Nutrient Deficiencies Might Be Harming Your Sleep

Sleepless insomniac girl looking at alarm clock lying on a bed in the night at homeWhat would it cost to go to Jamaica for a week?

God, I love Blue Mountain coffee.


Especially when I’m drinking it with my wife.

My wife is so funny.

Comedy is the best.

That Dave Chappelle guy kills me.

I saw him in New York once.

I wonder how much a flight would be to get down there for a few days…

Why are all these thoughts hitting me the moment my head hits the pillow? I was comatose on the sofa during House Hunters but now I can’t fall asleep.

Like roughly 1/3 of Americans, you may have trouble getting seven hours of sleep each night. A common symptom is the inability to fall asleep. A racing mind can keep you up for hours, preventing relaxation and a good night of shuteye.

When that happens, there can be consequences. Poor sleep can raise the risk of health conditions like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, cognitive decline, and decision-making. It can even increase your likelihood of experiencing a harmful accident.


A number of factors contribute to poor sleep. One you might not often consider, however, is your diet. If you’ve got good sleep hygiene, avoid caffeine in the evening, have stress under control, and still can’t fall asleep, food may be a factor.

There are a handful of nutrients that can affect sleep, and adequate intake of each through a well-balanced diet might help you add a few hours to your nightly slumber. It may even prevent your mind from wandering as soon as it hits the pillow.

  • Zinc: Zinc plays a key role in synthesizing melatonin, a hormone that is central to maintaining and regulating the sleep-wake cycle. It’s not stored in the body and therefore must be eaten every day. Great sources include beef and shellfish. Beans and legumes are good too.
  • Magnesium: Dubbed the “original chill pill,” magnesium can help calm your body and mind before bed. Aside from contributing to melatonin synthesis, it increases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps slow down thought processes and promotes sleepiness.
  • Tryptophan: Although this amino acid gets undue criticism for Thanksgiving food comas, it can help you sleep. Though not as you might think. It’s a contribution to sleep actually comes from the role it plays in creating niacin (B3), which in turn produces serotonin. Serotonin can help induce sleep.
  • Iron: Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) and low iron intake are both associated with decreased sleep quality and duration. Research suggests it may lead to shorter periods of REM sleep that occur earlier and later than they ideally should. Getting enough iron could lead to better sleep by increasing quality and duration.

Eating a nutrient-dense and balanced diet might be what’s keeping you awake at night. If your other sleep-promoting habits are in line, this could be the final factor to focus on.

Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.