Green Tea and Vitamin D for Sleep Disorders
Should I drink green tea before bed? What about vitamin D for sleep?
There are plenty of natural sleep aids around that have been used for thousands of years. Some of them are the answer for some people but not for others, so it’s more trial and error if you’re after a natural cure for your insomnia.
Here, we’re going to look at the information available around green tea, sleep, vitamin D, and other supplements and sleep.
Green Tea and Sleep
Green tea is something that’s also been around for millennia. Recently, it has hit the health headlines as the latest wonder drink, said to prevent problems ranging from dizziness to Parkinson’s to some cancers.
Green Tea and Sleep Apnea
Made from the Camellia sinesis plant, the tea is produced from its leaves. Green tea contains phenols which, in animal studies, have been linked to protection from neurological degeneration. This degeneration can lead to diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care reports that green tea could help people who have memory problems related to sleep-disordered breathing such as sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea starves the brain of oxygen for short periods frequently throughout the night and can raise oxidative stress in the brain. Oxidative stress is believed to play a part in a lot of diseases and antioxidants are thought to counteract this effect. Green tea’s phenols are antioxidants, so if you like the flavour, suffer from sleep apnea, and have memory problems, there is some evidence that it may be helpful for you.
Try replacing your usual tea with green tea for a few weeks to a month and see if that makes a difference to your memory. Ask those you live/work with if they’ve noticed an improvement. Even if you don’t notice a change, you may be reducing your cholesterol and triglycerides by drinking green tea as this is another benefit attributed to it.
Green Tea and Insomnia
There is less evidence, however, that green tea is helpful for getting you to sleep or helping you stay asleep.
It contains 2-4% caffeine which is a stimulant, and likely to add to your wakefulness if you’re sensitive to it. The amount of caffeine (and antioxidant effect) will depend on the strength of the infusion of the tea, i.e. how long you leave the tea bag in the cup/pot of boiling water before drinking.
Other teas such as chamomile, peppermint (also good if you have an upset stomach that prevents you from sleeping), lemon balm, or passion flower would probably be a better choice.
What About Vitamin D and Sleep?
I found two studies that looked at vitamins and sleep.
One case study presented by "Sleep Doctor" Dr Michael Breus suggests that taking a vitamin D supplement can help with daytime sleepiness. After 4 months of daytime sleepiness, one patient’s symptoms slowly began to improve when she was treated with intravenous vitamin D. She wasn’t suffering from insomnia or any sleep disorder that caused her sleepiness, but did have a low vitamin D level in her blood.
The Sleep Doctor also talked about the following supplements: magnesium 25mg/day with 500mg calcium to help sleep, folic acid, vitamin B6 (helps in the production of the relaxing hormone serotonin), and vitamin B3 which has shown to increase REM sleep and reduce nighttime awakenings.
The second study from the department of psychology at the University of Alabama in the US looked at over 700 people’s use of general vitamin supplements and their sleep patterns. Their conclusions were that people who took these supplements slept less well than those who didn’t. Supplement users woke more in the night, took more sleep meds, and had more insomnia.
The researchers put forward five possible explanations for this:
- Vitamin use disturbs a person’s sleep in some way, in some individuals.
- There may not be a single vitamin that causes disturbed sleep but a combination may cause it.
- People who have disturbed sleep/insomnia are more likely to use vitamins (this idea turns over the concept of vitamins causing sleep problems).
- There is no link between vitamins and sleeplessness but other factors such as anxiety or depression causing sleeplessness, as people with these conditions are more likely to take vitamins to help their health.
- Their study results were unreliable and unpredictable—something that can be said of any study.
So, Does Vitamin D Help Sleep?
You can probably see from the information above that scientists don’t know the answer to this. Therefore, there is no clear evidence to lead doctors to recommend vitamins or vitamin D to help you sleep. That doesn’t mean that you (as a non-scientist) shouldn’t try it for yourself.
A lack of vitamin D is a growing global problem, especially north of the equator, in people who are overweight, those with dark skin, those who are elderly, and pregnant and nursing mothers. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to muscle pain, type 2 diabetes, thinning bones, and other health problems.
The body makes its own vitamin D but does need enough sunshine on the skin to do this effectively. In countries where there’s not much sun for large parts of the year or where there’s a lot of sun but we’re constantly covered in sunblock, vitamin D deficiency could be a problem so supplements probably won’t do any harm.
The bottom line is to talk to your doctor about vitamin supplementation and keep a sleep diary. Start it before you start taking vitamin D and during your treatment to see what benefits you might be getting as they may be gradual in their onset.