Our world is a busy place with people awake at all hours of night and day. Somewhere around the world, there will be someone who is working past their work hours, working late into the night, or binging a new television show. There is so much to do and not enough time to do it that people are sacrificing their sleep.
Sleeping is a crucial part of our health and survival. Without sleep, it becomes difficult to focus and think as well as learn new things and make new memories. Sleeping is important to many different brain functions and many different parts of the body. Every human needs sleep and we generally spend about a third of our lives sleeping. Despite the importance of it, we do not understand the biological purpose of sleep. We know the benefits and consequences, but we do not know why we must enter such a vulnerable state in order to recover from the day. Nor do we know why we must recover from the day because our bodies are still active during our sleep.
Despite the mystery, we know the clear costs and benefits of sleep. This knowledge allows us to address, with great concern, sleep disorders. Because sleep disorders can affect any of us, it is important to understand the causes, symptoms, and how to treat it. Researchers from Iran used vitamin D to address sleep disorders in order to build potential treatments.
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that exists in very few food, but have been added to many meals and exists as supplements. Most of us get our vitamin D from the sun. When ultraviolet rays make contact with our skin, it triggers the synthesis of vitamin D in our bodies. Once in our bodies, via sun or food, the vitamin D undergoes transformation into usable forms because it is inert in our bodies as plain vitamin D.
Our liver converts it to calcidiol and our kidneys convert it to calcitriol. These modified and activated vitamin D compounds are then used by the body to promote the absorption of calcium from the intestines and maintain stable levels of calcium and phosphate for bone mineralization. It is also used for the promotion of bone growth and repair as well as the prevention of diseases like rickets or osteomalacia.
The activated vitamin D compounds also play roles in cell growth, immune functions, and inflammation responses. Unfortunately, it is estimated that 30% to 50% of the population may suffer from vitamin D deficiency because they are not getting adequate exposure to sunlight or enough in their diets. This deficiency can lead to many issues of the body, like rickets in children if left untreated.
Because of its association with other functions in the body, researchers believe that vitamin D deficiency it can lead to cardiovascular issues as well as other problems. In 2015, a study was published that looked at over 3,000 men and found that there was some association with low levels of vitamin D and occurrence of poor sleep.
Treatment for deficiencies is primarily taking supplements or increasing intake of foods that have vitamin D. Exposure to sunlight is also another option.
There are hundreds of different sleep disorders that range from harmless to harmful. Some of the more commonly known sleep disorders are insomnia, sleep-related breathing disorders (like snoring), and narcolepsy.
Insomnia is one of the more common of the disorders and is generally characterized by the inability or difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep, and having restorative sleep. This can lead to cognitive issues during the day, like fatigue or loss of concentration. One of the main causes of insomnia is stress related to things like work and family. Stress is a great burden on people, being associated with numerous health issues, and leads to poor sleeping habits. Treatment can range from therapies to medicine.
Snoring is a common disorder that many people complain about concerning their spouses or significant others. It occurs when an individual’s airways become blocked. This redirects some of the air into the mouth, which creates the vibrating and noise that is snoring. Snoring causes disruptive sleep, which leads to fatigue and other cognitive problems during the day. Treatment ranges from masks to surgeries (in extreme cases).
Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder that is characterized by excessive daytime sleeping, which is not the result of sleep deprivation or disturbed sleep. It results in an individual falling asleep during the day without reason or notice. It can pose many physical, from falling, and social issues, from misunderstanding. Treatment generally consists of medication and behavioral changes to combat the symptoms.
Vitamin D As A Treatment Option
With the knowledge that previous research showed an association between vitamin D deficiency and poor sleep, researchers from Iran conducted an experiment to probe the link between sleep disorders and vitamin D further. The experiment was conducted with 89 individuals, ranging from 20 to 50 years of age, that suffered from sleeping disorders.
These individuals were placed into two groups: the first group would be those that were given a placebo and the second group would be those that were given vitamin D supplements. Before and after the experiment, the individuals were given sleep questionnaires, diet assessments, sun exposure analysis, and other questions that gave information on their health levels. They analyzed the data using a variety of statistical analysis tools.
The researchers found that individuals in the second group, with the vitamin D supplements, had significant improvements in their sleep habits compared to the group that was only given the placebo. This supports previous research on the association of vitamin D with sleep as well as provides an additional treatment for individuals with sleep disorders.
It is important to note that this is the first kind of research testing the ability of vitamin D as a treatment for sleep disorders and should be taken with a grain of salt. As with any other new research and developments, it is important to conduct multiple trials to ensure that the results acquired are consistent and to ensure that any negative results are exposed. A single research is not enough to begin taking vitamin D as a treatment for your sleep disorder.