Better Sleep with More Vitamin D

January 16, 2021

Vitamin D and Better Sleep with 30,000 IU a Day

30,000 IU a day! Holy Smokes. Sounds like a lot. Well, it is in terms of "units" but not in terms of mg. It's only 0.75 mg, less than the weight of a housefly. And please, Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin. It is a hormone. It is made by UV light from the sun hitting a cholesterol molecule in your skin and opening up one of the 4 rings in the molecule. To activate it, you have to process it through your liver and kidneys. What you measure in your blood is the reserve form, not what is being activated inside your cells. That's where it acts as a hormone.

Now, in January, and February you reach your physiological low each year because we are in the middle of winter and the angle of the sun is so low in the sky (currently 26 degrees in Milwaukee) that all the UV rays are filtered out by the atmosphere. It's not until the sun reaches about 45 degrees (April 1) that enough UV rays can reach your skin to help you make Vitamin D. A middle European with white skin will make 1,000 IU of D a minute on June 21st when the sun reaches its peak of 70 degrees altitude (in Milwaukee). In Wisconsin, Caucasians will hit a level of 45 ng in summer and slump to 20 in winter. Folks with more skin pigment will be lower than that and my own personal experience is that African descended folks will have D levels of 5-10 in the winter and 25 in the summer.

I have spent the last 15 years telling people to take 5,000 IU of D a day, saying that is the equivalent of 5 minutes of sunshine. That level results in a blood level of about 50 ng in most people. That is well above the low levels we all have and enough above 32, the threshold to make cathelicidin, your natural antibiotic that kills viruses. (Yes, low D results in more influenza!)

Imagine my surprise on finding a book entitled "The Optimal Dose of Vitamin D' by Judson Sommerville that advocates 30,000 IU a day. He was trying to restore his own lousy sleep and read about the need for muscles to be paralyzed to get into deep, Stage IV and REM restorative sleep. That's when your brain gets its best "flush" and cleansing. That is when your muscles become paralyzed, which depends on D. Lots of it. He raised his own dose from 5,000 a day to 10, and slept better. His calcium didn't go up. He took more. His sleep got better. He took more.....and ended up at 30,000 IU a day without changing his calcium levels, or feeling any toxic effects, except for better sleep. That was 10 years ago. He claims that he has close to 3,000+ clients on that dose, and many report much better sleep. He measures calcium and D levels in all his clients regularly and reports no toxicity. Blood levels hover around 130-150. That is his "optimal dose".

There is some literature on sleep disorders and low Vitamin D and a recent meta-analysis of several hundred studies that winnowed down to 7 "high quality" studies pointed to lower Vitamin D and more sleep dysfunction. None used the 30,000 IU dose but most compared over 3,000 IU a day compared to the paltry 600 IU a day the FDA currently recommends.

There are other things that disrupt sleep. Pain keeps you awake. The higher your D level, the lower your pain level. Restless legs. The lower your D level, the more likely your legs are twitching. You won't get into a deep sleep if your muscles can't be paralyzed, and it takes D to do that.

We haven't gotten into weight loss, immune function or any other beneficial effect of D that Dr. Sommerville reports. Maybe next week...

www.What will Work for me. Unconventional ideas usually come from folks willing to break the norm. We only needed 400 IU of D to prevent rickets. A tablespoon of cod liver oil prevented rickets, back in the 1930s. It was found to equal 400 IU of D. And that is the only science behind why we currently recommend 400 IU a day around topics of bone health. When folks are given an extra 200 IU a day, no beneficial effect has been found so much arguing and fighting goes on in the hallowed halls, but widespread acceptance of D dosing above that is not yet commonplace. 5000 sounds like a lot to that crowd. Imagine the conniptions they must have at 30,000. Well, I'm now taking 30,000 myself and intend to measure my own Calcium and D levels for a couple of months here. Stay tuned.

References:Journal of Endocrinology, Nutrients, The Optimal Dose, Neurology, Int Jr Mol Med., Healthline, Nutrition Rev,

Pop Quiz

1. The current level of Vitamin D recommend is what? Answer: Sorry, that is a trick question because there is a recommended dose, 600 IU for adults but not a recommended level. In Functional Medicine, we recommend a level of 50 ng. The Norwegians break the mold and advise 3,000 IU a day.

2. Is there research that shows that higher doses are safe? Well, precious little. [Some reviews]( show it to be pretty rare. There are case reports of folks taking as much 190,000 iu a day that got toxic at a level of 390+.

3. What effect of D is needed to get deep, restorative sleep? Answer: Muscle paralysis.

4. What happens to your brain if you don't get paralyzed muscles? Answer: you don't get your brain turned off because it notices the twitching. That's why restless leg syndrome leaves folks feeling fatigued.

5. What is the first sign of toxicity of "too much" D? Answer: Elevated blood calcium, nausea, and vomiting. Hence, it makes sense to measure that blood test. Usually not seen until your level is over 150 ng, achieved with doses over 40,000 IU a day.