sleepy businessman yawning

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.

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  1. Margaret
    Homeland, CA

    My V-D level is 13. I have done this before, due to poor diet (IBS-C). It was a specialist who treated me previosly, cautiously because I reacted to the V-D tablets. He would not consider injection. We managed to bring it up to 27. This DO stated I was wrong and had me take V-D. I used a patch 2000.

    At first, after second patch, I felt itchy in the area. Intermittently, for the next week, I felt the itching again until I broke out in hives. I stopped it and took Benadryl. Don’t know what to do now. In process of changing doctors to one that will listen to me and trust what I say. I have a history a drug dosage sensitivity. Anaphylactic schock before. Taken to ER after dental work.

  2. Lin P.

    I take magnesium at night to help me sleep and as a preventive for migraines, can vitamin D be taken along with this and what does is good to take?

  3. DS

    Magnesium is good for relaxing in the evening. I recall reading in this column about a couple who started taking it while visiting relatives. They took it in the morning and had to pull off the road for a nap. You can take pills or in bath salts.

  4. Carol B

    I can’t fall a sleep with out taking something then I have a headache all day. I would like some thing that wouldn’t give me a headache. Can you help?

  5. JR

    most doctors will order this along with other testing. just ask the doctor to order the test. I have done this and found the doctors agreeable.
    Medicare paid for my tests.

  6. Kev S.

    What I have known is that iron and vitamin B6 can help you sleep. Thanks you for posting this information I’ve learned something new this time and its also what I needed. I’ve been having sleep disorder for the past 7 years, I guess I got it from my mother’s genes they’re all anemic have have sleep disorder too. I wonder if anyone here knows about Lucid Dreaming, it helps me to not worry no more when I’m going to bed instead I get so excited. I makes you control your dreams for real!

  7. Sue T

    To DS: You may need to go to a specialist … I get Vitamin D tests (and others related to bone metabolism) from my endocrinologist, whom I see due to post-menopausal osteopenia.

  8. Sarah D.

    All you need to do is to ask your doctor to administer the test by requesting it on your lab slip. Most insurance companies pay for it. Usually the doctor will need to indicate something like muscle weakness, fatigue, etc. I know my doctor requests it for me every few months and my insurance pays for it, no problem. If you doctor won’t do it, find another doctor.

  9. DS

    How do you get a doctor to test you? Do insurance companies refuse to pay for this test? My doctor seems to only test if he suspects rickets.

  10. Lou G

    What is the recommended minimum dose, and maximum safe dose, for those older than 65?

  11. CW

    fyi, my Vitamin D was extremely low when I was tested. I have epilepsy and I’m on anticonvulsants – which are known to deplete you of Vitamin D. I feel better than ever with the 2000mg/day!

  12. MAP

    My doctor has advised me that Vit D-3 is found to be more effective when combined with Vit K. I have not seen or heard anything about this new combination or if Vit D-3 with Vit K is available. Have you any information about this?

  13. Paul 43

    I would like to hear more about this

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