Insomniac's Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and Others
Nutritional deficiencies or poor nutrition absorption can cause sleep troubles and chronic insomnia.
This section highlights vitamins and minerals known to have effects on sleep and help with insomnia.
When changing your vitamin and mineral intake, allow a couple of weeks to judge its effects. Keep in mind that, generally, vitamin absorption declines with age.
Group of B Vitamins
Studies have shown that maintaining sufficient levels of Vitamins B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12 particularly help in achieving good sleep.
Among other affects, the group of B Vitamins is involved in regulating the body's level of tryptophan, an amino acid important for maintaining healthy sleep (covered later).
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) often promotes sleep in people who have insomnia caused by depression and increases effectiveness of tryptophan. It is reported to help people who fall asleep rapidly but keep waking up during the night.
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is good for relieving stress and anxiety. A deficiency of B5 can cause sleep disturbances and fatigue.
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid) deficiency has been linked to insomnia.
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is reported to help insomniacs who have problems falling asleep, as well as promoting normal sleep-awake cycles.
Other relatives of the B Vitamins have been found to be helpful in some insomniac cases.
It is important to note that B-complex vitamins are used up more quickly by those who smoke, drink alcohol, are stressed and/or take birth control-pills. Consider increasing your intake of Vitamin B if you are in any of these groups.
Good natural sources of B Vitamins include potatoes, bananas, liver, liver oil, fish, turkey, nutritional yeast and molasses.
Be aware that B Vitamins can act as energizers in some people and can cause over-stimulation and sleeplessness.
If you want to check out the effect of B Vitamins on your insomnia, take a supplement containing the entire B complex about 2 hours before bedtime for a couple of weeks and see if it helps to improve your sleep.
Calcium is a natural relaxant and has a calming effect on the central nervous system. It is essential for good sleep. Even a minor calcium deficiency can lead to muscle tension and insomnia. At the same time, Calcium can be rapidly depleted under stressful conditions.
Insomnia can be a result of low Calcium levels, its poor absorption, or both.
Dairy products, such as milk and cheese, are a well-known source of Calcium. Other sources are seaweeds (kelp), nuts and seeds (almonds and sesame), beans, oranges, broccoli, and fortified products, such as soy milk. An overlooked source of calcium is eggshell, which can be ground into a powder and mixed with food.
If taking Calcium as a supplement, take it just before bedtime.
Note that Magnesium and Vitamin D are required for good Calcium absorption and proper mineral balance.
Magnesium deficiency can cause nervousness, which may prevent you from sleeping. Low levels of magnesium can lead to shallower sleep and cause you to wake more during the night.
Magnesium-rich foods are wheat bran, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, and kelp.
Copper and Iron
Poor sleep can be caused by the lack of copper and iron in the diet. These minerals very strongly affect sleep patterns.
Keep in mind, however, that copper and iron need to be in proper balance with other minerals in the body, and too much of either one can cause serious side effects.
Tryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid. It is found in foods such as milk, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, cheese, and leafy green vegetables.
Tryptophan is one of the elements that make you feel sleepy after a big steak or turkey dinner.
It is important because of its production of serotonin, which slows down nervous activity and induces sleep.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body, which basically tells the human brain and body that it is dark outside and it is time to sleep.
Studies in both animals and humans indicate that taking melatonin is extremely safe, with very few people reporting any side effects.
Although Melatonin is a natural sedative and induces sleep, some experts are reluctant to recommend it because of its other actions as a hormone.
Melatonin is available without prescriptions, alone and as part of many "sleep remedies" for insomnia.
You can try taking Melatonin before bed time. However, as with any sleep remedy, use it as infrequently and in as low dosage as possible.