Vitamins: A First Level Defense for Insomnia

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Some people will go to great lengths to get relief from insomnia. But before you rush out and spend a lot of money on the latest advertised cure, or risk any side effects from sleeping medications, first make sure you’re meeting your body’s vitamin requirements. A lack of necessary vitamins could, in fact, be what’s causing your sleeping issues.

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Not all vitamins are the same

Water soluble vitamins, such as the B vitamins, aren't stored in the body, and need to be replaced regularly. Vitamins that are fat soluble, such as vitamin D or A, are stored in the body, and are eliminated more slowly. So be aware of your consumption of fat soluble vitamins, since it is possible to get too much of them.

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Vitamin A, fat soluble

Also known as retinol, vitamin A is essential for healthy skin, bones, teeth and mucous membranes. It also plays a big role in memory, sleep and regulating other brain functions. Vitamin A is naturally found in poultry, eggs, meat and dairy products. If you opt for vitamin A supplements, however, follow dosage directions closely. An overdose can cause headache, dizziness, bone pain and liver damage.

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Vitamin B12, water soluble

B-12 plays an important role in the formation of red blood cells and in metabolism. People deficient in B-12 may develop anemia or experience weakness, loss of balance and sleep disorders. Foods with B-12 include eggs, shellfish, poultry, dairy products, red meat and some fish. As a supplement, it’s recommended that 1.5-3 mg of B-12 be taken daily to improve sleep.

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Vitamin D, fat soluble

Vitamin D is required for the growth, development and long-term maintenance of bones. Deficiency in this vitamin has been shown to cause sleeplessness and fatigue. Vitamin D can be found in fish, dairy products, and oysters. The body also produces vitamin D via sunlight exposure. Those with limited exposure and spotty diets can take a supplement, but should do so carefully. Overdose can lead to muscle pain, vomiting and kidney stones.

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Vitamin B3, water soluble

Vitamin B-3, known as niacin, is essential for healthy skin, hair, eyes and a healthy liver. It also helps the nervous system work properly, so low levels can promote depression, anxiety and fatigue. You can get B-3 by eating fish, meat, peanuts, mushrooms and peas. An overdose can cause elevated sugar levels, liver damage and birth defects. The recommended dosage is 20 mg a day.

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The bottom line

While vitamins won’t induce sleep, a deficiency of them can lead to sleep problems. Vitamins are most effective when consumed through foods, but supplementation is an option if you feel your diet is lacking. If you think you may have a serious vitamin deficiency, you visit your doctor. Prescription strength vitamins can be prescribed.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.