Vitamin D3 in Morning Improves Mood But Not Sleep (Story 8 Update)

In an earlier post, Alexandra Carmichael of CureTogether noted that 4000 IU/day Vitamin D3 gave her better results than 2000 IU/day. Her mood was better and her sleep was better. But she’d only taken the larger dose once.

She recently sent me an update:

Since I last wrote to you [8 days earlier], I’ve been taking 4000-6000 IU Vitamin D3, and I can report that it’s NOT having a positive effect on my sleep, but it is balancing my mood significantly, helping me to handle normally overwhelming situations with much more ease, and avoiding mood extremes. This is a wonderful thing!

Anyway, just wanted to let you know I don’t fit the sleep-improvement set — I still wake up super easily in the night. Falling asleep is easy, but I attribute that to the blue blocker glasses. Also, 4000 IU is much better at balancing my mood than 2000 IU (no noticeable effect) or 6000 IU (feelings of intensity or overwhelm increase).

Vitamin D3 in Morning Helps Him Sleep Through the Night (Story 16)

Greg Harrington left a comment on an earlier post:

I have had very similar results [fall asleep more easily] from first-thing in morning D3.(NOTE: I have great flexibility in my schedule — I can sleep/awake whenever I want — so I have been most focused on “restful” sleeping.) Differences: (a) My pre-D3 issue was restless sleep (waking up frequently), not failure to fall asleep. (b) The effect of sleeping all the way through the night was definitely immediate–very first night. (c) Also, most days I also wake up feeling more “rejuvenated”. This is not 100% though.

I asked him for details.

Tell me about yourself.

I’ve lived Austin,TX since 07/2011. Kansas City, MO before that. I’m a software programmer. 6′ 3″. 210 lbs. (White male, mostly German, but completely European descent.)

How did you want to improve your sleep?

I want to sleep through the night without waking up 3-6 times in a 6-9 hour sleep. This problem has lasted for 2-3 years. It sort of crept up on me. I go to sleep between midnight and 2 am.

How much D3 do you take? At what time?

I take 50,000 IU between 8 and 9 am. If I forget or wake up later, I don’t take it. This is the product I take: Bio-Tech D3 in 50,000 IU capsules.

Why 50k? It was available on Amazon, and I calculated that to be what you’d get from 75-90 minutes of full-body sunlight. Thinking about Paleo lifestyle…that seemed reasonable. This is a LOT more than most SE people are taking but I wanted to maximize the effect! 😉

Any effects of D3 on something other than sleep?

I often waking up feeling more rested/rejuvenated. But not every day. I tend to feel tired between 11 pm and midnight.

What happened when you started taking D3 in the morning?

Vitamin D3 in Morning Has Ambiguous Effects on Sleep and Energy (Story 15)

A reader named Murray Love made a comment about Vitamin D3 and sleep that at least sounds negative:

As a counterpoint [to this post], I’ve been taking 4-5,000 IU of D3 for a couple of months now, and while it might be making me feel better in other ways (more vital, upbeat, and energetic), it has coincided with a stretch of poor sleep. I have what they (hilariously) call “terminal insomnia” — that is, I usually have no trouble at all falling asleep, but I wake regularly at night and am permanently awake very early, often from 4:30am onwards. This has been a periodic problem for a few years now, though this stretch is notably tolerable, for some reason.

I asked for details: Continue reading “Vitamin D3 in Morning Has Ambiguous Effects on Sleep and Energy (Story 15)”

50,000 IU Vitamin D3 in Morning Once/Week Improves Sleep (Story 14)

A reader named Tim G commented:

Blood tests last year [2011] showed I had low Vitamin D levels so I was put on a 50,000 IU once/week regimen for 3 months using a prescription D2 (ergocalciferol). A recheck after 3 months showed my level had hardly changed. A search of PubMed showed conflicting views on using the D2 form. So for the next 3 months I used ProHealth D3 Extreme 50,000 IU (via instead of another D2 scrip my doc had given me. I always took the D2 or D3 in the morning (just lucky happenstance.)

The second recheck, after the second 3 mo., showed my Vitamin D level was normal. I hadn’t put it all together until seeing this post, but when using the D3 I had the same effect [as what is described in this post] — when I got tired, I got *really* tired right at bedtime, and slept like a rock.

Even though it has been less than a month since stopping the weekly dose, I have noticed my sleep degrading somewhat, and lately not even being tired when I should.

I asked for details: Continue reading “50,000 IU Vitamin D3 in Morning Once/Week Improves Sleep (Story 14)”

Vitamin D3 and Sleep: 5000 IU Better than 3000 IU (Story 13)

Jenny West, the Englishwoman who discovered independently the value of taking Vitamin D3 in the morning, wrote again:

Since reading some of the other D3 stories, I increased my D3 [morning] dosage to 5000 IU/day [from 3000 IU/day] two days ago.

1. I immediately slept even better – no longer being aware of mid-sleep turning-over.

2. I’ve had a large boost of energy and the clarity of thought that both Robin Barooah and Alexandra Carmichael mentioned.

3. A year-long injury – specifically a dislocated coccyx – has suddenly taken a step forward, and I found myself running for the  Tube last night – something I can’t remember when I last did it. Is this a direct effect of the D3, or an indirect one resulting from much better sleep?

This agrees with what both Alexandra and I experienced: a dose of 4000 IU worked much better than a dose of 2000 IU.

Assorted Links

Thanks to Anne Weiss, Phil Alexander and Dave Lull.

Vitamin D3 in Morning Has No Clear Effect on Sleep (Story 12)

Alex Chernavsky, who has commented as follows (emphasis added):

For what it’s worth, I’ve taken Vitamin D at different times of the day, and I’ve never noticed any effect on my sleep. Of course, my sleep is already pretty good, in the sense that I fall asleep quickly and don’t usually wake up during the night. (My sleep is not good in the sense that I don’t get enough of it.)

By email, I learned that Alex is now taking Vitamin D3 — this particular product, which is vegan (“plant-source”) — at 5000 IU every other day. On weekdays, he takes it at about 8:00 am, on weekends, 9:30-10:00 am.

What might explain Alex’s failure to notice better sleep?

1. Not enough D3. I found that 2000 IU/day had no noticeable effect, whereas 4000 IU/day did produce noticeable benefit. Alex is getting 2500 IU/day — or less, if he takes it too late on the weekends.

2. His source of D3.

3. Individual differences large enough to matter. If you do sensitive psychology experiments, you will learn there are individual differences in everything.

4. Ceiling effect. Alex’s sleep is too good to notice improvement.

Those are the just the obvious possibilities.

Vitamin D3 in Morning Makes Her Fall Asleep Faster and Sleep Better (Story 11)

I have heard many stories about Vitamin D3 and sleep, often in the comments section of this blog. From now on I am going to number them. (I retitled earlier posts.)

Elizabeth Funderburk emailed me:

I’ve always suffered, rather lightly I guess, from SAD in the winter.  In 2010 I started eating primal, which I thought would help – it helped in many ways but I still got gloomier all winter and didn’t even realize it til that first warm sunny spring day when I “woke up.” Your November post about D3 reminded me that I wanted to try it this winter, so I got a bottle and started taking it in the morning. I forgot a few times and took it in the midday or afternoon, and yes, I felt noticeably more spazzy and awake those evenings. Now, if I forget, I just skip it if I remember later than 10 am. I do think I sleep better. I take 4000-6000 IU daily.

I asked her for details.

Tell me about yourself.

I live in Reno, NV, USA, and I’m 34.  I do home renovations.

What brand?

Kirkland D3 2000 IU gelcaps. The first bottle I got was from Walgreen’s, so I guess it was Nature’s Bounty gelcaps. Both seem to work equally well. I have not tried capsules. I take the D3 while I’m waiting for my coffee, usually 6 or 7 am.

How has your sleep improved? Continue reading “Vitamin D3 in Morning Makes Her Fall Asleep Faster and Sleep Better (Story 11)”

Vitamin D3 in Morning Helped Her Sleep Through Night (Story 10)

A woman named Jenny West, who lives in Chiltern Hills (west of London), commented that  she “discovered independently that D3 first thing in the morning works.” I asked her for details:

I (and my family) started to take Vitamin D3 because we are all dyslexic/dyspraxic and had Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, a type of depression). Previously we had tried using light boxes (minimal effect), getting out every lunchtime (more useful) and finally 5HTp — which works but is expensive and if you start it once you are in SAD you can end up ‘wired’. Our SAD symptoms were mainly sleepiness and lack of energy (= hibernation), and brain fog (= difficulty concentrating).

We started taking D3 (2000 IU, Solgar) in gelcaps. That first winter, for the first time ever, no one had any seasonal affective disorder. I had had it since the age of 21, my youngest child when only 4 yrs old, and my other two children by the time they were 18 yrs old. At this point, we were taking the D3 at random times, commonly lunchtime or later, often when everyone was together and the vitamin pot was handed around!

This autumn, all the youngsters had moved out. I found I was forgetting the D3, so I moved it to the bathroom and started taking it first thing in the morning (8-9 am). Then in September, I started taking 3000 IU (instead of 2000 IU). We’d been in Greece and had come back to a gloomy autumn and I wanted to make sure SAD didn’t kick in. In a month I started sleeping through the night most nights.

Before I started taking D3 first thing in the morning, I only slept through 10% of my nights, and had been doing so for at least 15 years. I would wake at 3-4 am, but didn’t get up unless I had been awake for more than 3/4 hr. Then I would be awake until 6 am. Now I sleep without a break (other than turning over) from midnight to 8 am. I sleep like this 95% of my nights, and that includes the odd night when I took the D3 much later in the morning because I had slept in – and consequently woke the following night.

As a coeliac, I take the supplements many coeliacs take – probiotics, minerals, vitamins – but none of these affected my sleep either way. So it really looks as if it is the timing plus the correct dose of D3.

BTW the extra daytime energy is fantastic.

She is 5 feet 4 inches, 64 kg. Notice that 2000 IU first thing in the morning did not improve her sleep but 3000 IU first thing in the morning did. I had a similar experience: 2000 IU had no clear effect  but 4000 IU did.

Vitamin D3 in Morning Increases Energy Levels: Story 9

I know Robin Barooah from Quantified Self meetups. When I learned he had started taking Vitamin D3 early in the morning, I asked him what happened:

I’ve been taking it since December 20. I initially thought of trying it immediately on my return from London because I thought that it might help to reduce jet lag, given its apparent coupling with the circadian rhythm.

It didn’t seem to have a dramatic effect on my jet lag – which was as bad as I usually experience it for about the same number of days (around 3-4). However it had a very pronounced effect on my general energy levels. At first I was almost hyperactive, yet my concentration was good. I was using 5000 IU per day, at 7:30 am. The hyperactive feeling subsided but the dramatic improvement of my energy levels (and increased concentration) continued until I decided to reduce the dose to 2000 or 3000 IU per day [from 5000 IU/day]. My mood has improved too, although I think indirectly though feeling more capable and productive.

I decided to reduce the dose because I was concerned that my sleep wasn’t noticeably better than before taking the D3, and might have been worse.   Reducing the dose caused a huge reduction in my energy levels and concentration, and no improvement in sleep. After a week of that I went back to the 5000 IU dose, and again am very happy with the effects. The improvement in sustained concentration is so dramatic that it’s disturbing to think of how much this could have changed my life had I been using it for years (assuming the effect lasts).

It’s possible that my sleep quality has improved in some way that isn’t reflected in my subjective experience of sleeping, and this has caused the improved energy and concentration. I am sleeping about the same length of time, and waking up in the night just as often and feeling about as rested as before I started (which is not quite as rested as I’d like to feel, despite having a lot of energy). I am not taking a multivitamin, so it’s also possible that I’m not getting all of the possible benefit.

Without doubt, this is one of the most effective things I’ve ever tried.

Emphasis added. He takes Now Foods Vitamin D3 (easy to buy on Amazon), the 5000 IU and 1000 IU softgels. He also said:

I used to get quite severe tiredness (enough to need to lie down) at numerous times during the day. Now I seem to get tired just a little in the afternoon, and then progressively so into the evening. There’s a very distinct slowdown in my energy that happens very obviously around 5pm, which is coincidentally around dusk here at the moment.

I have noticed something similar. Before Vitamin D3 early in the morning, I used to get really tired around 10 am. Enough to make me lie down. This happened on more than half of all days. Now that I am taking a lot of D3 (8000 or 10000 IU) first thing in the morning (8 or 9 am) it doesn’t happen at all. (I may eventually go down to a lower dose, such as 5000 IU/day.)

Vitamin D3 First Thing in Morning: 4000 IU Better Than 2000 IU (Story 8)

On a status update, Alexandra Carmichael (of CureTogether) noted she was taking 4000 IU of Vitamin D3. I asked her for details:

I’ve been taking 2000 IU of D3 every morning for many months, but after hearing about your Meetup talk topic from Gary/Ernesto [“Vitamin D3 and Sleep”] and talking to [redacted] about his experience with it, I decided to switch to 4000 IU, starting yesterday. I take it between 6 and 7 am, with my other morning supplements/meds.

Yesterday I noticed an unusual sense of “clear and smooth” mood for much of the day, which is very odd for me. The day after a meetup, I usually experience intensely fluctuating moods (I’ve been tracking hourly moods, and on my worst days, it’s a 3-hour cycle between peaks, like a super rapid cycling, ultradian bipolar – my therapist suggested this term when I showed him my mood tracking data.)

I also slept unusually well – I’ve been having a good deal of trouble sleeping lately, both falling asleep and night waking. Last night I slept a solid 8 hours!!!

That’s a very small sample (one day) of what happens with 4000 IU. However, Alexandra’s experience is similar to mine. I found that 2000 IU of D3 had no clear effect compared to nothing. However, the very first night after I upped the dose to 4000 IU (from 2000 IU) my sleep was noticeably better.

Alex is using Nature’s Bounty 2000 IU Vitamin D3 gelcaps.

Vitamin D3: Which is Better, Gelcaps or Tablets?

I have been getting good sleep improvement from Vitamin D3 (early in the morning) using tablets. However, Tara Grant and Paul have gotten good results with gelcaps. Apparently both formulations work. Which is better?

This story, from a woman I’ll call JMW, suggests gelcaps are better:

Sorting out all the nutrition for [celiac disease], about 3 years ago, [my two boys and I] started taking D3 – 2000 IU of Solgar in capsule form. That first winter, NO ONE had seasonal affective disorder [= depression]. I had had it since I was 21, can’t remember further back than that, the youngest had had it since he was 4 yrs old, can’t remember the others.

We unintentionally proved it needs to be in capsules (i.e. oil) rather than tablets when I mistakenly repeat-ordered with tablets, and everyone got worse until I got the capsules again.

Vitamin D3 in Morning Improves Falling Asleep (Story 7)

I recently learned that a reader named Paul improved his sleep — he now falls asleep more easily — by taking Vitamin D3 first thing in the morning. He had previously taken the same amount of D3 at other times of day for five months with no obvious effect. Because of my first post about D3 first thing in the morning, he started to take his D3 at that time. Right then his sleep improved.

I asked him for details.

Tell me about yourself.

I live in Jersey City, NJ. I work in advertising. I’m 39 years old, 6 foot 1 inch, and 180 pounds.

How much D3 do you take?

5000 IU/day.

What time?

Usually around 8:00 a.m., but sometimes as early as 7:15 or as late as 10:30.

What brand, etc.?

I take Mason softgels. Each softgel is 5000 IU, “from fish liver oil.”  Other ingredients are soybean oil, gelatin, glycerin, and purified water.

Tell me more about what happened?

Before taking D3 first thing in the morning, I was having trouble getting to sleep quite often:  I’d say 3 times a week on average.  I would just feel wound up for no apparent reason.  I would toss and turn, usually till 1:00 or 2:00 but sometimes until the sun came up.  (It’s possible this was caused by taking D3 in the evening, which I sometimes did.  But this had happened to some extent for as long as I can remember, going back to my childhood.)  I read your blog post this past November 2 about “Primal Girl”‘s experience with D3, and began taking it right after getting up.  Right away (I don’t remember whether it was the first night or not, but it couldn’t have taken more than 2 days because it felt immediate), I started getting tired right around 11:00 or 11:30, which is when I ought to be falling asleep.

Not just “tired,” though—extremely tired.  So tired that if I didn’t get to bed I’d fall asleep on the spot.  It took me by surprise at first, so that I had to struggle to stay awake while I took out my contact lenses and brushed my teeth.  When I went to bed I was out like a light.  This continued through most of December.

Over the holidays I went out of town for 8 days and wasn’t taking D3.  By the end of my vacation I was having insomnia again.  When I got home, I forgot to start taking it again right away and noticed that I was not getting tired like I had been last Fall.  I started taking D3 again around the 4th or 5th of January with the same result as previously.  I continue to take it and experience the same result.

Addendum by Seth. One reason this story is interesting is that it supports the idea that Vitamin D3 acts like sunlight — which is different than acting like a stimulant (e.g., caffeine). A stimulant will push you toward being  awake a few hours after you ingest it. Sunlight, on the other hand, will push you toward being awake a few hours after you are exposed to it and push you toward sleep a dozen hours after that.

Vitamin D3 First Thing in Morning: Story 6

In November, I wrote about Tara Grant (aka Primal Girl)’s discovery that taking Vitamin D first thing in the morning rather than later improved her sleep. Then several people commented that they had observed something similar — some in response to my post (my post led them to try it), some independently. Perhaps people who tested her observation and found it wasn’t true didn’t comment.

One way to assess this possibility is to ask people who have tried it what happened. In the comments to one of my posts about this, Tyler Tyssedal said he would try it. A few days ago I asked him what had happened. Here’s his reply (shortened):

I have been tweaking the timing of my Vitamin D3 intake since I made that comment [on December 13 — one month ago]. I have also made a few other life changes (such as supplements), so the changes I’ve experienced cannot be attributed only to Vitamin D3 (5000 IU) timing. But yes, taking D3 first thing in the morning instead of later noticeably improved my sleep quality. I have been experiencing perpetual, involuntary biphasic sleep on and off for years. I would go to bed around 11 and wake up every day between 4 and 6 am, conscious enough to check the time and sigh. I had been taking my D3 with lunch or dinner, sometimes never. I changed my D3 intake to first thing in the morning. Within a week I noticed I would wake up two out of three nights, around 6 (so a little later), a marked improvement.

I am a 6’2″, 160-lb male. I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Desk job, lift 2-3 times per week, 45 min-1 hr per session with 15 min walking to and from gym.  I typically eat two meals a day (1-2 pm and 6-8 pm). In the morning (between 7:30 and 10am) I consume about 20-30 oz of coffee with 1-3 T cream. I also eat 1 T coconut oil with my coffee and 1 T of it with my dinner.

When I changed my 400 mg magnesium citrate supplement to early afternoon rather than right before bed, I experienced even better sleep. After all these changes, I no longer wake up in the middle of the night. I sleep straight through. A week and a half ago I started taking ALA and NALC with my D3, coconut oil and coffee in the morning. The results have been fantastic and I feel a strong clear headedness in the morning.

Here’s a summary:

WAKE (7:30-9:30am): 5000 IU D3, 500 mg acetyl l-carnitine, 250 mg alpha lipoic acid, 1 T coconut oil, 20-30 oz coffee, 1-3 T cream.

LUNCH (12-2pm): 30% food for the day, typically lowish carb, 400 mg magnesium citrate, 1.2 g EPA/DHA fish oil (on days I don’t consume sardines or salmon, which is 2-3 days a week), Vitamin K2 (1000 K2 MK4, 1000 K2 MK7).

DINNER & POST DINNER: Rest of food (100-150 g carbs post workout workout days; 50-100 g non workout days). On restless nights, 2-5 mg melatonin.

I’ve been pleased with 2-5 mg melatonin before bed on days when I am not heavy eyed by 9:30 pm. I have taken melatonin on and off for years and would still experience biphasic sleep, with or without it.

Vitamin D3 and Sleep: More Good News From Primal Girl

Late last year, Tara Grant (aka Primal Girl) considered the possibility that taking Vitamin D3 has the same effect as sunlight exposure. For example, taking Vitamin D3 at 7 pm is like getting sunlight at 7 pm. This idea — with my advice about how to sleep well (get an hour of sunlight first thing in the morning) ringing in her ears — led her to try to improve her sleep by taking Vitamin D3 first thing in the morning. It worked:

I usually took my supplements mid-afternoon. I vowed to take them first thing every morning. If I forgot, I would not take the Vitamin D at all that day. I tried it the next day and that night I slept like a rock. And the next night. And the next. Days I forgot and skipped the D3, I still slept great. That was the only change I made to my lifestyle and my sleep issues completely resolved.

I called this “a stunning discovery” and have blogged about it several times. I recently asked Tara for details and an update. She replied:

I am so happy to hear that 1) other people didn’t make the connection easily so I’m not a little slow and that 2) there seems to be something to my discovery. 🙂 I’ve had a few comments from people who have said it has worked for them too. So let me answer your questions:

[What type of Vitamin D3 do you take?]

I take Trader Joe’s brand of Vitamin D3, which is a 1000 IU gelcap, in olive oil. 180 capsules for $4.99. Best deal I’ve found. I tried the tablets years ago and they had no affect on me (even on 8000 units a day plus tanning twice a week my blood levels were only at 58.)

[Has your sleep remained solid?]

My sleep HAS remained solid. I have not had ONE night of bad sleep since I started paying attention to when I was taking my Vitamin D.

[How much do you take?]

I was initially taking 10,000 units a day. After about 2 months, I cut that back to 5000 units to see if there was a difference. I did not wake up quite as rested, but I still slept soundly through the night. On days that I increase my dosage, I sleep better, deeper and feel more rested the following morning. I’ve tried this several times, even when I’ve been spending the night away from home, and it has made a difference. I have also tried eating sugar shortly before bedtime and caffeine in the afternoon (both things that would always make my sleep restless in the past) and I still sleep well!! I’ve also thrown exercising into the mix to see if it makes a difference but it doesn’t change the quality of my sleep – it just makes me tired earlier in the evening. I continue to change my dosage randomly and monitor the results.

Vitamin D3: More Reason to Take it First Thing in the Morning

At the Fancy Food Show, one of the exhibitors asked me what I did. I said I studied how food affected the brain. That’s interesting, she said. She proceeded to tell me that Vitamin D3 has really helped her.

When do you take it? I asked.

First thing in the morning, she said.

Why? I asked. Because she had tried taking it at bedtime and it hadn’t worked. So she switched to first thing in the morning and it worked well. It gave her energy and raised her mood. Her 28-year-old son had the same experience.

I told her I had seen the same pattern several times. The time of day really matters, I said. She said she had never thought of that — that what was true for her was true for other people. She had told lots of people about the benefits of Vitamin D3 but she hadn’t told them what time to take it.

I hope to interview this woman at length and get more details.

As far as I’m concerned, the totality of evidence, including this story, is overwhelmingly persuasive. Taking Vitamin D3 at the right time of day is crucial. Take it at the best time of day (first thing in the morning), it will have a powerful good effect. Take it at the worst time of day (evening), it will have a bad effect.

Why Vitamin D researchers missed this, and how long it will take them to stop dismissing “anecdotes” about it, are interesting questions.


Vitamin D3 and Sleep Update

A month ago I blogged about a “stunning discovery”: Primal Girl’s Others pointed out a similar observation: Taking Vitamin D3 in the evening caused insomnia. These observations suggest that Vitamin D3 resembles sunlight in its effect on sleep: morning exposure good, evening exposure bad. Sunlight, of course, is hard to control and sometimes hard to get (which is why Primal Girl tried Vitamin D3). Sunlight is also time-consuming: it takes an hour to get one hour of sunlight. The timing and dosage of Vitamin D3 is much easier to control.

Now I’ve tried it. This isn’t the first time. I’ve taken Vitamin D3 on and off several times through the years. Each time I didn’t notice any change so I stopped. But then I’d hear an interesting argument (never anything as clear as what Primal Girl found), and try again. And stop again. This time I took the Vitamin D3 around 8 am. (In previous attempts, I never controlled the timing and never took it early in the orning.)  I started with 2000 IU/day. I did that for nine days. No clear effect. Then I increased the dose to 4000 IU/day. The change was unmistakeable: I started to wake up feeling somewhat more rested and, for the first time,  with a pleasant warm feeling. So far it’s been eight days. Something is different and better.

I am writing about this now because the results are already interesting. My experience so far “proves” nothing, of course. Let me make clear the limitations: 1. You might consider the effect small. I was already sleeping well. I fell asleep quickly, did not wake up during the night, and woke up feeling rested. Now I wake up feeling more rested. 2. Eight days isn’t much. Maybe the effect will go away. 3. Maybe the effect doesn’t depend on time of day. I haven’t yet tried taking Vitamin D3 at other times of day.

Why do I think this is so important?

1. Sleep is central to health. You fight off infection while you are asleep. When I improved my sleep, I stopped getting noticeable colds. I’m sure if people slept better, they would get sick less often. Heart attacks are more common in the winter. People sleep worse in winter.

2. Sleep is a huge problem. As far as I can tell, most adult Americans complain about their sleep.

3. No one expected this. Nutrition researchers, dieticians, and so on obviously didn’t expect it. Nor did circadian rhythm researchers. They (or we) think that everyone, including plants, has one or more internal circadian clocks that is/are synchronized (= set) by the environment. The general public thinks that sunlight affects the clock. Lots of research supports this, but circadian-rhythm researchers know something the public does not: that those rhythms are also affected by the time of food and social contact. All three (sunlight, food, social contact) are part of the environment. Their power over our sleep makes sense (e.g., we should be awake when food is available.) Vitamin D3 is not part of the environment. Its power doesn’t make sense. No one in the paleo community expected this. Stone-Agers got a lot of sunshine, yes. They did not take Vitamin D3 pills. Sure, many in the paleo community praise Vitamin D3 but I have never heard anyone say you should take it in the morning.

4. Vitamin D3 is safe, cheap, and widely available. It probably has many benefits, not just better sleep.

5. Taking pills is easy. There presently are no safe sleeping pills. Nor are there any cheap sleeping pills. Nor will drug companies ever invent them, if the past is any guide.

Vitamin D: More Reason to Take at Sunrise

I blogged earlier about what I called a “stunning discovery”: Primal Girl found her sleep got much better when she started taking Vitamin D first thing in the morning (= soon after she got up) rather than mid-afternoon. This suggested that Vitamin D acts on your circadian system similar to a blast of sunlight. (More evidence and discussion here.) In his blog, Joseph Buchignani reports another experience that supports the idea that you should take Vitamin D first thing in the morning:

I picked up a bottle of Vit-D and Calcium. Dosage of Vit-D per pill was 1.6ud. Per the instructions, I took 1 at morning and 1 at night. I began this regimin on the night of the 24th of November. It’s now the night of the 25th of November, and my circadian rhythm is completely fucked. . . .  I’m fully awake now (12:30 AM), and I probably took the last dose of Vit-D around 7-8 PM. . . . I woke up with dark eye rings on the morning of the 25th. My energy level did not rise as it should have, but sort of meandered in the middle, before finally tailing off. Stress levels and depression were both elevated. I got little productive done.

Yesterday I started taking Vitamin D first thing in the morning. I took 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 at 8 am. In the afternoon I felt more energetic than usual. The next morning (this morning) I woke up feeling more rested than usual. This also supports Primal Girl’s experience.

Let me repeat: first thing in morning. If you wake up before sunrise, take at sunrise (say, 7 am). Sunlight has a considerably different effect on your circadian system at 7 am than 10 am. (Look up circadian phase-response curve and especially the work of Patricia DeCoursey if you want to understand why three hours makes a big difference.) I have two bottles of Vitamin D. Neither mentions time of day. Both say take with meals.

Vitamin D, Sunlight, and Sleep: More

In the comments on yesterday’s post  (“Can Vitamin D Replace Sunlight? A Stunning Discovery”), two commenters (John and Aaron Blaisdell) noted that Nephropal had said something similar. They’re right. Here’s what Nephropal said in 2009:

Vitamin D taken at night causes insomnia. This is a complaint of a few of my patients. Moreover, when they switch to morning dosing, the insomnia subsides. Thus, Vitamin D should be taken in the morning.

That’s a great observation,  but not the same as Primal Girl’s. Here is her observation, shortened for clarity:

 I usually took my supplements mid-afternoon. I vowed to take them first thing every morning. I tried it the next day and that night I slept like a rock. And the next night. And the next.

The two observations support each other. Both support the idea that the timing of Vitamin D matters. But there are also big differences. Paleo Girl had been taking her Vitamin D in mid-afternoon, not at night. She shifted to first thing in the morning, which is more specific than morning. I changed the title of yesterday’s title to make clearer what is new here: the idea that Vitamin D can substitute for sunlight.

Lots of things cause insomnia if you take them in the evening. Caffeine and other stimulants, for example. A comment on yesterday’s post said that B vitamins and calcium cause insomnia if taken in the evening. This is why Nephropal’s observation, although very important, is not a stunning surprise. You stop taking X in the evening, your sleep improves — I won’t be astonished, no matter what X is.

Vitamin D is not a stimulant or is at best a mild stimulant. Taking Vitamin D in the afternoon should not cause trouble sleeping. Yet Primal Girl had trouble sleeping. And she was getting little morning sunlight. It is a real insight that first-thing-in-the-morning Vitamin D could have the same effect as first-thing-in-the-morning sunlight — in other words, could substitute for missing sunlight. Against all odds, the results supported this idea.

One commenter on yesterday’s post said Primal Girl’s results were both unproven and obvious. Vitamin D is technically a hormone! Melatonin is a hormone, said the comment. I have not heard anyone propose taking melatonin first thing in the morning to improve sleep. It is standard to take melatonin in the evening. The accepted view among circadian rhythm researchers is that sunlight produces its effects on circadian rhythms via nerves, not blood. For example, hundreds of experiments have found that destroying the suprachiasmatic nucleus of rats destroys their circadian rhythms. The suprachiasmatic nucleus receives neural input from the eyes — that’s why these lesions were first made (by Irv Zucker, a Berkeley colleague of mine).

Lots of people think Vitamin D improves sleep. That’s not new. Here’s what one of them said, in a post promisingly titled “When is the best time to take your Vitamin D supplement?“:

In an effort to boost absorption of vitamin D, individuals were asked to take their vitamin D supplements with the largest meal of the day. After 2-3 months, vitamin D levels were checked again.At the end of the study period, vitamin D levels had risen to an average of 47.2 ng/ml (118 nmol/l) – an average increase in vitamin D levels of about 57 per cent. . . It seems sensible, I think, for individuals who are currently supplementing with vitamin D to take this with their largest evening meal.


Can Vitamin D Replace Sunlight? A Stunning Discovery

Primal Girl is a stay-at-home mom. I met her at the Ancestral Health Symposium. Her sleep was bad. I made recommendations. One of them was to get an hour of sunlight soon after you wake up. She can’t do that — too busy being a mom. So she decided to take Vitamin D early in the morning. After all, sunlight exposure produces Vitamin D. Here’s what happened:

One day as I was taking my supplements, I was thinking about how many units of Vitamin D your skin produces in 30 minutes of sun (20,000 I believe). I looked aghast at the 10,000 units of Vitamin D I was taking. It was 7 o’clock at night! I was essentially giving my body 15 minutes worth of bright sunlight energy. No wonder I was waking up in the middle of the night! I was telling my body that it wasn’t really time for bed, it was still the middle of the day. I wondered what would happen if I only took my Vitamin D first thing in the morning. It wouldn’t be an hour naked in the sun, but 15 minutes is better than nothing. That night I slept like shit. Worse than normal.

I usually took my supplements mid-afternoon. I vowed to take them first thing every morning. If I forgot, I would not take the Vitamin D at all that day. I tried it the next day and that night I slept like a rock. And the next night. And the next. Days I forgot and skipped the D3, I still slept great. That was the only change I made to my lifestyle and my sleep issues completely resolved. [emphasis added]

OMG! Double OMG! Like Primal Girl, I have never heard anything like this. Even I am stunned that such a simple safe easy change could have such a positive effect. (Taking Vitamin D at sunrise is a lot easier than standing on one leg four times!) I’ve read lots about circadian rhythms. Many studies showed that a drug would be much more powerful at certain times of day. Most of these studies were with rats. It never occurred to me that the time you take a vitamin could matter so much.