Sunday, August 19, 2012

Vitamin D destroyed my deep sleep

I want to tell the whole story of how I figured this out, but I will just cut to the data.  Here is a graph of the amount of deep sleep.  Its almost a year of data (Jul 30, 2011-Jul 8 2012).



You'll notice that the first night I had 54 minutes of deep sleep which is the highest amount of deep sleep in the time period.  There was one other 50+ night  and 9 40+ nights of deep sleep and they were all before Aug 27 2011 (the red line).

For perspective, according to Zeo, the average amount of deep sleep for males aged 30-39 is 59 minutes.

After the red line, my deep sleep cratered. It hovered in the 10-20 minute range. Except for one period from the middle of January to February, it stayed that way for almost a year.

I have done all kinds of tests in the year trying to improve my deep sleep and haven't experienced much success. So what was the red line?  It was when I switched from 4000IU to 5000IU Vitamin D every day.

There has been research suggesting that a Vitamin D deficiency can cause sleep issues. In March of 2011 (before I switched to 5000IU) I was tested at 44ng/mL...so no reason to think I was deficient at any point in the sleep tracking.

In the alternative health blog world, there is a lot of discussion that Vitamin D timing can affect sleep quality.  In most of 2011, I took it at night.  Most of 2012, I took it in the morning.  You can see from the graph it didn't make much of a difference.

I haven't seen anything before that suggests too much Vitamin D (at any time) can cause sleep issues. Also, to be clear, I had my Vitamin D level tested in December (after 4 months of 5000IU).  It was 89.5 ng/mL - well under the level considered excessive (100 ng/mL).

But I still think too much Vitamin D is what caused the decrease in deep sleep.

I made this determination on July 8 (the other red line).  I stopped taking any Vitamin D and put on suntan lotion when I went outside.  The halflife of Vitamin D in the body is a month.  So what happened a month after I stopped?



My deep sleep went way up.  That's what happened.  I have had multiple nights of 50+ minutes of deep sleep and my first ever 60+ minutes of deep sleep. I have gotten more deep sleep  in the past 11 nights than the last 33 nights while I was taking Vitamin D. Pretty awesome.

I went and had my blood tested the first time my sleep broke 50 minutes.  It was 55.5 ng/mL.

I'd love to hear any comments/questions. I think a lot of people in the paleo/alternative health world are taking a lot of Vitamin D so I think it would be great

EDIT:  I updated the post to go into a little more detail about what time of day I took Vitamin D.



42 comments:

  1. what time of day did you take your Vitamin D? was it Vitamin D3?

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    1. It varied over the year. Initially I took it at night just because that is when I took my supplements.

      If this is the Seth Roberts (that I was just getting ready to email a copy of this post), then I changed to the morning after your posts on the topic. Bought a second bottle to keep at work just in case I was in a hurry in the morning. So I took it in the morning for several months before I quit. As you can see from the graph there was no real change until I quit completely.

      Yes, it was D3 gelcaps.

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  2. I wish I had blood measurements to more directly compare my own results. Oh well.

    1. Your graphs looks very noisy at points, but also have long straight segments; how much of this is nights where the data is corrupted by the headband falling off or something? It's hard to tell because so many days are being summarized. One could as well suggest that the extra vitamin D was helping moderate your sleep: there are huge spikes downward in the off periods as well as upward.

    For example, I was wondering whether the results were really consistent with the fall and then rebound a month after the transitions points (consistent with the month half-life), but I can't tell because the lines are so jagged and the graph so compressed - maybe the fall/rise start a week after taking/dropping vitamin D. Raw data like the CSV export is also useful in this case: one could do a quick t-test on the means.
    2. Why are you only looking at deep sleep? The Zeo ought to be giving you much more data than that. What about REM length, morning feel, or number of awakenings? Are they all OK and you are just focusing on the one that looked, post hoc, to be distressing?

    This is important because multiple correction becomes a real problem here: a Zeo gives you enough data to hang yourself, which is why I emphasize multiple correction in http://www.gwern.net/Zeo - if you are measuring 6+ parameters, it's very easy to see some sort of trend, especially when you are giving yourself a full month or more of wiggle room. (IIRC, with 6 parameters, you have something like a 50% chance of seeing a _p_<0.05 effect in one of them, even when the data is randomly generated.)
    3. I'm not sure 90ng/ml is 'well below' excessive; what sort of variability do these blood level and the blood tests themselves have? Can they add on 10%? If so...
    4. I don't know much about deep sleep or its importance; are there any daytime metrics of your physical or mental performance you could check against? Maybe you don't need more deep sleep.
    5. Do you have followups planned? Maybe something like a few months off vitamin D entirely with a bloodtest, and then a few months on a lower dose of vitamin D (2k maybe?) with a bloodtest. If 2 or 3k doesn't hurt deep sleep, you have an easy way to blind and randomize: buy the same brand of gelcaps but at varying dosages. (Dump 30+ of one dosage into one secretly-marked container, 30+ of the other dosage into the other container, and you've got a pair.)

    > I think if I was not overdosed on Vitamin D I might see some differences because of timing, but I think once you cross a certain threshold, sleep suffers no matter when you take it.

    I find it a little curious that 1000IU - the difference between your 4k and 5k IU doses - could make such a difference. What are the odds that your regimen would just happen to cross the line?

    Still, this makes me wonder what my own results will be: I used up the last of my vitamin D on 2 July, and haven't used any since, in order to compare some months against the control/placebo days in my previous vitamin D experiments.

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    1. 1. Yeah...I can tell you that the big dips after I was off Vit D came from drinking. I submit that the when it was low it was more steady cause there isnt a whole lot of room to go down (rather than Vit D stabilizing)

      2. I'm only looking at deep sleep for two reasons. The first is that it was the only thing that was abnormal when I started wearing it. Also, I am working on increasing my muscle mass and deep sleep is when growth hormone is released so I wanted to make sure there were no issues there.

      3. Valid Question on variablity...I honestly don't know. I am under the impression that 135 is the excessive limit. It seems like a roughly 50% variability would be high.

      4. I would love that too. I do think I experienced less afternoon lethargy. I wasn't tracking that though so could very well be placebo.

      I'm skeptical it would have shot us so dramatically if I didn't need it though.

      5. Absolutely have follow ups planned. I basically have to redo every sleep experiment I have done so far. I think I will start with a shot of Cod Liver oil (400IU) in the morning and see how that affects sleep. DEpending on results, I will adjust again.

      I agree that the 1000IU seems...odd. However...I was capable of getting 50+ of deep sleep when I was on 4000IU so I do think there is some evidence that 5000IU broke the camels back. I'm not going to jump back to 4000IU either. The big takeaway for me is that there is such a thing as too much Vit D, especially when it comes to sleep, and that it is lower than is what is normally considered toxic (I showed no other signs of Vit D overdose)

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    2. 1. So how do you know this wasn't a reflection of changes in drinking habits? You say that there's not much worse the deep can get, but that's only true when you're at 0%...
      2. You mean deep sleep was already unusually low when you started using a Zeo? Were you on vitamin D at the start?
      3. I did some quick Googling the other day, and actually 50% error bars are being claimed as quite possible for some samples: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120625152310.htm or http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-18/health/ct-met-vitamin-d-tests-20120718_1_vitamin-d-testing-frequent-testing-single-blood-sample
      4. Well, most people are somewhat sleep deprived; that's why they sleep in on weekends or sleep hours more in unusual situations (some cites in http://www.gwern.net/Melatonin#health-performance )
      5. I look forward to the results. I'm not sure I care about this enough compared to other stuff to do my own experiment (maybe with 10k doses to try to push me into overdose territory) any time soon, so you're about it.

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  3. I am familiar with another theory that may explain what you experienced. A neurologist has been studying her patients for a couple years and has found that D25OH levels between 60 - 80 ng/ml improved sleep greatly. Is that the numbers you checked as opposed to 1,25OH?

    That may explain why going to 89.5 hurt your sleep, which is what she predicts. It doesn't matter when you take the D3, just what your D25OH level is.

    You can check out her website here: http://drgominak.com/vitamin-d
    She also has some great You Tube videos explaining how she discovered the link.

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    1. Also, It's a little hard to follow the timing of your dose increases and decreased, but the thought that you could go from 44 ng/ml on 4000 IU to 89.5 ng/ml on 5000 IU sounds impossible unless you also spend a lot of time in the sun in the summer. The increase one would expect from a 1000 IU increase is about 8 - 10 ng/ml.

      5000 IU might be a good dose for you in the winter. I take about 6500 IU per day. I don't know if I'll decrease much in the summer since I usually spend little time in the sun without sunscreen.

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  4. Thanks for sharing Chris. I'm trying to figure out how to improve my sleep as I recently went to a sleep lab, which came back that my sleep quality is around 60%. Apparently I wake up every 2 minutes. REM is okay, but the deep sleep isn't. I'm working on changing my diet, exercising daily, and meditating. Any additional tips that you are finding are appreciated.

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  5. going to the link that mike hinton provided,http://drgominak.com/vitamin-d, I then went to the the vitamin d council and saw that when supplementing with vit d, if you are deficient in magensium, you can experience insomnia. not sure if this has been mentioned http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/vitamin-d-cofactors/magnesium/

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  6. If I remember correctly Stasha Gominak tries to keep her headache patients between 60-85ng/ml 25(OH)D3. There are talks on Youtube by her. Worth a watch.

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  7. Sounds interesting but did you take Vitamin K2 along with your Vitamin D, otherwise you don't get the full benefits, or you could have possible toxic side effects.

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  8. I am so happy you wrote about this. I do not keep graphs- I only reply on my memory. I was low in D so I increased it. Whenever I took Vitamin D in the evening, I would get a surge of energy leaving me feeling tired in the morning. I started to take fermented Cod Liver oil from green pastures and sleep well. I have not had an updated Vitamin D test but I know it must have improved because the Cod liver oil is also high in vitamin A and my skin looks great and feels soft. I had issues with dry skin and that resolved itself within two months after taking cod liver oil.

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  9. Hi Chris,

    Dr. Gominak is a neurologist who has extensively studied the relationship between sleep and vitamin D. If you haven't watched this video before I would highly recommend it...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF24xmJQK1k

    She states that high D levels adversely impact sleep just as much as low levels. 60-80 is the ideal range. It is a really interesting video. Good luck.

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  10. Absolutely true. I noticed the 5k iu was making it harder to fall asleep at night but I felt way more energized during the day. After 2 weeks of this I had a complete meltdown 1 day, spiraled into anxiety and panic attack mode out of nowhere. It was a terrible day of worry and pacing and feeling hopeless. My baseline mild anxiety had gonw into full psychotic break mode. It was such a surprise and D3 was the ONLY thing I was doing differently. From that day forward I went back down to 1k iu D3. The kicker though is that you aren't supposed to supplement D3 without magnesium. So out of fear of another horrible day, I drink the magnesium citrate drink every night now too. I think I went goo far on D3 and caused am imbalance with mag or something. It's very real.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story Rebecca. I'm also taking 5K iu and I've been having serious problems as well. I thought I was going crazy between anxiety, panic attacks and lack of sleep. I'm going to follow your lead and go down to 1k Iu D3

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  11. Absolutely true. I noticed the 5k iu was making it harder to fall asleep at night but I felt way more energized during the day. After 2 weeks of this I had a complete meltdown 1 day, spiraled into anxiety and panic attack mode out of nowhere. It was a terrible day of worry and pacing and feeling hopeless. My baseline mild anxiety had gonw into full psychotic break mode. It was such a surprise and D3 was the ONLY thing I was doing differently. From that day forward I went back down to 1k iu D3. The kicker though is that you aren't supposed to supplement D3 without magnesium. So out of fear of another horrible day, I drink the magnesium citrate drink every night now too. I think I went goo far on D3 and caused am imbalance with mag or something. It's very real.

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    1. Hello, I was wondering if the effect of the vitamin d have worn off? I started taking cod liver oil and coconut oil supplements last week and ever since then I can not sleep. Sadly this is my fourth day of not sleeping and I believe it's the supplements. I stopped taking them both two days ago but I still can't sleep.... 😔

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  12. I only take 1000 iu of D3 now because I had the same thing happen. If I am struggling with sleep then I will take a couple of days off of taking the D3, then I'm good to take it again. D3 builds up in our systems.

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  13. I know I'm a little late to the party here, but have you considered that vitamin d might ointerfere with melatonin? I saw at least one study to that effect.

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  14. My experience is much the opposite. I've struggled with insomnia for decades. My doctor tested my D3 in December as part of a general physical (it was at 18) and he encouraged me to start taking D3 supplements. I started at 4000 a day and noticed constipation issues, so I backed off to 2000 a day. I took it it the morning and noticed that my sleep improved. Then three weeks ago I changed and started taking it at night, and my sleep really improved. In the last three weeks I have slept 8-9 hours a night several times. I'm not sure I have slept 8 hours a night in the previous year. It is still too early to be absolutely positive, but I am pretty positive. I am about to increase my D3 to 3000 a day and see what happens.

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  15. Common issues with sleep apnea/insomnia using vitamin d3:

    *Bad brand of d3, lacking potency*

    The supplement form and brand. Use only d3. Some brands suck at potency or are not actually d3 in it even if they claim that. They may been potent at first but they got rancid due to being in a fat soluble form of example olive oil.
    It has to be MCT for it not going rancid. Maybe Safflower oil works too, cuz i believe it's natural vitamin E which has an antioxidant effect.

    *Vitamin d3 and magnesium*

    Your Vitamin d deficiency has been onset for so long time that you're vitamin&mineral deprived. Usually you're low on the magnesium, that way i recommend you use transdermal magnesium oil, for maximum absorbtion with no risk of overdose.

    *Timing and dosing*

    You're taking it the wrong time. For some people you may sleep good if taking it at night, because it makes you sleepy. It's either garbage d3 supplement you're using or your d3 levels might be so low that your body are finally repairing and you can be able to sleep normally. It should make you energetic after like 3 months or your dosing is a joke or a bad brand which never increases your blood serum levels of vitamin d. Some people are fine with 2000iu d3, but that's covering like 5% of the population. You may need more like 3000-5000 atleast. If you're deficient you should use a higher number like 10 000 ie for a month and then try 5000iu to see if you're able to sleep good. Always use a blood test before you try out anything to not hurt yourself in the process!

    *Imbalance*

    You're lacking in Co-factors which makes it hard for your body and it's minerals & vitamins are struggling to be equally meeting your needs. They compete for your body needs because they're in need of balance. Each nutrient are either Co-factors or antagonists.

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  16. Vitamin D causes blood calcium levels to rise sharply. This drives down magnesium levels and magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia. I take several high-doses of vitamin D as the Vitamin D Council recommends to ward off the flu and cold.…1000 IUs for every pound of body weight every day for three days. I have done this at least twice a year for seven or eight years. Normally I supplement 5000IU on a regular basis. Whether I'm taking 1 or 43 5000IU capsules I always have to make sure I take enough magnesium so my sleep isn't interrupted. As for the person that suggests vitamin D causes caused a psychotic reaction that was just low magnesium causing the anxiety as Magnesium buffers adrenaline. You can become confused and believe it is a mental issue when it is actually physical.

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  17. I was miss informed regarding taking 50,000 IUs of vitamin D that it was only to get my levels and I was to stop taking it. So I have been taking a 50,000 once a week then 10,000 once a week and filling in the rest of the week with 1000. Well here I am again wide awake cant sleep for a long period of time. Am always jumping out of bed am lucky if I get a full nights rest. Friday I just got my blood tested awaiting the results.

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  21. I want to share an update:
    My sleep got terrible again, and i figured out that i tried softgels again *ARGHHH*. Maybe i've fat malabsorbtion or there's something else. I found a good example from a reviewer.

    Why some vitamin d3 supplements doesn't work:

    Great question; here are two possible explanations:

    1) if this supplement is not bioactive within its own pathway, it will use body's precursors for its assimilation.
    This will lead to a further decrease in serum vitamin D (i.e. not only it doesn't provide any supplemented vitamin D,
    it will rub the opportunity for vitamin D assimilation already happening in the body).

    2) if this supplement is not active (if it is "useless"), it will act as a placebo.
    This means that as if you are not taking any supplements and the levels keep going down.
    Note that this lowering happened in my body and it does not mean that this brand is useless.
    Every body has different metabolism and levels of assimilation.
    I am sure there are countless of other people noticed a great result with this supplement.
    Thank you

    This is exactly what i was experiencing. I encourage people to only use d3 but what i also want them to do is to take a dry form of vitamin d3 at first, and if that doesn't work to raise levels with using magnesium,k2 and some vitamin a. Then you should try the liquid form.

    If you're really deficient i can swear by it, you will recieve a good or bad feeling from it during your first week, hell i did even felt it from the first day! And dry forms only works for me, the ones diluted in oil doesn't.

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  25. I keep seeing several of you say take Magnesium with the Vitamin D. What dosage of the Magnesium? Thanks

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  26. Hi all

    Currently working on Vit D3 over the winter months after my sleep gradually worsens, the shorter the days get. starting off with 5,000IU per day.

    Chris, i too wish for a longer deeper sleep for muscle mass gain. My girl sleeps like a log for 8-9 hours, does not work out and her muscles are solid. grrrr!

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  27. I was told that nordics have big deficiency in vitamin D due to lack of Sun UV which can cause insonmnia and mental problems. I want to use solarium to increase D (can't use animal products). Maybe overdose on D can also lead to insomnia?

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  28. Hi Chris, I've had a similar experience to yours and truly believe what's affecting my sleep is the vit D. My vit D level was at 18.8 and my doctor prescribed 5,000iu/day. I took the supplements for almost 3 months before I started having sleep issues. Mainly, I had trouble falling asleep, and once I fell asleep, I woke up really easily and couldn't seem to stay asleep for long. I went 2 weeks straight like this and, since the only thing I could think of that was causing this was my vit D, I decided to get off the vit D. But I decided to get another blood test to check my levels first. This time I also had my magnesium and calcium levels checked as well. My vit D level was 45 this time, and both my calcium and magnesium levels were within the normal range so no deficiencies there! There was no link between my insomnia and my magnesium levels.

    I was told by a friend of mine who's a pharmacist that taking vit K2 (MK7 form) about 100-150mcg, along with vit D is a very good idea, since it directs the increased calcium in your blood (that vit D causes) to go to the right places rather than cause calcification of the arteries. Unfortunately, where I am living currently we can't get K2, but if I could I would try that.

    My doctor, and my pharmacist friend, both said that if I went off vit D my levels would easily drop in a month or two. So I went back on the supplements (after I had taken a week off where I slept fine!), but decided to take the 5,000iu every other day. I experienced no problems with my sleep this way, but every other day I felt super tired and fatigued in the afternoons on the days when I took the vit D. After a couple of weeks, I decided to go back to taking it every day again, and the tiredness went away completely during the day, but again the sleep issues returned. Dang it! So I am now going to go back to taking it every other day until I finish the supplements I have, and I have already asked my doctor to write me a prescription for 2,000iu that I will try to take every day. I'll check my levels again in a few months to see how it's going. I hope my sleep issues don't return with 2,000/day. I can't sacrifice sleep.

    It's worth mentioning that I always wear a lot of sunscreen and was living for 3 years in a cold, northern climate. I think my vit D levels slowly eroded and will probably take some time to level off again. Hope this is helpful.

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  29. I started taking calcium with D3 recently. I am so glad to find this conversation. I previously could sleep endlessly. Now, if I take the supplement at bedtime, I am awake all night. :( I have boundless energy during the day. I will look into getting tested so that I know if the magnesium is being altered. I would really like to sleep again, although I will taper the dose and adjust the time. It is real nice to have energy again. My previous d3 testing showed a grave deficiency.

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  30. This is the first time i read your blog and admire that you have posted on this...I really found useful.Keep updated. now vitamine d3

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  31. You were taking way too much Vitamin D!!! Vitamin D when taken in proper doses is well known for improving deep sleep! I take it myself, and the deep sleep I experienced is amazing!

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  32. Okay, people. Here’s my story:

    My psychiatrist put me on 40,000 IUs of Vitamin D3 EVERY DAY. I did not sleep for SEVEN months, except maybe three hours per 72 hour period. It was awful. I complained to him several times about my insomnia. Of course he gave me sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medicine, etc. None of it worked. I took 30 mg. of Ambien every night and would sleep three hours. Or 50 mg. of Ativan and not sleep at all. Yes, I had more energy, but it was 24/7. I documented my (lack of) sleep for six months. He never once mentioned it could be Vitamin D3. I finally got blood work done from an Endocrinologist (while at the lab, they wanted me to pay extra for a certain Vitamin D3 test; I refused because I KNEW my Vitamin D3 was not low; later that day it hit me-“I wonder if it’s the Vitamin D3?”). After my labwork came back (from the regular Vitamin D3 test), my levels were OVER 350 mg/dl (or whatever). The average should be 40-80. My Endocrinologist said the NUMBER ONE SIDE EFFECT FROM VITAMIN D3 TOXICITY IS INSOMNIA. It also takes 4-6 weeks to get out of your fat and liver. When I went back to my psychiatrist, he vehemently denied there is even a thing such as “Vitamin D3 toxicity.” He told me I must be allergic to the soy in the capsules, in which brand he recommended. I then went to an N.M.D. In Endocrinology (Naturopathic Medical Doctor) who echoed my regular Endo’s diagnosis. By this time, I had completely stopped taking the Vitamin D3. Now, because my psychiatrist is incredibly stubborn, I’m addicted to 30 mg. of Ambien. I have to go through a lengthy sleep program to get off all my sleep medications. DO NOT take Vitamin D3. Do it naturally, through 15 minutes of sunshine, if possible. It’s ruined almost a year of my life. And I still have a long way to go to get over my sleep medication addictions.

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  33. I recently took 5,000 I.U's of vitamin D3 and decided to take it in the afternoon with lunch for an entire week. Also, I rarely eat at mornings since I intermittently fast. Anyways, after implementation, I felt a surge of energy and felt really great afterwards. But at night I noticed I was not too tired and tried to fall asleep but unfortunately couldn't! My eyes eventually closed after 4 am but I tossed and turned the whole night and felt like I never entered deep sleep.

    Upon reading this blog and numerous others, I realized my insomnia wasn't uniquely tied with my vitamin D usage. Apparently, taking vitamin D3 in the afternoon or night can significantly disrupt your natural output of melatonin. It actually blocks its output, hence why I have slept so poorly this week. I will stop taking my vitamin D for 2 full weeks and see if I sleep better and then I will start taking my 5,000 I.U.'s again with breakfast as soon as I wake up in the morning. Then I will comeback here to post my results.

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    1. Hey Kirsten,

      Ive had the same thing happen. Lots of energy when I take the 5000 iu, but then at night I cant sleep whatever I do for hours. Have you had any success cutting the Vitamin D yet?

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  34. This is an interesting topic. I was having sleep issues and have only been taking a measly 400IU of vitamin D (most of it from NOW brand) before bed. I stumbled upon a suggestion that K2 was needed to help regulate calcium (noticed someone else also mentioned it here) and when I started taking a K-complex supplement, my sleep started to improve some and within about 3 weeks (maybe a month) it got even better so that now I'm sleeping like a rock. The difference is amazing. I can only wonder how long this will last -- hopefully I will not adapt and get back to my old rythym. But I plan to enjoy this as long as possible.
    Eric++

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