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Vitamin Deficiencies That Impact Sleep

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Not getting enough quality sleep? You might be lacking selenium, magnesium, omega-3s, vitamin D and iron. Here's what to do.


If you're not getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals in your meals, those shortcomings could hinder you from achieving your best night's sleep. Even if you take a multivitamin each day, there still might be some vitamin and mineral holes to fill.


In this article, we explain how certain vitamin deficiencies can interfere with sleep, as well as how to address those needs in your diet. We're not doctors, and this isn't meant to be medical advice, so definitely speak with your doctor about any medical questions you have.



A deficiency in the mineral selenium may play a role in sleep abnormalities, particularly in people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Previously, an insufficient intake of selenium has been associated with diabetes, cardiovascular issues and inflammatory disorders.


Research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine says there's an association between OSA patients who have low levels of selenium and oxidative stress. The study results suggest that getting adequate levels of selenium may improve oxidative stress in patients with OSA, potentially reducing cardiovascular metabolic consequences.


How to get it:

You can get your daily-recommended amount of 55 micrograms of selenium in a single Brazil nut. I like to add a Brazil nut or two to my favorite trail mix snack as an easy way of getting enough of this mineral. Other sources of selenium are oysters, tuna, shrimp, salmon and cremini mushrooms, to name a few.



Working more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet may help you get deeper, more restful sleep, according to studies, particularly if it comes from fish.


A study published in Scientific Reports found that children who had higher fish consumption had better sleep quality, fewer sleep problems—and better test scores!—than those children who rarely or never ate fish. The study authors suggest that this sleep improvement in the fish eaters is likely due to long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in certain fish, in particular eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).


How to get it:

"Fish and seafood are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly fatty fish like salmon," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of and author of "Read It Before You Eat It - Taking You from Label to Table." If you aren't into fish, consider flax seeds. Add them to homemade granola bars or include them in a smoothie. You'll also find omega-3s in walnuts and fortified eggs, which come from chickens eating feed containing flax seeds.



You may have heard that taking a magnesium supplement before bed could help you sleep, but wondered why. Magnesium helps to calm the nervous system, which can make the body relax and get ready for sleep—it's especially good for people who suffer from restless leg syndrome. A longitudinal study published in the journal Nutrients found that getting magnesium each day may decrease the likelihood of falling asleep in the daytime in women.


How to get it:

Magnesium is found in a variety of products particularly in green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains, says Taub-Dix. Foods that are particularly rich in magnesium include pumpkin seeds, almonds, spinach, cashews, and Swiss chard. Taking a warm bath with Epsom salts before bed might help, or you can take a magnesium supplement if your doctor thinks it could help you fall asleep faster. What better way to fall asleep faster after your bedtime routine than on a Sleep Number 360® smart bed?


Vitamin D

While science has proven that getting enough vitamin D can help you feel energized, researchers are starting to examine how this vitamin can play a role in maintaining or improving sleep. A meta-analysis published in the journal Nutrients shows an association between those people who have a vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of sleep disorders.


How to get it:

Fatty fish like salmon and sardines provide vitamin D as well as liver, egg yolks, and many foods—like cereals and milk—are often fortified with vitamin D which helps boost the absorption of calcium, says Taub-Dix. "Getting out in the sun can help increase your vitamin D level as well." Just make sure you don't burn.



You're probably aware that an iron deficiency can impact your energy levels, so it seems like having low energy would make it easier to sleep, right? Not so fast.


You'll need a doctor's diagnosis to determine if your iron deficiency is anemia, but either way, low iron could result in sleep problems. Research found that infants with iron deficiency anemia tended to have shorter sleep durations and more night awakenings.


Other research published in Nutrients found that receiving iron supplementation helped improve symptoms in people who had restless leg syndrome, chronic fatigue and sleeping disorders.


How to get it:

You can get more iron in your diet from red meat, seafood, beans, dark, leafy green vegetables like spinach, peas and dried fruit. "Many foods are fortified with iron, like breakfast cereals and other enriched grains," says Taub-Dix.


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