Are you struggling with insomnia, or not sleeping well? The answer could be related to how much time you spend in the sun. Sunlight is key to the production of vitamin D, which is essential to the body, and your skin makes the vast majority of it when it is exposed to ultraviolet UVB light from the sun. Read on as the North American Association of Facial Orthotropics explores the relationship between vitamin D and sleep.
Here’s what you need to know about vitamin D.
Vitamin D actually functions as a hormone—just like thyroid, estrogen, or testosterone. While soy, fortified foods, juices, and even milk contain Vitamin D, it is not practical to consume enough of these foods to maintain the proper level of vitamin D. Yes, you probably heard growing up that milk was rich in vitamin D, but you’d have to drink 100 cups of milk per day to compensate if you live a lifestyle of little to no sun exposure. Your skin produces the highest amounts of vitamin D during the summer when UVB rays are at their peak. Therefore, you are more likely not to get enough vitamin D if you remain indoors during the summer, and during the winter when sun exposure is even less. And since many people wear broad-spectrum sunscreen during the summer, it blocks the amount of vitamin D that your skin can absorb.
Bad things happen when you don’t get enough vitamin D.
Living with vitamin D deficiency keeps your body in a virtual endless winter. Low levels of this vitamin signal your body to basically go into a state of hibernation: sleeping longer and gaining weight. People with low levels of vitamin D may feel depressed, unmotivated, and more likely to get sick. In 2009, a research paper suggested a possible link between worldwide sleep disorders and a deficiency in vitamin D, with sunscreen and air conditioning being two of the major contributing causes of this problem. An insufficient level of vitamin D also can cause osteoporosis in women, as well as kidney stones, fertility problems, endometriosis, difficulties keeping your balance, leg pain, and a burning sensation in the feet known as neuropathy.
Sleep quality is also greatly affected by vitamin D levels. If your level is too high, over 80 ng/mL, your quality of sleep actually will decrease. The “sweet spot” is maintaining a blood level between 60 and 80 ng/mL, and below 40 ng/mL is deficient.
Vitamin D deficiency often results from a combination of deficiencies in both D and B, with the production of the B vitamins reliant on intestinal bacteria that need vitamin D to thrive. It can create an imbalance with secondary B vitamins and B5 in particular. A B5 deficiency can cause a disruption in the natural paralysis of muscles that occurs during REM sleep. This can lead to several consequences throughout the body, including a collapse of the soft tissue in the throat—the root cause of a serious sleep breathing disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea. It’s important to note, however, that just taking vitamins in hopes of resting better isn’t the best solution. If you have developed sleep apnea or some other type of sleep disorder you need to be seen by a sleep specialist or another medical professional trained to treat these disorders, such as a sleep apnea dentist.
People with sleep apnea may experience these blockages hundreds of times per night. Each time one of these events occurs, breathing is disrupted or completely ceases, and oxygen levels in the body decrease. Your brain reacts by sending signals to the body to resume normal breathing. Sending these signals rouses your brain from sleep. Even though a person with sleep apnea may never wake consciously during one of these attacks, the sleep cycle is disrupted, depriving you of the restoration to mind and body that takes place during the deepest stages of sleep. People with severe cases of sleep apnea may spend little to no time in REM sleep.
The recipe for improved rest and good health.
If your vitamin D levels are determined to be too low through blood work, you can increase them by taking a supplement, but only by the recommendation of your physician. Do not assume that you are deficient in vitamin D, or any other vitamin for that matter. Always have your blood levels checked before taking any supplements, as too much of a good thing may actually be dangerous for your health.
If a vitamin D deficiency has led to the development of a sleep breathing disorder, this condition must be diagnosed and treated by a qualified medical professional such as a sleep specialist. That said, treatment could come from a variety of different practitioners. One method of treatment for sleep apnea is Orthotropics®, which uses oral appliance therapy to guide facial growth in children, helping to correct poor oral habits and encouraging harmony between the mouth, face, airway, and other components of the orofacial system. One of the benefits of a successful course of treatment through Orthotropics® is a wider, more open airway, helping prevent the blockages that lead to sleep apnea. To learn more about the advantages of Orthotropics® in treating sleep apnea, visit the website of the North American Association of Facial Orthotropics at orthotropics-na.org to find a practitioner near you. You also can send an email to [email protected].