Combined, vitamins and minerals – also known as essential nutrients – are responsible for hundreds of functions in the body. They are absolutely critical to good health – and are often the reason for not-so-good health. In fact, long-term vitamin and mineral deficiencies can lead to the development of potentially life-threatening diseases and illnesses.
Though vitamins and minerals are often grouped together, there are some significant differences between the two:
– Minerals are non-organic and maintain their chemical structure. They come from soil and water. Thus, thus we ingest them through the animals, fish, fluids, and plants that we eat.
– Vitamins are organic, and are broken down by air, acid, and heat. Since vitamins are so fragile, they are more difficult to absorb.
Why is this distinction important? Because both internal and external influences (body, environment, stress, insomnia, etc.) can lead to malnutrition; mainly through a shortage of vitamins within the body, but also through a lack of minerals. Further, the chemical makeup of vitamins necessitates additional dosing under certain conditions, such as those mentioned above.
Vitamins, Nutrients, and Sleep
“Sleep is important.” We’ve heard these three words – or some variation of them – over and over again. Yet, despite the mass of knowledge available explaining the essential nature of sleep, many of us shrug it off.
When we see a doctor about our sleep troubles, they are all-too-eager to prescribe a “knock-me-out pill.” (See: “Valium, Xanax, usage.”) It’s more time-consuming to evaluate things like diet and exercise and how they may be affecting our shut-eye.
It goes without saying that both diet and exercise profoundly influence sleep quality. Relatedly, both have various effects on the absorption and activity of vitamins and minerals.
Very quickly, here is a list of vital tasks that both minerals and vitamins perform – most of which directly affect sleep:
– Ensure balance of water in the body
– Help build and maintain bone health
– Carry oxygen throughout the body
– Promote oral health
– Assist with the metabolism of vitamins
– Encourage cell formation and health
– Build bones (Vitamins A, D, and K.)
– Protect the immune system (Vitamins C, E, and others.)
– Help store other vitamins and minerals (Vitamin E.)
– Release energy into the body (B-vitamins.)
– Permit energy production (Biotin, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and thiamine.)
– Build cells and proteins (Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid.)
– Produce collagen (Vitamins C & D)
Now that we’ve gotten our “review” out of the way, let’s talk about a few specific vitamins and minerals needed to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Here are 5 nutrient deficiencies that can cause poor sleep:
1. Magnesium Deficiencies
Magnesium is sometimes referred to as “nature’s chill pill,” and for a good reason. ‘Mg’ relaxes both the brain and heart through regulation of blood flow. More specifically, Mg chemically activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) – the automatic response that counters the fight-or-flight mode.
Mg also regulates the sleep hormone, melatonin. Melatonin controls the sleep-wake cycle of the body, also known as the circadian rhythm.
2. Potassium Deficiencies
Potassium, like magnesium, is a natural relaxant. While Mg helps get you to sleep, ‘K’ helps keep you asleep. (Unrelated question: can some chemistry major explain why the letter ‘K’ was chosen for potassium on the periodic table?)
Anywho, potassium supplementation may improve sleep quality and duration in healthy adults. Lack of potassium correlates with both heart irregularities and muscle spasms – the two most common causes of disturbed sleep!
3. B-vitamin Deficiencies
Numerous studies demonstrate that B-vitamins impact the quality of sleep and lack thereof. A deficiency of vitamin B-9 (folic acid) connects to the onset of insomnia. Meanwhile, vitamin B-12 is said to ease the symptoms of insomnia.
Consuming B-5 (pantothenic acid) is said to relieve anxiety and stress, which may help promote sleep.
4. Iron Deficiencies
The results from a study published in African Health Sciences found that iron deficiency anemia (IDA) – a condition wherein the blood lacks healthy red blood cells – contributes to poor sleep quality. (A relationship also exists between iron deficiency and the presence of anxiety and depression.)
Other research shows that low iron levels cause problems such as shortness of breath and heart palpitations. Iron deficiency is also linked to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and restless leg syndrome (RLS).
5. Calcium Deficiencies
Per Medical News Today, calcium is directly related to sleep cycles. In a study published in the European Neurology Journal, scientists discovered that calcium levels are highest during REM sleep – the deepest phase. Thus, we can attribute some sleep disturbances to calcium deficiencies.
Besides magnesium, calcium may be the most important mineral for good sleep. This may help to explain why dairy products, which are rich in calcium, are the most widely-consumed products of the sleep-deprived.