There is more to getting high-quality sleep than just dialing in your circadian rhythms and passing out each night. Believe it or not, the nutrients you get from food play a huge role in your sleep quality. More recently, science has shown that the gut brain connection via the vagus nerve is important for not just our sleep quality, but all other areas of our health as well. Simply put, what you eat can trigger certain hormones to either give you a great night of sleep, or a poor, restless night of tossing and turning. Keep in mind that supplements can be a valuable tool to help fill in the cracks of our diet, but sourcing our nutrients from high-quality food should always come first. So let’s take a look at the top 5 nutrients you need in order to optimize your sleep.
No 1. Vitamin C
Recent research has shown that individuals with low levels of serum vitamin C had more sleep issues and were prone to waking up more often throughout the night. While the media has led us to believe that taking a multivitamin or drinking orange juice is a great way to get more vitamin C in our diet, there just might be better ways and without all the added sugar.
While taking a supplement can be beneficial in certain situations, the source you get your vitamin C from matters. Our biology has come to expect our nutrients from real, whole food sources, not just simply isolated versions in capsule form. It’s best to source your vitamin C from sources that are lower glycemic and have a high bioavailability to the human body. Camu berries, acerola cherries, citrus fruits like lemons and limes, broccoli, kale, and red bell peppers all have more vitamin C than oranges, with the added bonus of a lower sugar content as well!
No 2. Vitamin D3 – Vitamin K2 – Calcium
These nutrients work very synergistically inside the human body which is why they are listed together. Usually, when we are deficient in one, it means another is adversely affected. Some of these consequences can even lead to poor sleep issues.
According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, there is a strong correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and daytime sleepiness. While it can be said for every other nutrient, Vitamin D is not best sourced from food. In fact, also known as the sunshine vitamin, we actually make vitamin D from exposure to sun – more specifically the UVB rays which interact with the cholesterol inside our bodies to produce the active form of vitamin D. However, due to staying indoors more often, living in northern climates, and applying excess sunscreen during the summer months, a lot of the population is actually vitamin D deficient. While there are certain foods like salmon, tuna, mackerel, shiitake mushrooms, and oysters that contain bioavailable forms of vitamin D, by far the best way to get it is through healthy sun exposure.
Vitamin K2 is a more recently discovered vitamin that is different from vitamin K1. In short, vitamin K2 makes sure calcium is where it needs to be inside the body. When we are deficient in K2, calcium can leach outside the bones and teeth and become stagnant inside the arteries, which is where we don’t want it. In combination with Vitamin D, vitamin K2 helps to shuttle the calcium inside your arteries back to your bones and teeth. While research suggests that a calcium deficiency can lead to disturbances in REM sleep, upping your levels of calcium intelligently is key.
Supplementing with these nutrients in isolation may actually be doing your body more harm than good. As you can see, if we hear clever marketing and begin to take a calcium supplement, but conversely have low levels of vitamin D and K2, that calcium may never make it to the bones and teeth where we need it, ultimately leading to calcified arteries. So to ensure you are optimizing your sleep (and overall health) these nutrients should be taken with respect to one another. If you live in a climate that has optimal weather all year round, make sure to get outside for just 20 minutes a day exposing your skin to the sun’s UV rays. During the winter months if you live in more northern climates, try supplementing with a high-quality vitamin D3/ K2 supplement. Good food sources of Vitamin K2 would be fermented foods like sauerkraut, natto, and kimchi, as well as pasture-raised animal sources. Foods that are rich in bioavailable calcium are kale, collard greens, mustard greens, sardines, sea veggies, and mustard seeds
No 3. Potassium
Potassium is great for much more than leg cramps and electrolytes! A study published in the journal Sleep showed that potassium may increase sleep efficiency. While bananas are often the first food that comes to mind when we hear the word potassium, there are much greater sources and ones with lower sugar as well.
Leafy greens, dulse (sea veggies), potatoes, broccoli, cremini mushrooms, and avocados are all great sources of potassium.
No 4. Magnesium
Magnesium might just be one of your body’s most important minerals, as it is responsible for over 325 different biochemical processes. Simply put, without it, there are over 325 things your body can’t do that it wants to – this includes getting a better night’s sleep.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, supplementing with magnesium greatly improved subjects sleep latency, efficiency, duration, and insomnia symptoms. Sourcing your magnesium from high-quality food sources such as almonds, leafy greens, dark chocolate, avocados, and black beans might just help you to sleep better at night.
However, due to a depletion of precious minerals in our soil, magnesium is a lot less prevalent in our foods today than it was just decades ago. So supplementing in an intelligent may be beneficial to your sleep quality. While you may see many different forms of magnesium on the market, only a few are bioavailable to the human body. Most oral magnesium supplements like citrate, sulfate, and oxide, have more stool softening properties, rather than being absorbed into our system. While the chelated forms magnesium glycinate and magnesium threonate are a lot better absorbable and aren’t reported as having stool-softening properties. However, the best way to supplement with magnesium is through a topical application. Ease magnesium from Activation Products has a 99 percent absorption rate and doesn’t leave any ashy residue on your skin. This form of magnesium, along with a diet high in the foods listed above will help to correct any nutritional deficiency and aid your body in getting better sleep- tonight!
No 5. Omega-3s
A study conducted by the University of Oxford found that omega-3s can help you get deeper, more restful sleep. Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is essential to good health. While there are a few different types, the most bioavailable sources are from wild-caught, fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, herring, and sardines. These sources all contain EPA and DHA which is the form our bodies use readily in the diet.
While plants, nuts, and seeds such as walnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds contain omega-3s as well, they are present in the form ALA (alpha-lenolenic acid). This type of omega-3 needs to be converted inside the body to EPA and DHA to be used. While research has shown that as little as five percent may be converted when ALA is consumed, to cover all your bases and ensure a great night of sleep, try incorporating a variety of these foods into your diet.