Unlock Better Sleep and Ward Off Dementia: The Power of Vitamin D
Unlock Better Sleep and Ward Off Dementia: The Power of Vitamin D

By Amber Yang and JoJo Novaes

Since the pandemic, vitamin D has received extra attention for its role in COVID-19 outcomes. But beyond COVID and boosting immunity, the vitamin has many more functions, including facilitating calcium absorption and preventing dementia. Dr. Ou Han Wen, an integrative medicine specialist at the University of Maryland, detailed the sleep disorders that may result from vitamin D deficiency and outlined the best supplement methods.

Vitamin D, as a hormone, regulates the immune and cardiovascular systems, skin and muscle functions, cellular proliferation, and various other biological activities. A deficiency in it can lead to the following four symptoms or conditions:

  1. Osteoporosis: Vitamin D facilitates calcium absorption in the small intestine, enhancing bone strength. Inadequate vitamin D levels prevent the body from absorbing calcium, regardless of availability.
  2. Weakened immune system: Research has found that vitamin D plays a crucial role in immune regulation. Supplementing with vitamin D can help the body combat viruses. Studies have shown a negative correlation between serum vitamin D levels and the incidence and severity of COVID-19.
  3. Cardiovascular disease: Cardiovascular disease has long been associated with cholesterol, as high cholesterol levels can lead to blood clots. However, in reality, cholesterol deposits in blood vessels occur due to inflammation, leading to the formation of oxidized cholesterol. Adequate vitamin D levels can help reduce inflammation and free radical attacks, lowering the risk of oxidized cholesterol and thus preventing cardiovascular disease.
  4. Low mood or insomnia: Vitamin D is closely linked to the secretion of neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin, thus playing a pivotal role in regulating mood and sleep. One study found that vitamin D supplementation had a positive effect in alleviating depressive symptoms in patients with depression. Additionally, it may help improve overall mood and sleep quality.

Improving Sleep Disorders With Vitamin D

Dr. Ou explained that insomnia can be categorized into three main types. The first type is difficulty falling asleep, where one tosses and turns for over 30 minutes without being able to fall asleep. The second involves waking up more than three times during the night. The third type is waking up earlier than the intended wake-up time or before dawn. Additionally, some cases of insomnia are caused by conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux, nocturnal leg cramps, or restless legs syndrome.

Vitamin D can improve insomnia characterized by light sleep, vivid dreams, and difficulty achieving deep sleep. The brain contains numerous vitamin D receptors, and when vitamin D binds to these receptors, it influences the secretion of neurotransmitters like melatonin and serotonin. Research has found a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and sleep disorders. Specifically, vitamin D deficiency can lead to inadequate melatonin production, making it difficult to fall asleep. Furthermore, this deficiency can reduce serotonin levels, resulting in anxiety.

However, Dr. Ou emphasized that one should not resort to vitamin D supplementation as an immediate solution for insomnia. It is crucial first to identify the underlying cause of the condition. Dr. Ou recalled a patient who brought in over a dozen different sleep aids and supplements, saying, “I have taken all of these, yet I still cannot sleep.” It was later discovered that the patient’s bedroom was right next to a busy street, and the noise was disrupting his sleep quality. Once the windows were replaced, his sleep quality improved significantly.

For improved sleep quality, Dr. Ou recommends starting with the following lifestyle changes:

  • Maintain regular sleep patterns: A consistent sleep schedule helps regulate the body’s internal clock, making falling asleep at the appropriate time easier. Irregular bedtimes, such as bedtime at 8 p.m. one night and 2 a.m. the next, can confuse the body and disrupt rest.
  • Optimize your sleep environment: A sleeping environment that is too bright, hot, or humid can make it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Limit electronic device usage: Using phones or tablets before bed exposes the body to blue light, which stimulates cortisol production and decreases melatonin levels, making it harder to fall asleep.
  • Reduce stimulant intake: Avoid stimulants like coffee and tea before bed. Additionally, increasing your intake of vitamin D, as well as foods like fish, egg yolks, and dairy products, can be beneficial.

Preventing Brain Degeneration With Vitamin D

Individuals with cognitive decline or neurological brain diseases often exhibit vitamin D deficiencies. A study revealed that those deficient in vitamin D faced a 31 percent higher risk of cognitive impairment. Another study demonstrated that maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels reduced the risk of dementia and mild cognitive impairment by 25 percent and 33 percent, respectively. These findings suggest that adequate vitamin D levels can contribute to the prevention of dementia.

Dr. Ou explained that a vitamin D deficiency can result in insufficient neurotransmitter production, negatively affecting brain nutrition. Consequently, brain cells are more prone to degeneration or death, leading to memory decline and diminished logical thinking and computational abilities.

However, Dr. Ou emphasized that taking vitamin D is unlikely to reverse the condition for individuals with existing dementia. In other words, while maintaining adequate vitamin D levels can help prevent neurodegeneration, it cannot be used as a treatment.

Optimal Vitamin D Dosage and Timing

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Dr. Ou stated that the best time to take vitamin D supplements is during meals, ideally paired with healthy fats such as olive, fish, nut oils, or fatty fish.

Combining calcium and vitamin K intake is recommended for stronger bones. Vitamin D boosts calcium absorption, while vitamin K aids in depositing the absorbed calcium into bone gaps, thereby improving bone density. Additionally, since vitamin D supplementation depletes magnesium in the body, consuming 500 milligrams of magnesium every day, roughly half of the calcium supplement dosage, is advised.

As for the timing of vitamin D consumption, Dr. Ou said it can be taken at any time during the day or at noon to increase bone density or improve cardiovascular health. However, if the goal is to boost melatonin secretion and improve sleep, it is advisable to take it in the afternoon, evening, or after dinner. The optimal dosage varies from person to person, so it is best to undergo testing and consult a health care professional to determine the correct supplementation dosage.

Discover more from USNN World News

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

USNN World News (USNN) USNN World News Corporation is a media company consisting of a series of sites specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information, local,...