Looking for a way to improve sleep, ease pain? Go for the big D

By Greg Hamilton • Published: October 31st, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Many things divide Americans these days, but there is one thing almost all of us have in common: pain. Pain affects more people in the U.S. than heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. It’s the most common reason why people seek medical care and it take an enormous bite of the nation’s health care funding.

New research shows an increased amount of vitamin D combined with good sleeping habits can be an effective strategy for improving the quality of life for patients.

Studies are finding more ways that vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin because the body produces it in response to the exposure of skin to sunlight, affects the regulatory mechanisms of both sleep and pain. Sleep is regulated by different regions of the central nervous system, while pain is regulated by both the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Researchers at the Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil reviewed more than 30 studies that looked at how vitamin D affects sleep quality and conditions such as restless leg syndrome, obstructive sleep apnea and narcolepsy. Then also studied the link between vitamin D and chronic pain in conditions such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, sickle cell disease, cancer and low back pain.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Endocrinology, were that vitamin D stimulates the anti-inflammatory response produced by immune cells, which reduces pain sensitivity. Less pain means better sleep quality, and a good night’s sleep helps you manage your pain.

The researchers suggested that physicians consider vitamin D supplements when treating patients for pain or sleep disorders. And goodness knows, we could all use more sleep and less pain in our lives.