According to the American Sleep Association, nearly 70 million adults in the United States suffer from a sleep disorder, the most common of which is insomnia. The older we get, the more likely we are to have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.
Getting enough sleep is essential for overall health, but it is specifically critical for bone health. That makes it doubly important for Savers to ensure that they’re able to get a full night’s sleep, every night. The good news is that the ability to fall asleep quickly and fully can be significantly improved by providing the body with the necessary nutrients.
In today’s article, we’ll look at studies addressing the connection between sleep and bone health. Then you’ll learn about the top 10 nutrients necessary to sleep better, stay asleep longer, and to build healthy, strong bones.
Falling Asleep Faster Protects Bone
Recent research has shown that difficulty falling asleep decreases bone quality.
A study of 410 elderly people found that sleep onset latency, the amount of time it took participants to fall asleep, was significantly correlated to low bone mineral density (BMD). The researchers concluded that insomnia is linked to osteoporosis and that falling asleep faster and more soundly contributes to preventing and reversing osteoporosis.1
To explain this correlation, the authors pointed to studies showing that sleep deprivation increases cortisol concentration, which in turn decreases bone formation and BMD. They also cited studies that demonstrated how undersleeping (not sleeping enough) elevates pro-inflammatory cytokines, including C-reactive protein and interleukin-6. Both of them increase osteoclast activity, leading to an imbalance in the bone remodeling process that causes bone loss.1
A recent study found that sleep onset latency is linked to low bone mineral density. People who experienced difficulty falling asleep were found to have low BMD.
Getting Too Little Sleep Leads To Poor Dietary Choices
A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience examined the impact of a sleepless night on the food valuation of 32 participants. After consuming the same meal and given the same baseline test, half the participants were sent home to sleep, and the other half were kept awake through the night.
In the morning, the researchers conducted another round of tests, including one which compared how the groups evaluated different food options. They found that the participants who didn’t sleep viewed junk food more favorably than their well-slept counterparts.2
The exact reasons for this are not yet clear, but the researchers were able to rule out hunger and hormonal differences. Both groups experienced the same levels of hunger, and their hormone levels weren’t significantly different. The answer may involve brain chemistry and the neurotransmitters that regulate reward, such as dopamine.
Your ability to make smart dietary choices is dependent on getting a full night’s sleep. That means sleeplessness can undermine the pH-balanced diet your body needs to build stronger bones.
A single sleepless night results in poorer dietary choices.
Nutrients That Help You Sleep
Research has shown that sleeping helps you to make healthier food choices, which in turn help you sleep better.
Sleep is a physical and neurological state that involves numerous hormones, compounds, and body systems. Your brain and body require certain nutrients to sleep restfully. Each of the micronutrients and compounds in this list has been shown to support sleep, and you’ll notice that many of them are also Foundation Supplements, which underscores the positive relationship between sleep and healthy bones.
The primary mineral of bone is also critical for sleep. A study in The Journal of Sleep Research found that calcium deficiency disrupts the deepest part of the sleep cycle, undermining the restorative power of sleep.3 You can get this nutrient from foods like leafy greens, sesame seeds, chia seeds, yogurt, lentils, and almonds. The Save Institute recommends a daily dosage for at least 700mg (organic only).
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2. Vitamin C
Studies have linked low levels of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to sleep issues, such as a tendency to wake up in the middle of the night.4
Vitamin C is also critically important for bone health. It protects bones from oxidation and helps to reduce levels of the bone-damaging stress hormone cortisol. Vitamin C is readily available in fruits and vegetables including zucchini bell peppers, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Be sure to get 1000mg of Vitamin C daily.
3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
A study conducted at Oxford University linked higher levels of the Omega-3 fat DHA with better sleep. The study included 362 children who were given an Omega-3 supplement for 16 weeks. During the study, the participants on average got nearly one hour more of sleep each night, and had fewer waking episodes compared to the placebo group.5
A healthy balance of essential fatty acids (EFAs) supports sleep regulation hormones such as melatonin. It also promotes bone health. Furthermore, studies examining the impact of Omega-3 supplementation on bone density found that increasing Omega-3 intake improved bone quality.6
Fatty fish is an excellent source of Omega-3, but there are also alkalizing plant sources that contain the precursor ALA, including flaxseed, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and beans. The Save Institute recommends a daily intake of 800mg.
Iron deficiency is common, especially among women. You need iron to transport oxygen throughout the body and to produce energy. Iron is also crucial for bone health. In studies with human participants, increased iron intake was shown to increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal women.7
Researchers have concluded that iron deficiency anemia degrades sleep quality. Iron deficiency is also associated with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), which disrupts and prevents sleep. Iron availability limits dopamine synthesis, which implicates iron levels in both RLS and restful sleep.8
There are many rich vegetarian sources of iron including greens, beans, and dark chocolate. You should get 8mg of iron each day.
If you tend to wake up in the middle of the night, increasing your potassium intake might help you slumber more peacefully. A study in the journal Sleep found a link between potassium and the deepest phase of the sleep cycle.9
Potassium is also a powerful alkalizer, helping to balance your serum pH, and to strengthen your bones. The diverse and delicious sources of this mineral include sweet potatoes, watermelon, and beets, to name just a few. The Save Institute recommends getting a minimum of 3500mg of potassium a day from food sources.
Magnesium is an often-overlooked mineral that plays an important role in bone health. It also helps your body produce the sleep hormone melatonin. Additionally, magnesium relieves muscle tension and relaxes the nervous system, making peaceful sleep easier and more restful.10,11
Magnesium is found in bone-healthy foods such as leafy greens, seafood, legumes, and nuts and seeds. Aim to get 400mg of Magnesium every day. For supplementation seek out amino acid chelated magnesium for its optimal bio-availability.
7. Vitamin D
Studies have found that Vitamin D supplementation improves sleep and reduces sleep disturbances.12 Add that to the long list of ways that vitamin D helps you build stronger bones, alongside facilitating calcium absorption and boosting immunity.
Our bodies produce Vitamin D by harnessing the ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. You can turn a sunny day into a restful night. Be sure to get 2000IU of Vitamin D3 per day through supplementation and sunshine.
8. Vitamin B12
Your body uses Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) for blood cell formation and brain health among other processes.Vitamin B12 deficiency causes anemia, nerve damage, depression, and imbalances of neurotransmitters, all of which contribute to sleep disturbances.13
In addition to impairing sleep, low Vitamin B12 levels have been shown to decrease bone density and increase fracture risk.14 Top sources of Vitamin B12 are organ meats, eggs, and fatty fish . At the Save Institute, we recommend a minimum daily dosage of 150mcg.
Feeling sleepy after a Thanksgiving Dinner probably isn’t the result of the tryptophan found in turkey. It’s more likely the result of overindulging, and turkey is hardly the only source of this essential amino acid.
But tryptophan does help you sleep. Many studies have found that tryptophan increases sleepiness and reduces sleep latency.15 That might make sources of the compound, like walnuts, yogurt, and hummus, excellent evening snacks for getting a good night’s rest. The Save Institute recommends against taking tryptophan supplements, but you can get its benefits from food sources.
The sleep-regulating hormone melatonin is synthesized in the pineal gland.
It helps to regulate your circadian rhythm, which times the release of hormones that help you fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning. Researchers have established that melatonin can help you sleep better.16
Studies have also found that dietary melatonin has a beneficial effect on age-related bone loss. It improves the microstructure and biomechanical properties of bone.17
You can get melatonin from many foods, including tart cherries, walnuts, ginger, asparagus, and bananas. These food sources provide plenty of melatonin. The Save Institute recommends taking melatonin supplements only if absolutely necessary and at the lowest possible dosage of 1mg, increasing the dosage as needed, up to 3mg.
Eat Well To Sleep Well
Sleep is your body’s time to rest and repair, and it’s also a crucial stage in the bone-remodeling process. As research has shown, you can achieve restful sleep with bone-smart nutrients that also help you build stronger and more fracture-resistant bones.
This multi-tasking capacity is part of why good health is such an attainable goal: every positive action you take for your health sets off a cascade of benefits.
1 Qian Tong, et al. “Sleep onset latency is related with reduced bone mineral density in elderly people with insomnia: a retrospective study.” Clinical Interventions In Aging. 30 August 2018 Volume 2018:13 Pages 1525—1530 Web. https://www.dovepress.com/sleep-onset-latency-is-related-with-reduced-bone-mineral-density-in-el-peer-reviewed-article-CIAhttps://www.dovepress.com/sleep-onset-latency-is-related-with-reduced-bone-mineral-density-in-el-peer-reviewed-article-CIA
2 Julia Rihm, et al. “Sleep deprivation selectively up-regulates an amygdala-hypothalamic circuit involved in food reward.” The Journal of Neuroscience. 30 January 2019, 39 (5) 888-899. Web. https://www.jneurosci.org/content/39/5/888
3 Grandner, Michael A et al. “Sleep symptoms associated with intake of specific dietary nutrients” Journal of sleep research vol. 23,1 (2013): 22-34. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3866235/
4 Beydoun MA, Gamaldo AA, Canas JA, Beydoun HA, Shah MT, McNeely JM, et al. “Serum Nutritional Biomarkers and Their Associations with Sleep among US Adults in Recent National Surveys.” PLoS ONE. 2014, 9(8): e103490. Web. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0103490
5 Montgomery, Paul et al. “Fatty acids and sleep in UK children: subjective and pilot objective sleep results from the DOLAB study–a randomized controlled trial” Journal of sleep research vol. 23,4 (2014): 364-88. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4263155/
6 Kruger MC. “Calcium gamma-linolenic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid supplementation in senile osteoporosis.” Aging (Milano). 1998 Oct;10(5):385-94. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9932142
7 Murat, Semiz et al. “Assessment of subjective sleep quality in iron deficiency anaemia” African health sciences vol. 15,2 (2015): 621-7. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4480468/
8 Garcia-Borreguero, Diego et al. “Algorithms for the diagnosis and treatment of restless legs syndrome in primary care” BMC neurology vol. 11 28. 27 Feb. 2011. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3056753/
9 Drennan MD, et al. “Potassium affects actigraph-identified sleep.” Sleep. 1991 Aug;14(4):357-60. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1947601
10 Abbasi B, et al. “The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.” J Res Med Sci. 2012 Dec;17(12):1161-9. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23853635
11 Gottesmann C. “GABA mechanisms and sleep.” Neuroscience. 2002;111(2):231-9. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11983310
12 Gominak SC, et al. “The world epidemic of sleep disorders is linked to vitamin D deficiency.” Med Hypotheses. 2012 Aug;79(2):132-5. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22583560
13 Okawa M, et al. “Vitamin B12 treatment for sleep-wake rhythm disorders.” Sleep. 1990 Feb;13(1):15-23. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2305167
14 McClean, Robert R. “Plasma B Vitamins, Homocysteine, and Their Relation with Bone Loss and Hip Fracture in Elderly Men and Women.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 June; 93(6): 2206–2212. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2435634/
15 Hartmann E. “Effects of L-tryptophan on sleepiness and on sleep.” J Psychiatr Res. 1982-1983;17(2):107-13. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6764927
16 Dollins, A B et al. “Effect of inducing nocturnal serum melatonin concentrations in daytime on sleep, mood, body temperature, and performance” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 91,5 (1994): 1824-8. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC43256/
17 Tresguerres Isabel F., Tamimi Faleh, Eimar Hazem, Barralet Jake E., Prieto Santiago, Torres Jesús, Calvo-Guirado José Luis, and Tresguerres Jesús A.F. “Melatonin Dietary Supplement as an Anti-Aging Therapy for Age-Related Bone Loss.” Rejuvenation Research. August 2014, 17(4): 341-346. Web: https://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/rej.2013.1542
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Thx for that information it helps a lot
Thank you so much – very useful information- very grateful for this 🙂
Thank you Vivien. Your articles are inspiring. Just a quick comment: I was unable to see a number “9” in the article and would be very interested to know what that might be.
Kind regards, Ed
You’re very welcome Ed! Thanks for letting us know about number nine missing. Our technical team has fixed the article so you should be able to read it now :).
Thank you for this information. I am having a great deal of trouble with sleeping. I am going to check out all the food related information you have given for a better sleep and try to get what I need.
Good morning Vivian,
Excellent Information . Thank you very much.
Have a wonderful day,
Thank you for this article….I do agree that eating is the best way for a healthy body, too many people rely on tablets. Take the money you would spend on a bottle of tables, and buy fresh fruit and veggies.
Wellness Director at a Continuing Care facility in AZ.
I use some of your suggestions on a large TV monitor in the hall of our Fitness Pavilion.
Relaxation before bed, eat a banana (ripe), or have a cup of Rooibos tea with lemon & raw honey – my advice to Trudy Barikin.
Thanks so much Vivian & your team.
Thanks Joy for your advice. I tried warm milk with honey & all the home remedies, to no avail. I guess I just have to live with it unless somebody comes up with a ‘miracle cure’ for insomnia.
Cobalamin supplements in the form of cyanocobalamin is not much use if one has a genetic methylation problem. Methylcobalamin can be used by their bodies.
Thank you, Ita.
Hi, reading the info I can confirm that I do everything right, however, I still can’t sleep since I have been through menopause. I eat the correct food, take organic calcium + magnesium (have done this for many years), go for walks on the sunny beach (Vit. D), but sleep still eludes me. I have been taking a relaxant at night for years, try to get off it, but by doing so I am still awake at 7am and then suffer from a migraine for the rest of the day, meaning ‘no quality of life’! I tried the prescription melantonin & other ‘natural’ remedies, but nothing helps, I am still an insomniac! I am very slim, not a couch potato and a happy, positive person. Is there anybody who can give me some advice on how to get some healthy sleep, not just two hours on and off, even with the relaxant?
Thank you for any advice!
For Trudy, Turn off all screens (cell phone, TV, and computer) 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Drink a little bit of tart cherry juice before bedtime. Relax and read something light like Debbie Macomber novels for the last 20 or 30 mins before falling asleep.
Hi Claire, thanks for the advice. I certainly don’t use a cell phone, I don’t watch TV late at night, don’t have the PC on and always enjoy my reading every night since I was a kid. I also eat very well/healthy and go for long walks on the beach. Unfortunately, all this does not help; I tried about everything, so did my mum and granny before me who had the same problems. I might have to live with it.
Did you buy a 1-pound bag of Rooibos tea and try it for at least a month?
Thanks Vivien, I love these articles which have enabled me to completely change my diet, way of life and to not let doctors try and convince me to take harmful drugs. Being in control of one’s lifestyle surely contributes to lowering stress hormones too.
July 9th I found GLA oil to really help me sleep twice (checking with my PCP soon about using this fat for about 6 months due to PA that affects liver organ). So it is consumed in a capsule at dinner meal. I do not think consuming this capsule at breakfast meal helped, as I had two days’ worth of slight hand-ache in non-dominant hand. I do use the resistance band since July 2018 and swim in wet suit with gloves and socks, hair-cap since Feb 2018. I also walk a mile daily. My health has found Sjogrens in my serum results (since 3Q15) and I choose gluten-free foods and drink (since 4Q17). I am also not consuming grains or seeds. My three meals are just two items on the plate–meat, vegetables (similar to the A-1-C diet). Rare occasion I will consume potato chips (popcorn is my favorite since childhood) and taste a natural/organic soda with sugar. Dark 90% chocolate is also a favorite food.