Is Vitamin D the Key to Stop Snoring? A Dose of Sunshine to Better Nights
Sleeping is the best form of rest and relaxation. You can go on vacation for that much-needed R&R yet you will still enjoy naps during daytime and sleep at the end of the day. But what if, even when you think you have spent all your energy during the day, you still could not get a quality shut-eye at night?
Ideally, our body follows a natural waking up and sleeping pattern called Circadian rhythm, which makes the body aware of daytime and the presence of light; and nighttime and darkness. But there are various factors which have affected the sleeping patterns of human beings over time. Shifting work schedules, nightlife and socialization and screen dependency for work and for leisure totally got in the way of our circadian rhythm. All of these also contribute to our inability to get a dose of a vitamin that helps us get quality sleep, Vitamin D.
There are studies in 2013 and 2014 that show that the deficiency of Vitamin D or the sunshine vitamin makes a person more susceptible to sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and insomnia. Because of the circadian rhythm, our body is expected to get exposed to sunlight in the morning to get enough Vitamin D. The body manufactures Vitamin D as it is exposed to sunlight, an exposure of 10-15 minutes is recommended to promote bone health, prevent osteoporosis and get quality sleep. There were also studies and testimonies saying that it is harder to sleep on seasons where people get limited sun exposure like during winter.
Quality sleep could only mean two things – quiet and uninterrupted. A quiet and free from disturbance room is the key to a good night’s sleep but it is also a sign that a person is having a quality of sleep. Contrary to popular beliefs, snoring is not a sign that a person is having a restful sleep, it actually means otherwise.
Snoring is as bad as shortness of breath when we are tired and awake. It happens when the tongue blocks the air to the airway during sleep. Snoring can also be an indicator of an even severe condition called sleep apnea which is a result of the partial or complete collapse of the upper airway. Sleep apnea results in the following immediate and long-term conditions:
- Lack of oxygen in the blood due to breathing interruptions
This can result in carotid atherosclerosis or the build-up of plaque inside the walls of the two major arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the brain. This occurrence can lead to stroke.
- Light sleeping or inability to sustain sleep
The body gasps for air making it lose the ability to relax and enjoy sleep.
- Anxiety and depression
Losing sleep for a night can make a person irritable and moody. Constant sleep deprivation caused by snoring and sleep apnea prohibits the mind from restoring and healing
- Heart diseases
Inability to sleep properly does not let the heart attain a normal blood pressure and normal heart rate at night. The lack of sleep strains the heart due to the lack of oxygen and poor blood circulation.
- Obesity and Liver Problems
The body performs metabolic processes during sleep. It develops muscles and releases growth hormones to use fat, regulate insulin levels and cleanse the organs. Poor sleep interferes with these processes which are normally done in Stage 3 and 4 of sleep.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin” is not actually a vitamin but more of a hormone. Vitamins are substances that our body cannot produce and must be taken from a variety of food and supplements but Vitamin D is different. Our body can synthesize Vitamin D through sunlight exposure. The body can produce enough Vitamin D with at least 10-15 minutes of sun exposure daily. Due to lifestyle changes, pollution, global warming, different skin types and erratic weather, some people do not get enough sun exposure resulting in Vitamin D deficiency. An estimate of 1 billion people worldwide is Vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D is among the four fat-soluble vitamins together with vitamins A, E and K. These vitamins can only be absorbed by the body when taken with foods that contain fat such as salmon, avocado and nuts. There are two types of vitamin D, D2 and D3. D3, also known as cholecalciferol is the natural form of vitamin D and the same as what our body makes from sunlight exposure is the more potent type of vitamin D.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D according to the National Institutes of Health are as follows:
- Infant, 0-12 months – 400 IU or 10mcg daily
- 1-13 years – 600 IU or 15mcg
- 14-18 years – 600 IU or 15 mcg
- 19-70 years – 600 IU or 15 mcg
- 70 years and up – 800 IU or 20 mcg
The body needs Vitamin D for more reasons than one. In school, we were taught that it promotes calcium absorption to prevent osteoporosis and other calcium deficiency conditions in the bones and teeth but there are more benefits of vitamin D3 for the body:
- It prevents rickets in children
Rickets is the result of vitamin D deficiency resulting in soft, weak and brittle bones in children. With adequate vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus are absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. Rickets can cause bone deformities in children.
- It helps prevent various diseases
A study in 2012 published in the National Institutes of Health website shows that Vitamin D has long been used to treat various infections affecting the immune system. For tuberculosis, treatment of patients in sanatoriums included exposure to sunlight and intake of cod liver oil, a rich source of Vitamin D.
A similar study shows that there was an increase in evidence linking vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune diseases like lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus and inflammatory bowel disease.
- It helps prevent depression
Could vitamin D help relieve depression? A study published in the Journal of International Medicine correlated the intake of vitamin D to alleviate the symptoms of depression.
- It prevents snoring and obstructive sleep apnea
In a study conducted the Department of Pediatrics is Sapienza University of Rome, it was concluded that children suffering from sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), snoring and sleep apnea has low Vitamin D levels.
Another study published in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website shows the direct correlation between vitamin D deficiency and obstructive sleep apnea. The deficiency becomes more pronounced with the severity of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.
How can Vitamin D relieve snoring?
There are various reasons that link Vitamin D as effective to make snoring and sleep apnea stop. According to The Sleep Doctor, Dr. Michael Breus, vitamin D can likely influence healthy and good quality sleep. Another study shows vitamin D can suppress inflammation caused by hypoxia or the deficiency of oxygen levels in the body. Since snoring and sleep can cause the lack of oxygen in the body due to the air obstruction, having enough vitamin D can help avoid the potential risk caused by constricted and inflamed blood vessels.
Although there is still a need for further studies on how sufficient vitamin D in the body can help stop snoring, ensuring that you do not belong to the 1 billion population suffering from Vitamin D deficiency is a must. Blood test ordered by your physician is the most effective way to measure your vitamin D levels. Otherwise, these are the common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency:
- Weak immune system resulting in getting sick often
- Chronic fatigue
- Painful muscles and bones
- Anxiety and depression
- Hair loss
- Poor memory
How to Get Enough Vitamin D?
Supposedly, getting exposed to sunlight for 15 minutes daily can give you the right amount of vitamin D that your body needs. But due to work schedule conflicts, pollution, lack of walkable space in the cities and other possible reasons, some people do not get the chance to take advantage of the sun. These are the other rich sources of vitamin D that you can take advantage of:
- Cod liver oil, 1 tbsp = 1,360 IU
- Swordfish, cooked, 3oz = 566 IU
- Salmon, cooked, 3oz = 447 IU
- Orange juice fortified with Vitamin D, 1 cup = 137 IU
- Milk, non-fat, fortified with Vitamin D, 1 cup = 115-124 IU
- Egg (yolk) = 41 IU
There are also vitamin D supplements that you can resort to. Some supplements are available in 2000 IU and 4000 IU but there are some available in as much as 10000 IU which could potentially be too much. 4000 IU is considered the safe limit for vitamin D. Too much vitamin D may result in toxicity that can damage the kidneys and liver.
Studies on the relationship between snoring, sleep apnea and Vitamin D are relatively new but are very promising. The initial studies on both children and adults suffering obstructive sleep apnea showed how vitamin d deficiency could potentially result in this sleep disorder. Vitamin D deficiency can also cause health problems like weak immune system leading to colds and flu, obesity, anxiety and depression and muscle pains that can contribute to snoring and the lack of healthy sleep.
Setting snoring aside, there are other serious health concerns that vitamin deficiency could bring so getting enough sunlight exposure, eating vitamin D-rich foods and taking the right amount of vitamin D supplement can help you get rid of these health risks. We also look forward to the future developments and updates on how the sunshine vitamin can stop snoring.