There are several lines of research that support the fact that vitamin D deficiencies have a negative impact on your sleep.
If you’re looking for a solution for your sleep apnea, you may also have found studies that suggest vitamin D levels are linked to sleep apnea. As summer winds down and we get fewer hours of sunlight, our vitamin D levels also dip.
Can taking vitamin D supplements improve your sleep apnea?
Does Vitamin D Help Sleep Apnea?
The majority of recent research suggests that vitamin D supplementation will have no impact on sleep apnea whatsoever.
So while vitamin D supplements may help you feel less drowsy and have more energy as daylight hours decrease, they won’t do anything for your sleep apnea.
The Role of Vitamin D in Sleep
People with vitamin D deficiencies often struggle with sleep. Short sleep intervals of less than five hours, as well as low sleep efficiency, are common.
What this means is that sleep quality is low. It can take a long time to fall asleep or several waking periods throughout the night. Sleep efficiency is a measure of the actual amount of time spent sleeping compared to the amount of time spent in bed.
Low vitamin D levels cause people to lay awake for long periods of time, waking up tired and low in energy.
Link Between Vitamin D and Sleep Apnea
The theory that vitamin D deficiency and sleep apnea were linked wasn’t crazy. There was certainly some logical reasoning behind it.
Vitamin D deficiencies affect the quality of our sleep, particularly during the winter. Sleep apnea is also at its worst during the winter. If vitamin D has a direct effect on the quality of our sleep, it makes logical sense that it may have an effect on sleep apnea as well.
The other reason why vitamin D was looked at as a treatment for sleep apnea is linked to obesity. Obese individuals are more likely to have shortages of vitamin D, and they are also more likely to have sleep apnea.
There’s a mechanism in our bodies that intrinsically links vitamin D levels and sleep apnea.
Vitamin D is critical in helping to maintain muscle tone. A decreased vitamin D level could conceivably contribute to the lack of muscle tone in the throat, leading to narrow or obstructed airways, the classic presentation of sleep apnea.
New Studies – No Link Between Vitamin D and Sleep Apnea
The theories behind vitamin D supplementation improving sleep apnea were sound. However, scientific research doesn’t support it.
A recent study looked at the vitamin D levels of 2,800 subjects and correlated those levels to their incidence and severity of sleep apnea. At first, it seemed there might be a link because the subjects with the highest sleep apnea risk also had the lowest vitamin D levels.
The problem was that when the results were cross-referenced with other risk factors such as obesity and neck circumference, there was no longer sufficient evidence to support that a vitamin D shortage is increasing the risk.
This study concluded that there was no causal link between vitamin D deficiency and sleep apnea – vitamin D supplementation won’t improve or decrease the risk of sleep apnea symptoms.
It was noted that a lack of outdoor activity among obese individuals might contribute to low vitamin D levels and sleep apnea.
Vitamin Deficiencies that Affect Sleep and Sleep Apnea
Vitamin D isn’t the only vitamin that plays a role in our sleep quality. There are several other vitamin deficiencies that can cause sleep difficulties.
While it’s important to supplement vitamin and mineral deficiencies, the only true way to know you have a deficiency is to take a blood test. If you are deficient, your doctor can advise you on the best supplementation methods. That being said, let’s look at the most common ones and how they affect sleep.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C has several roles in our bodies, including supporting the immune system, cardiovascular system and maintaining skin elasticity. It also plays a critical role in our sleep. There are several studies that show taking vitamin C and vitamin E together can result in fewer episodes of sleep apnea. Sleep quality and daytime drowsiness are also markedly improved.
- Vitamin E – Vitamin E has antioxidant properties that help the body with sleep. Sleep apnea often leads to chronic sleep deprivation, which can subsequently lead to memory loss or difficulty with high-level thinking. Supplementation with vitamin E can help prevent these cognitive effects and protect the brain from damage.
- Vitamin B6 – While it is primarily involved in improving cognitive functioning and development, vitamin B6 also plays a role in sleeping and dreams. Depression, vitamin B6 deficiency, and insomnia are all linked. Adequate levels of vitamin B6 are also needed to produce serotonin and melatonin, two neurotransmitters critical in maintaining your body’s sleep-wake cycle. Given the strong correlations, it’s safe to assume maintaining your body’s B6 levels plays an important role in regulating sleep
- Vitamin B12 – B12 deficiencies result in insomnia, sleep disruption, and short sleep intervals. All of these sleep disturbances can play a role in sleep apnea.
Alternatives to Vitamin D Supplementation for Treating Sleep Apnea
Even though supplementing with vitamin D won’t improve sleep apnea, there are treatment options and alternatives to the traditional CPAP machine.
Bedtime rituals that promote relaxation are often effective at reducing the number of episodes of sleep apnea.
- Setting regular bedtimes and wake times.
- Napping for no more than 20 minutes during the day
- Avoiding alcohol prior to bedtime
- Avoiding caffeine prior to bedtime
- Not eating spicy or sugary foods within four hours of bedtime
- Exercising regularly, but not in the evening
- Finding a comfortable temperature for your bedroom
- Blocking out distracting noises and eliminating light
Any routine that helps you relax before going to bed can be helpful for sleep apnea.