You are probably already aware of the many important roles the ‘sunshine vitamin’ plays in the human body, including the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, facilitating healthy immune and nervous systems, supporting cardiovascular health, regulating insulin levels and numerous other functions. However, you may well be surprised to discover that Vitamin D is also very important for our gut to be healthy and for the quality of our sleep. Research has shown that Vitamin D deficiency can alter the intestinal microbiome (Ref. 1). Interestingly, Vitamin D supports certain types of bacteria that produce B Vitamins, which are in turn absolutely vital for our well-being.
Furthermore, together with Vitamin B5, Vitamin D creates the precious neurotransmitter “Acetylcholine”, which allows the body to fall into deep quality sleep, which, in turn, affects our focus, concentration and learning abilities. Therefore, if, for example, your child has just returned to school after the holidays but already feels a lack of concentration and wants to stay in bed longer than usual, let them play outside as much as possible while the weather is still good! Let them absorb as much Vitamin D as they can, which for some reason they were unable to get enough of during the summer. It may well be that simple! Spending more time outside will improve their levels of Vitamin D and, as a result, improve their quality of sleep and, therefore, focus and development. And remember, skin type does matter! Children with darker skin create Vitamin D at a slower rate and putting sun cream on their skin is not recommended at all.
Recent studies have suggested that the majority of people experience Vitamin D deficiency (Ref. 2). Our bodies are unable to store a lot of Vitamin D as it breaks down quite quickly, meaning that our stocks can run low, especially during the winter.
Think about a bear who eats as much food as he can during the summer months, creates plenty of Vitamin D, and then climbs into to a hole and hibernates throughout the entirety of winter. During this period the bear’s body adapts dramatically to the season by lowering his metabolism so that he does not spend too many calories, essential nutrients and hormones, including Vitamin D. Some vitamins like B Vitamins are made internally as they cannot be stored and need to be produced regularly. For this reason, the microbiome provides a “metabolic match” for the bear, keeping him asleep for 6 months.
Unfortunately, people have learned how to ignore seasonality, by spending lots of time inside with electricity, air conditioning and so on. We think we no longer need and no longer depend on sunlight. We, therefore, often abuse our circadian rhythms and, from the body’s perspective, we live in constant winter. This is precisely why we experience chronic Vitamin D depravation and chronic sleep problems, leading to numerous other chronic conditions. Furthermore, Vitamin D is made in our skin cells from cholesterol, which we have been desperately trying to lower in our bodies because of its ‘bad’ reputation. Unfortunately, if you do not have enough cholesterol in your body, you can not produce enough Vitamin D either.
Ultimately, if your child or you are experiencing morning fatigue, or restless nights with lots of tossing and turning in bed, or even wetting the bed or expressing loud vocalisations, please, consider checking your Vitamin D and B Vitamin levels. Both of these nutrients are essential for a good night’s sleep.
Have more sunshine in your life! Spend more time outside and allow yourself and your children to enjoy enough quality sleep!