Many Americans get less than the recommended amount of sleep, and many do not get the recommended amounts of important vitamins and minerals. A new study suggests the two factors may be connected.
Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults, the researchers discovered that people who got fewer than seven hours of sleep a night consumed lower amounts of vitamins A, D, and B1, as well as magnesium, niacin, calcium, zinc, and phosphorus.
The study also found a greater number of nutrients were associated with poor sleep in women than in men. This number was reduced if women took dietary supplements, suggesting that supplements can help fill the gaps when a person’s diet is not providing the necessary nutrients, researchers said.
“This work adds to the body of growing evidence associating specific nutrient intakes with sleep outcomes,” said lead study author Chioma Ikonte, director of nutrition science at Pharmavite, a company that sells dietary supplements. “Our findings suggest that individuals with short sleep duration might benefit from improving their intake of these nutrients through diet and supplementation.”
In addition to the findings on sleep duration, the research suggests a lack of nutrients may also play a role in sleep disorders, poor sleep quality and trouble falling asleep.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that our bodies require but do not produce. As a result, they must come from our diet. Globally, billions of people suffer from at least one micronutrient deficiency, according to the researchers.
Previous studies have demonstrated important roles for micronutrients in growth and development, disease prevention and healing, and normal bodily functions, including sleep. Magnesium, for example, helps the body produce melatonin and other compounds involved in sleep. Some studies suggest zinc plays a role in sleep regulation.
The researchers caution that the study was a retrospective analysis, not a randomized controlled study, so it cannot prove cause and effect.
“Whether chronic short sleep causes nutrient insufficiency or the nutrient insufficiency causes short sleep still needs to be determined,” said Ikonte. “A clinical study that investigates the impacts of supplementation with these nutrients on sleep outcomes is needed to demonstrate cause and effect.”
The research was presented at Nutrition 2019, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition.