Abnormal Sleep Causes Neurological Problems:
In 2005 one of my daily headache sufferers discovered she had sleep apnea. She put on a CPAP mask and voila! her headaches were gone!
I thought, “Wow if I help my headache patients sleep better maybe their headaches will go away!” I started sending all of my headache sufferers for sleep studies. They were all abnormal! Usually they didn’t stop breathing, they just didn’t have normal deep sleep. Eventually I did sleep studies on all of my Neurology patients. They all had abnormal sleep studies too, sometimes without even realizing that their sleep was abnormal!
In the beginning all I had for treatment were sleeping pills and sleep apnea masks. They both worked for some people, but they “wore off”. It seemed like the disease in the background wasn’t really being fixed.
What was making their sleep abnormal?
In 2009 I accidentally discovered that all of the patients who had abnormal sleep also had vitamin D deficiency. Over time I realized that nearly everyone with abnormal sleep had a combination of both vitamin D and B vitamin deficiencies.
Low D goofs up sleep:
Neurological problems are not directly caused by vitamin D deficiency, they are caused by abnormal sleep. Low vitamin D causes abnormal sleep. The sleep problems come in a variety of flavors; insomnia, sleep apnea, waking up a lot, abnormal body movements during sleep, narcolepsy, sleep paralysis, night terrors, bed-wetting, and just not feeling rested in the morning . No matter what kind of sleep problem you have not sleeping properly keeps you from healing your body. When your sleep improves your headaches, seizures, tremor, body pain, balance problems, depression, memory loss, etc. can all get better. See the Sleep section for more detail . To find out what is really normal or abnormal about your sleep see the FAQ section
Poor sleep causes hypertension, heart disease and stroke:
The sleep disorders experts report that every American with high blood pressure has a sleep disorder in the background. Therefore the real killer in America is not the long term effects of hypertension, but the long term effects of abnormal, non-restorative sleep. Vitamin D appears to affect our sleep cycles through D receptors in the lowest part of the brain called the “brain stem”, where we control the timing and paralysis of sleep. Sleep occurs every night to allow us to heal and make repairs. It is during sleep that we make the chemicals that keep our blood pressure normal. While we sleep our arteries repair and stay smooth . The pacemaker cells in the heart repair every night so we don’t get atrial fibrillation that can lead to stroke. Several of the B vitamins play a role in heart attack and stroke. Vitamin B5 is needed to make acetylcholine, a chemical that slows the heart rate. This means that people with D/B deficiencies often have a higher heart rate. They are told that their heart racing is a “panic attack”, even though there is no reason for them to be “panicked”.
Poor sleep causes memory problems and depression:
While we sleep we make permanent memories. We also make the serotonin that we use during the day to stay happy and curious, so low vitamin D, through it’s effect on sleep, can cause depression and memory problems.
Vitamin D and B deficiencies are behind many common diseases:
The B vitamins are needed on a daily basis for the proper production of the red and white blood cells, so anemia is linked to D/B deficiencies. All of the autoimmune diseases: multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, are related to low vitamin D in combination with secondary B vitamin deficiencies. B5, pantothenic acid is the raw material used to make cortisol. Cortisol is the daily hormonal message that tells all of the white blood cells how to behave. Cortisol ( prednisone) is what doctors use to treat the autoimmune disorders, to tell the white blood cells to stop attacking our own body. Patients who have autoimmune disorders have had combined D/B deficiencies for many years and always have an accompanying sleep disorder. Only normal sleep for many months will bring back the normal immune system.
Vitamin B12 deficiency:
It appears that vitamin D deficiency causes B12 deficiency, which also affects sleep. There are Vitamin D receptors in the salivary glands that make haptocorrin which binds the B12 in food and accompanies it through the stomach. There are also D receptors in the stomach cells that make “intrinsic factor”, another chemical that binds to B12 and helps us absorb it. When the D is so low that haptocorrin and intrinsic factor are also low we are not able to absorb B12 from our food. About a quarter of my D deficient patients had an accompanying B12 deficiency, and they had usually been sicker, longer. Ask your doctor to check your B12 level. The B12 level for normal sleep is above 500 pg/ml, (the lab normal usually says over 225 pg/ml so don’t let them tell you it’s “normal” get the number!
If your B12 blood level is below 500pg/ml it should be supplemented as a separate, daily pill of 1000 mcg/day for several years. in addition any other B complex pills such as B50 and B100. B50 has 50 mcg of B12, B100 has 100 mcg, these doses are not enough for the person who is B12 deficient. So B12 must be taken as a separate pill of 1000 mcg.
Contrary to what we’ve all been taught, monthly B12 shots are not better than daily pills. The shot lasts about 3 days, and the brain needs B12 every day. Don’t waste your money on B12 blood levels while you’re taking 1000 mcg pills. If you test your B12 blood level on pills it will usually may be high, don’t worry about it! B12 is one of the B vitamins that will not hurt you at high levels. People who are B12 deficient have to take B12 pills daily for at least the first two years after starting vitamin D.
After at least two years, and once you’re sleeping very, very well try a day or two off the B12, and see if your sleep stays good. If it does then stay off the B12 and check your blood level again the next time you see your doctor. Once the vitamin D level is 60-80 ng/ml for several years many B12 deficient patients go back to being able to absorb B12. Once your level is over 500 off pills for at least a month, you can stay off it forever. As long as you keep an eye on your D level you won’t become B12 deficient again.
Vitamin D affects B production:
D deficiency severe enough to affect sleep usually causes accompanying changes in the intestinal bacteria. For normal sleep to occur the normal bacteria must be brought back. See the RightSleep section to see how to do it.
Why is pain so common in vitamin D deficiency?
If you have fibromyalgia, muscle pain, arthritis, or burning in the hands or feet you have a combination of D and secondary pantothenic acid (B5) deficiency. If you start vitamin D supplementation by itself, without correcting the intestinal bacteria (by taking B50 or B100 for three months) you will eventually become B5 deficient and start to wake with pain and stiffness in the morning.
In order to bring back the “right” intestinal bacteria B-50, (a B complex that has 50 mg or 50 mcg of each of the 8 B vitamins) should be taken for 3 months when your D blood level is over 40ng/ml. If your D level is very low and it takes a couple of months before your D level gets up above 40 ng/ml, don’t start counting until your D level is 40 or above. Supplying the vitamin D and all 8 B vitamins together encourages the “right” bacteria to grow back. Read the blog section Healthy Bacteria Healthy Sleep for more information.