Do you toss and turn at night, struggling to fall asleep? When you finally do drift off, do you wake up exhausted, still not feeling rested? You’re not alone. It’s estimated that 50-70 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders, leading to increased disease risk and reduced quality of life1.

While factors like stress and underlying health conditions can affect sleep, nutrition likely plays an overlooked yet critical role. Deficiencies in key nutrients can throw off the complex physiological processes needed for deep, restorative sleep. Over time, the effects compound, leading to a vicious cycle of worsening sleep deficiency and poorer health.

This article will explore the science linking common nutritional shortfalls with poor sleep quality. We’ll cover why sleep matters, look at prevalence of nutrient deficiencies, and discuss the critical roles certain vitamins and minerals play in regulating sleep/wake cycles and other functions tied to sleep.

If you’re one of the millions struggling to sleep soundly, supplies of certain nutrients could provide a missing piece to the puzzle. Optimizing intake of magnesium, calcium, vitamin D and other compounds involved in muscle relaxation, circadian rhythms, and inflammation, may help restore more restful, productive sleep2. Read on to learn more about these vital connections.

Why Good Sleep is So Important

Getting enough high quality sleep is absolutely essential for mental and physical health, performance, appearance and longevity. Yet in our 24/7 nonstop world full of distraction and demands on our time, good sleep often gets neglected.

The effects of insufficient sleep accumulate slowly, until suddenly we find ourselves excessively reliant on coffee, nodding off during afternoon meetings, and catching every cold that goes around the office.

Here are some of the major benefits of high-quality sleep, and risks associated with poor sleep:

Brain Function

  • Good sleep is vital for learning, memory, focus and mood regulation. Lack of sleep impairs cognition and contributes to issues like ADHD, anxiety, depression and Alzheimer’s disease progression.
  • Growth hormone secreted during deep sleep phases helps the brain remove toxins and repair itself. Disrupted sleep prevents proper brain “clean up”.

Immune Health

  • Deep sleep phases allow your body to ramp up production of disease-fighting proteins and cells, as if charging up your immune system batteries. Sleep deprived people get sick more often.
  • Shorter sleepers have dramatically higher risks of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and certain cancers. Inflammation increases without enough sleep.

Appearance & Performance

  • Human growth hormone (HGH) surges during sleep, especially in youth. HGH stimulates collagen production for smooth, elastic skin and aids muscle repair from exercise and activity. No sleep = no HGH release.
  • Reaction times, coordination and athletic performance all suffer without adequate sleep. Energy stores don’t adequately replenish overnight.

Mood & Relationships

  • Lack of sleep negatively impacts emotional regulation, sociability, patience, motivation and overall happiness. Irritability rapidly increases after just partial sleep loss over multiple days.
  • Marital satisfaction and intimate relationships erode for couples suffering from long term sleep disruptions, due to exhaustion and mood changes.


Getting just 5-6 hours of sleep per night on a regular basis shortens life expectancy. One study found it increased mortality risk by similar degrees as obesity and smoking.

Clearly high-quality sleep serves many vital roles, while poor sleep incrementally damages health and functioning on many levels simultaneously.

Prioritizing sufficient sleep duration and optimizing sleep quality is one of the most constructive health habits anyone can adopt.

Now that you know why it matters, read on to uncover the nutritional connections that may hold keys to transforming your own sleep.

Let’s look next at why certain vitamins and minerals particularly influence sleep.

Key Nutrients Linked to Better Sleep

While most people think of nutrition mainly in terms of physical health and body composition, certain vitamins and minerals also play critical roles in regulating sleep.

Deficiencies or insufficient intake of these compounds can severely disrupt sleep quality and duration. Optimizing your levels can pay big dividends in restful rejuvenating sleep.

Here are some of the top nutrients linked to better sleep:


  • Role in sleep: Helps muscles relax, reduces nerve excitability and inflammation
  • Deficiency signs: Muscle cramps, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia
  • Food sources: Dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fatty fish
  • Supplements: Magnesium glycinate, citrate or orotate forms


  • Role in sleep: Enables muscle relaxation, activates melatonin production
  • Deficiency causes: Inadequate dairy/greens intake, low vitamin D levels
  • Deficiency signs: Muscle cramps again, difficulty relaxing
  • Food sources: Dairy products, canned fish with bones, leafy greens
  • Supplements: Calcium carbonate, calcium citrate

Vitamin D

  • Role in sleep: Maintains circadian rhythm properly aligned, reduces inflammation
  • Deficiency signs: Daytime fatigue, “wintertime blues”, depression3
  • Food sources: Fatty fish, egg yolks, vitamin D fortified foods
  • Supplement: Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)

Now you know some of the science behind nutrient-sleep connections. Read on next for tips to optimize your intake of these vital compounds.

When to Seek Medical Advice for Sleep Issues

While many cases of poor sleep can be improved by optimizing nutritional intake, persistent or severe insomnia or other sleep disruptions may signal an underlying medical condition requiring diagnosis and treatment from a doctor.

Signs that warrant scheduling an appointment with your physician include:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep most nights for > month
  • Feeling fatigued or sleepy during the day despite sleeping 7+ hours
  • Intense nightmares or acting out dreams
  • Snoring loudly or pausing breathing during sleep
  • Unusual limb movements during sleep
  • Falling asleep uncontrollably during normal waking hours

If you chronically struggle to get adequate deep sleep, it takes a major toll on every aspect of your health over time. Prioritizing medical investigation into the root causes makes good sense.

Diagnostic tests for sleep disorders may include:

  • Blood tests to check for thyroid, nutrient deficiency, and metabolic function
  • Sleep studies conducted overnight at home or a clinic
  • Neurological tests to assess brain function
  • Cognitive/memory testing
  • Questionnaires about lifestyle, habits, thoughts and feelings

Effective treatment options range widely depending on the specific sleep disorder identified, from CPAP machines for apnea to cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia to light therapy for circadian issues.

If you continue having unrefreshing sleep after confirming sufficient intakes of magnesium, calcium and vitamin D, be proactive about consulting your doctor.

Start Prioritizing Your Sleep Today

Sleep affects everything in your life. Protecting sleep duration and quality should be a top priority.

Certain key nutrients play instrumental roles in regulating physical and neurological processes vital for healthy sleep cycles. Deficiencies can sabotage nightly restoration.

Confirm adequate magnesium, calcium and vitamin D levels through foods, sunlight and possibly supplements. Correct any shortfalls jumping up intake.

Additionally reduce sleep disrupters like blue light exposure before bedtime while adopting positive rituals like nightly journaling.

If you’ve tried these sleep hygiene tips but still toss and turn, get checked out for underlying health issues. Diagnosing and treating any conditions contributing to sleep loss can get you back on track to restful nights and better days ahead.

Here’s to sweet dreams!

  1. American Sleep Apnea Association. (2023, June 25). The state of sleep health in America in 2023 – SleepHealth. SleepHealth.
  2. Sochan, J. (2023, August 29). Top 2 sleep promoting nutrients: Magnesium and Calcium. Naturimedica.
  3. Johnson, L. E. (2023, December 6). Vitamin D deficiency. Merck Manuals Consumer Version.