Q. A few years ago I was plagued with insomnia. I was exhausted, anxious and barely functional but never sleepy. Only sleeping pills knocked me out, but I hated the side effects.
I read about vitamin D in your column. At my next doctor visit I asked to have my level tested and it was low: 17. My doctor prescribed 50,000 IU weekly, and as the level came up, lo and behold I gradually started sleeping again.
I know my story is not proof, but I don’t take any other drugs or supplements, and wasn’t using sleeping pills due to disturbing dreams. My theory is that more D somehow helps anxiety, allowing sleep. I sleep well most nights now; the difference is night and day.
A. Low levels of vitamin D can result in sleeping problems along with depression, muscle pain, weight gain, lack of energy and digestive difficulties. We are delighted that you found the solution for your insomnia.
More doctors are starting to test their patients for vitamin D, but there is a lot of confusion regarding the test results and how to bring low levels up. We explain the test, the supplements and the ABC’s of boosting your D levels in our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency.
At this time of year, most people are unlikely to get adequate vitamin D from sun exposure. It makes sense to find out if insomnia might respond to vitamin D supplements.
When the weather is warmer and the sun brighter, you might want to follow Eleanor’s example:
“I try to get 20 minutes of direct sun per day. I know that dermatologists discourage that, but it not only keeps my vitamin D level up, it also helps my mood.”
There is also evidence that vitamin D deficiency shortens life expectancy (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Nov, 2012). An eight year study of seniors found that those who had insufficient vitamin D to start with were 50 percent more likely to die during that time.