Many people are (over) supplementing with melatonin to help them sleep better.
But what if your body was just better at making its own melatonin?
That’s what we’re going to get into today – and it starts with understanding a nutrient known as vitamin D3.
First off: D3 is not actually a vitamin.
First of all, “Vitamin” D3, like many other nutrients or processes in the body, is actually a misnomer.
It’s really a hormone, and that’s important to know because our body inherently uses hormones and vitamins in different ways.
Our body also cannot produce vitamins, but the main source of vitamin D3 is its production within our body when exposed to the UV rays from sunlight.
Vitamin D3 is also lipid (AKA fat) soluble, meaning that it mixes well with our body fat but would be like oil on water if you tried mixing it in water.
So, unlike water soluble vitamins, we can actually store vitamin D3 within our body fat to use when it’s needed.
Let’s get a bit more into how vitamin D3 works in the body.
Production and storage are 2 different things.
Since we can hold onto this hormone for as long as is needed, we don’t necessarily use the vitamin D3 we’ve produced on the same day that we produce it.
Our body can be making more while tapping into fat stores to use some that we made last week, last month, last year, etc.
On that note, the storage of D3 in our body fat is a double-edged sword.
Because we can save it up for the days we don’t produce as much, deficiency takes longer to set in.
But, on that same note, it’s harder to know that vitamin D3 deficiency is the cause of your symptoms if you do start to exhibit them.
You could have 6 months of it “saved up” in your body fat, and then when you run out it’s hard to trace the correlation with the causation at first.
This is also why blood panels aren’t necessarily a good measurement of how much D3 a person has in their body.
Blood panels only measure what’s circulating in the body at that moment, without gauging how much might be stored in the body fat.
There are other ways to get a more accurate reading of total-body D3, but you would need to ask your doctor for those alternative methods if you’re really interested in using one.
Some signs of vitamin D3 deficiency include:
- Getting sick regularly
- Hair loss
- Bone / muscle pain
- Recurring bad moods
- Slow or impaired wound healing
Some long-term effects of vitamin D3 deficiency include:
- Lasting infections
- Pregnancy complications
- Neurological issues
- Autoimmune responses or disease development
- Higher risk for cancer
- Heart & lung complications
Can you overdose on vitamin D3?
The complications with fat soluble nutrients like vitamin D3 continue when you consider the other end of long-term storage: the ability to have too much saved up.
Keep in mind that this is extremely rare, while vitamin D3 deficiency is very common (especially in Western society continents like America and Europe).
Very little is still known about vitamin D3 toxicity, since it’s so rare.
It almost always happens because of over-supplementation and it’s virtually impossible to overdose on it just from food and sunlight.
And when I say over-supplementation, I mean taking 10-20 times the amount you’d buy in a capsule for a few months, every single day.
If it does happen, the problem with too much vitamin D3 in your body is that it causes a condition called hypercalcemia.
This means that it causes elevated levels of calcium in your blood, which can lead to all sorts of issues.
Again, vitamin D3 overdose is extremely rare and even if you’re supplementing, just stick to taking the amount recommended by your doctor and you’ll never have to worry about dealing with toxicity from vitamin D3 overdose.
Using vitamin D3 for sleep (alongside magnesium)
Now, this is the part I really love to talk about.
I started to explain this in my last blog on magnesium, but there’s a very particular order in which vitamin D3 helps improve sleep.
I look at it like this: instead of taking melatonin directly, why don’t we make sure the body has the building blocks it needs to make its own?
That’s what vitamin D3 is.
To make melatonin naturally in the body, we need a few things:
- Vitamin D3
Tryptophan is an amino acid that you get from eating basically any meat or complete protein.
Magnesium is a mineral that I covered extensively in last week’s blog.
And Vitamin D3, well, you know more about it now, thanks to this blog.
The body converts the tryptophan we eat into 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP).
Our cells then put together 5-HTP, magnesium, and vitamin D3 to create serotonin, our body’s anti-depression hormone.
Once we have enough serotonin in the body, we can then convert some of it to melatonin as the day shifts into night.
Sticking to our good sleep hygiene really helps this conversion process along.
And, as a final note, it’s good to remember that melatonin is the sleep initiator hormone in the body.
So, by having adequate levels of vitamin D3 (and magnesium, and 5-HTP) we’re able to “brew” our own sleep cocktail using the cells’ natural process of knocking us out.
What are the best ways to improve vitamin D3 levels?
The number one way to get adequate levels of vitamin D in your system is by getting outside in the sunlight, with as much skin showing as possible.
There are varying lengths of time needed with this sun exposure per person, based on skin tone and body type.
You can also make sure you’re regularly eating foods that contain naturally high levels of vitamin D3.
Foods that I would recommend that also fall into the high-vitamin D3 category include:
- Other oily / oftentimes canned fish (like sardines)
- Egg yolks
- Cod liver oil
And, of course, you can supplement with vitamin D3.
I just want to reiterate once more that you’re not going to overdose yourself on this nutrient unless you’re taking 10-20x the amount in a single serving of a supplement.
Doses in supplements can range anywhere from 1,000 – 10,000 IU.
We don’t see toxicity until we get into the 40,000 – 100,000 IU per day range, holding that at dosage for several months before toxicity really happens.
So, for most people, supplementing is a great idea because even if we’re eating those foods regularly, almost no one gets into the sun for as much time as they really should to have healthy levels.
Benefits of vitamin D3
Besides the aforementioned sleep improvement that we get from adequate levels of vitamin D3, there are plenty of other reasons we want to have enough of it.
Some additional benefits of vitamin D3 include:
- Improved immunity
- Stronger bones & muscles
- Diabetes prevention
- Weight loss help
- Decreased symptoms of depression
- Hypertension treatment
…yeah, it’s a good hormone to make sure we’ve got enough of.
And there’s a small amount of it in my Sleep Remedy, to help make sure that your body is making its own melatonin throughout the night.
If you want to learn more about this non-addictive sleep supplement, click here: