What do fat soluble vitamins A, D3, and K2, the gut microbiome, B vitamins, and sleep have to do with your health? Why do you feel so much better after a night of deep sleep? It turns out that deficiencies of these vitamins can result in many health problems including the most foundational problem, insomnia.
When we are in deep (slow wave) sleep our body does its repair and maintenance, and not at other times. Neurologist Dr Stasha Gominak explains the connections in her interview with Dr Joseph Mercola. Dr Gominak has been studying sleep for more than 20 years and has made some very interesting observations. Primarily she has seen dramatic improvements in sleep once vitamin D levels are optimized (40-80 ng/ml) and the gut is repaired. It seems adequate vitamin D3 supports the balanced populations of helpful gut bacteria, which then are able to make a balanced amount of B vitamins and vitamin K2.
Most people today are deficient in Vitamin D, primarily because of our (recent) fear of the sun and skin cancer, and our avoidance of Vitamin D rich foods. (Amazingly, adequate Vitamin D is helpful in preventing cancer.) Our ancestors spent most of their time outdoors and were able to make their own vitamin D from UVB rays on their skin. Today we spend most of our time indoors or in automobiles. UVB rays are blocked by glass and sunscreen so Vitamin D production on the skin is not happening. Additionally latitude from the equator, cold weather and smog also reduce or prevent Vitamin D production. Today’s practice of raising animals for food indoors even prevents us from getting adequate vitamin D from our food, unless we consume pasture raised meats and dairy, and wild fatty fish. Unrefined cod liver oil may be our only natural source that can be obtained as a supplement.
Sleep hygiene is also very important. Each cell in our body responds to the natural day/night rhythm known as the circadian rhythm. If you do not go to bed by 10 and allow yourself to be asleep in the dark for at least 8 hours, you will not give your body the time and inactivity needed for repairs. This is especially important for muscles, joints and other connective tissue, skin, brain, nerves, liver, kidney, heart, immunity, gastrointestinal system, reproduction; in short everything! If you wake often in the night or feel tired and achy even after 8 or more hours in bed, you may not be getting into deep restorative sleep.
Dr Gominak admits she is not a nutritionist, and so she does not have recommendations for a whole foods diet that can support deep sleep, and thus overall healing, but I can help. Start by getting your vitamin D levels tested. You can get this blood test from Direct Labs online for $79. If levels are low (<40 ng/ml) consider a nutrition consultation to make sure you get the right foods and balanced supplements. Note that it is actually dangerous to supplement with just vitamin D without the other fat soluble vitamins. They all work together, and so can we to get you sleeping deeply and healing through the night.