A scientific study suggests vitamin D supplements could be used to improve the sleep quality of people with sleep disorders. For those who spend their nights counting sheep and watching alarm clocks, it might sound like a "miracle cure", but could a simple dietary supplement pill really be the solution to serious sleep disorders?
A team of Iranian scientists carried out a clinical trial earlier this year that concluded: "the use of vitamin D supplement improves sleep quality, reduces sleep latency, [and] raises sleep duration." Their results were published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience.
They gathered 89 people, aged 20 to 50 years, suffering from sleep disorders. Over a period of 8 weeks, 44 participants took a vitamin D supplement and the rest a placebo. Before and after the experiment, they were given a sleep quality questionnaire, a diet assessment, and an extensive questioning of their lifestyle and fitness.
By the end of the study, the vitamin D recipients had dramatically improved sleep quality compared to placebo recipients.
This was one of the first clinical trials of its kind to investigate the effect of vitamin D on sleep disorders, so it’s still early days to reach any conclusions. Indeed, like all "X can help to cure Y" stories you read, it should be taken with a pinch of salt (or should that be low-sodium salt alternatives?)
Nevertheless, what can we take from this study?
It’s estimated that over 50 percent of people could be deficient in vitamin D. There are two different vitamin Ds – D2, which mainly comes from our diet and D3 which comes from the Sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. On the whole, it’s fair to say that most vitamin supplements are a waste of time and money, much of which will just pass through your body and end up in brightly-colored pee. However, vitamin D supplements can be worthwhile to take because it's relatively hard to obtain from our diet. Equally, many people do not get enough exposure to the Sun, especially in the winter months.
It’s also one of a few dozen essential micronutrients to humans with many uses in the body. Scientists aren't totally sure about its link to sleep just yet, however, there’s mounting evidence to suggest there's some association between the two. A study from 2015 of over 3,000 older men found that those with a lower level of Vitamin D in their bodies were more likely to suffer from poorer sleep.
This all said, the effect of vitamin D supplements on health continues to be controversial. It might sound like a cliché ending to a miraculous-sounding health story, but further research needs to be carried out before we all start munching down on vitamin D pills and enjoying sweet dreams.