March 17, 2013

The Vitamin That Helps You Sleep

Did you know that the key to getting more sleep could be found in a glass of orange juice, a tomato salad, or even a bowl of broccoli?

If you’re having trouble getting your zzz’s, a shortage of vitamin C may be the cause, according to new research from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, published in the journal Appetite.

The study looked at which nutrients were linked with sleep duration, analyzing data from 2007-2008’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. “Overall, people who sleep seven to eight hours a night differ in terms of their diet, compared to people who sleep less or more,” psychiatry instructor and Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology member Dr. Michael A. Grandner stated in a press release.
Not getting enough rest is linked with diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems. In addition, it can weaken the immune system, which makes you more likely to get sick and stay sick longer. And because the body repairs cells while you sleep, not getting enough shuteye can have a very noticeable effect on your health and well-being.

Sleep-promoting nutrients

The study divided sleep patterns into ‘very short’ (less than five hours a night), ‘short’ (five to six hours a night), ’standard’ (seven to eight hours a night) and ‘long’ (nine or more hours per night). Those with the healthiest sleep patterns (seven to eight hours) consumed the most vitamin C, compared to the other groups.
In addition to vitamin C, researchers looked at other nutrients to find out which were associated with people who rack up optimal hours of rest each night.
  • People who slept longer each night also ate more selenium, a mineral found in meat, shellfish, nuts, and seeds.
  • The healthiest sleepers consumed more lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, red bell peppers, watermelons, apricots, pink grapefruits, and other red and orange-colored foods.
  • Short sleep was also associated with less lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients known for improving eye health. They are found in foods such as egg yolks, corn, zucchini, broccoli, squash, orange peppers, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, and fruits including kiwi, grapes, and oranges.  
  • Very short sleepers did not drink as much tap water as those who snoozed longer, and also ate fewer carbohydrates. (A small Australian study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that carbs that raise blood sugar might hasten sleep. Researchers believe this may be because carbs boost serotonin and tryptophan, two chemicals involved with sleep.)
People who snoozed the longest (nine hours or more per night) avoided certain foods as well. For example, they had less theobromine, a chemical found in chocolate and tea. They also had lower amounts of the saturated fat dodocanoic acid and less choline, a nutrient found in eggs and fatty meats. They had more alcohol and a higher amount of total cholesterol than other sleepers. However, sleeping too long can have its own set of negative health consequences, so it may be too soon to swear off hot cocoa and eggs altogether.

Additional Benefits of Vitamin C
Further research needs to be done to see if simply increasing vitamin C, or the other nutrients listed above, improves the amount of sleep you get each night, since this type of study isn’t designed to show a cause-and-effect relationship.
But aside from its effects on slumber, vitamin C has myriad benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s very possible that it could prevent some oxidative damage brought on by endurance exercise to the fat and muscle tissue. An antioxidant, the vitamin protects against damage caused by free radicals.
And although vitamin C doesn’t prevent the onset of cold symptoms, it can reduce the risk of developing colds in the first place—specifically in athletes such as skiers and marathon runners, and in military personnel living in subarctic climates.
Vitamin C helps with tissue growth and repair, maintains the bones and teeth, and heals wounds. It can even reduce the risk of diseases such as high blood pressure and cancer.
Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables, including blueberries, raspberries, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peppers, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and more. Cooking fruits and vegetables can lower the level of vitamin C, so eating the foods raw (or cooked only lightly) will boost the amount of the vitamin in your meal.
You’ll want to get at least 90 mg of vitamin C a day if you’re a man, and at least 75 mg if you’re a woman. If you smoke or are around secondhand smoke, you’ll want an additional 35 mg per day. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may need even more than that, so check with your healthcare provider.

1 comment: