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After meeting with therapists, trying to self-medicate and perhaps even changing out your mattress, what if your chronic insomnia still persists? Your symptoms may be caused by an imbalance of vitamins and nutrients making it impossible for you to sleep.

In a society where chronic insomnia may affect more than 30% of the population, is it possible that a simple nutritional deficiency could be the root cause of why you are having problems falling asleep [1]?

Before you start a regimen of breathing exercises, boosting your diet with melatonin rich foods or adjusting your exercise exercise to prevent post-workout insomnia, it would be wise to visit your family physician and take a blood test to make sure that you do not have an imbalance in nutrients that could be causing your chronic insomnia. Addressing these nutritional deficiencies could be a fast-track way towards the end of your sleepless nights. 

Number 1:  Vitamin B Deficiencies 

Vitamin B12 deficiency is a common disease of the elderly and can be seen in 10 to 15 percent of patients over the age of 60 [2]. Studies show that B12 shortens the length of the sleep-wake rhythm and can improve sleeping patterns with as little as a 1.5mg daily dose [3]. B12 also has a role in determining your circadian rhythm — the same rhythm that helps you adjust to jet lag and makes you sleepier in the winter months when the sun sets sooner in the day [4]. The elderly population is predisposed to these sleeping problems because as you age, there is a deterioration of your circadian rhythm and an increase in the number of co-morbidities [5]. 

Another B Vitamin that can be associated with sleeping difficulty is a Vitamin B6 deficiency.  Pyridoxine — also called B6 — is a vitamin with several functions in the body. It is an important co-factor in many enzymatic reactions used during the metabolism of energy production and although a deficiency of this vitamin is rare, it can manifest as chronic insomnia. Patients with low levels of B6 have an associated high level of psychological distress with patients often complaining of difficulty falling asleep. [6]

Number 2: Low Iron Levels 

When completing your blood panel, iron is another parameter that should be factored in when you are looking for chronic insomnia treatment. Studies show that low levels of iron can directly lead to a condition called Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) — a disease marked by excessive shaking of your legs while you sleep. In some cases, this mobility during your sleep can awaken you and lead to non-restorative sleep. In a study of three teenagers with RLS, their iron levels were inadequate and supplemental iron was administered for four months.  After this time, participants were found to have their sleep latency (the amount of time to fall asleep) reduced from 143 minutes to 23 minutes and their overall sleep satisfaction improved from 74 to 83 percent. [7]

Iron can become problematic for elderly patients as well and can often present as anemia of chronic diseases. Anemia is the term to describe a condition of low iron in your body and can come from various sources like problems with your red blood cell production or if you are suffering from a chronic condition. With elderly patients suffering from a number of co-morbidities, patients can develop low levels of iron in their body naturally because of a continuous systemic infection. These patients often report of improved sleep after receiving blood transfusions or erythropoietin — a compound to help new blood cells form. [8]

Number 3:  Low Vitamin D Or  Hypovitaminosis D 

Another correctable deficiency that is found in 41.6 percent of the population is low levels of Vitamin D [9]. Low Vitamin D levels are associated with chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, chronic kidney disease and diabetes to name a few and can manifest as muscle cramping, generalized anxiety and chronic insomnia.  A recent case study involving US Veterans showed that patients with low Vitamin D levels complain of difficulty sleeping, muscle cramping and anxiety. After receiving 50,000 IU of Vitamin D, patients were reassessed with reduced pain scores, reduced sleep latency and an improved sense of well-being [10]. As you can see, vitamin D can be a great natural sleep aid to consider. 

 Number 4: Low Magnesium 

Another element that is likely to be associated with chronic insomnia would be low levels of magnesium — also referred to as hypomagnesium.  Hypomagnesium can manifest from chronic diseases such as osteoporosis and chronic kidney disease and patients can be effectively treated with supplemental magnesium and calcium medications.  When patients are treating their osteoporosis, they often take a combination of vitamin D, calcium and magnesium. 

A study conducted on elderly patients commonly suffering from low magnesium found that patients given supplemental magnesium at 500 mg daily for 8 weeks noticed significant improvement in total sleep time, sleep efficiency and improved serum melatonin levels  meaning you will not need to turn to extra melatonin pills if you just take more magnesium. [11

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