Vitamin D deficiency is linked with poor sleep, reports Psychology Today, especially in people who are older than 50. "There’s a growing body of research showing Vitamin D affects both how much sleep we get and how well we sleep," writes Michael J. Breus, PhD, further detailing a 2018 study that also linked poor sleep to low vitamin D.
Sleep expert and psychologist Shelby Harris, PsyD, notes that more research needs to be done with regard to sleep and that vitamin D is not yet part of any treatment to improve it. One of the best ways to get enough vitamin D is directly from the sun. "Getting enough light during the day is key in helping to set our circadian rhythms, aka sleep-wake timing," she says. "If you’re not getting enough light during the day—and ideally natural light—then it can negatively impact your energy, ability to awaken and sleep at the same time naturally." Fortunately now that the weather has warmed up, more people are spending time outside and getting a good amount of vitamin D from the sun. (Yes, you should still wear sunscreen every day.)
Sleep expert Courtney Bancroft, PsyD, agrees with Dr. Harris that more research needs to be done to before conclusively connecting vitamin D to better sleep. But, she adds, "Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to numerous diseases and risk for disease, including high risks of sleep disorder. In the past two decades, we have seen a rise in vitamin D inadequacy and deficiency—the latter can be detected by a blood test—in the population." People don't spend enough time outside, yes, but Dr. Bancroft says that most people need to be eating more vitamin D-rich foods, too.
"Eating healthy, vitamin D rich foods may help you to lower your risk of vitamin D inadequacy or deficiency, and lower your risk of poor sleep and risk for other diseases," says Dr. Bancroft. (You want to aim to get 600 IU a day.)
Wondering what exactly what to eat? Here's are some foods rich in vitamin D
1. Eggs: One egg has 44 IUs of vitamin D, which isn't too shabby! Whether you scramble some up for a quick meal, boil them and add them to a spinach salad, or put one on your avocado toast, including eggs in your diet throughout the day can contribute to better sleep when your head hits the pillow.
2. Salmon: There aren't many foods with high amounts of vitamin D, but salmon is one you can rely on. One serving has 815 IU, which is actually more than you need for the entire day. Bonus: it's easier to digest than meat, so if you have it for a late dinner, your stomach won't keep you up at night digesting it.
3. Milk: Alternative milks have been stealing the spotlight from dairy in recent years, but good old dairy milk is a great source of vitamin D, primarily because here in the U.S., it's fortified with the nutrient. One cup has between 115 and 124 IUs.
4. Yogurt: Similarly, yogurt—the dairy kind, not the alt-yogurt kind—can help you reach your vitamin D intake, too, with about 80 IUs per serving. So if you want a dessert that tastes decadent but could also help you sleep through the night, switching from sweets (which can keep you up) to a bowl of yogurt topped with fresh berries just might do the trick.
5. Shiitake mushrooms: This is one of the only vegan sources of vitamin D (besides the sun). In fact, if you buy a vegan vitamin D supplement, chances are its made with shiitake mushrooms. Naturally, they have about 100 IUs of vitamin D per serving, but placed in the sun, the amount skyrockets. "Worldwide mushroom consumption has increased markedly in the past four decades, and mushrooms have the potential to be the only non-animal, unfortified food source of vitamin D that can provide a substantial amount of Vitamin D in a single serve," one study reads. The power of fungi!
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