells Bustle that being stressed or having other mental health issues can actually prevent the body from absorbing nutrients, which worsens mental health, and creates a vicious feedback loop.

“The mind drives the digestive system,” Dr. Leaf says. “The effectiveness of how much nutrition we get from food is very much controlled by the state of mind that you’re in.”

Dr. Leaf recommends eating more whole foods to get more nutrients, and work on bettering your mental health. When it comes to mental health and sleep quality, taking vitamins is certainly not a cure-all. It is easy to get too much of a certain vitamin, which can actually lead to worse sleep, and vitamins cannot cure underlying mental health conditions.



You’ve probably heard of serotonin before, but can’t say exactly what it as and how it works. “Most people know serotonin as ‘the happy chemical’ because low levels are associated with depression,” says Lynn Jonen, psychologist and clinical director of Sierra Tucson. So let’s start there.

“[We need to start teaching people to become much more aware of embracing their anxiety,” Dr. Leaf says. “If they’re feeling anxious, if they’re feeling panicky or feeling depressed, try not to suppress it […] but see it as a signal telling you that there’s something that’s not dealt with.”

Here are seven vitamins you may be lacking if you have trouble sleeping, according to experts.

1. Vitamin D

It’s no surprise that a deficiency in the sunshine vitamin affects roughly 41 percent of Americans. Vitamin D is mainly produced when your body is exposed to the sun, and is only found in a few foods like fish and some dairy products.

Studies have shown that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with sleep disorders, and low levels of Vitamin D increase the risk of a sleep disorder. Since it can be hard to get Vitamin D from food, if you aren’t getting enough Vitamin D you can take a pill to get your daily dose. But make sure to take your vitamin with meals, as Vitamin D is fat-soluble.

2. Vitamin C

Not just good for fighting colds, Vitamin C can also help lower stress hormones, and fight symptoms of stress like sickness and poor sleep. Studies have shown that Vitamin C can reduce cortisol (a stress hormone) levels, help stress tolerance, and fight sleep deprivation.

Aside from eating oranges, you can boost your Vitamin C levels by eating kale, broccoli, peppers, and strawberries.

3. Calcium

It turns out there may be some truth behind that nightly glass of warm milk. Studies have shown that calcium levels are highest during REM sleep, the deepest sleep phase when dreams occur. Calcium helps boost production of melatonin, which is why foods high in calcium, like dairy, can actually make us sleepier.

4. Vitamin B12

Vegans and vegetarians in particular have to watch their levels of B12, as Vitamin B12 is mostly found in animal products. A Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to insomnia, depression, and both daytime fatigue and sleep problems at night. If you start to notice these symptoms after switching to a more plant-based diet, it may be worth taking a supplement.

5. Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency has been linked to poor sleep as well as anxiety and depression (which can worsen insomnia). Increasing levels of magnesium has been shown to better sleep quality and regulate stress levels.

Magnesium is often recommended to patients with anxiety or depression, but can be beneficial to anyone. You can find magnesium in dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and dark chocolate.

6. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 benefits the body by converting tryptophan, an amino acid, into serotonin, which regulates mood and melatonin levels.

Vitamin B6 deficiency has been linked to poor sleep quality. Studies show that participants who took a Vitamin B6 supplement reported better sleep quality, and feeling more well-rested and refreshed when they woke up in the mornings.

Vitamin B6 can be found in foods such as chickpeas, salmon, watermelon, and spinach.

7. Melatonin

The body naturally produces melatonin, but factors like bright lights or even diet can reduce production of melatonin and make it harder to sleep at night. There are many ways to naturally boost levels of melatonin, like reducing exposure to blue light, eating melatonin-rich foods like goji berries, walnuts, or pineapple, or trying relaxation techniques which potentially boost levels of melatonin.

Dr. Leaf recommends both eating whole foods, nutritious diet, and reducing stress to maximize nutrition and health. If you think you are deficient in any of the above vitamins, it may be worth speaking to a doctor to determine if supplements are right for you.

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