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The Powers of Vitamin D: Better Sleep and a Better Mind

Posted Dec 20 2008 6:45pm

Sunlight and vitamin D
Today’s article comes from Glastonbury, Connecticut. Dr. Bellinger of CT Spine and Disc Center shares a story from Decembers monthly patient newsletter.

New research is showing that Vitamin D may improve your mind and health in many wonderful ways.

First, let’s talk about SLEEP…

Benjamin Franklin is famous for many things. Maybe you’ve heard of that little kite flying incident. 

He is also famous for saying, “WASTE not life” and “There will be sleeping enough in the grave.”

More than 200 years later, the attitude towards sleep in America has not changed.
Many people are up at the crack of dawn or answering emails at 3 a.m. on their “crack-berry!” Franklin’s quote has even been modernized to read…

“I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead!”


“There is a cultural bias against sleep that sees it as akin to shutting down, or even to death,” explains Dr. Jeffrey Ellenbogen, a Neurologist at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Sleep Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Most people, Dr. Ellenbogen says, think of the sleeping brain as similar to a computer that has “gone to sleep” — it does nothing productive. Wrong. Sleep enhances performance, learning and memory. Most of all, sleep improves creative ability to generate aha! moments and to uncover novel connections among seemingly unrelated ideas.

Dr. Ellenbogen’s research at Harvard indicates that after sleep, people are 33 percent more likely to infer connections among distantly related ideas, and yet, as he puts it, these performance enhancements exist “completely beneath the radar screen.”

In other words, people are more creative after sleep, but they don’t know it.

Changing Attitudes


Business attitudes toward sleep may be starting to shift. Claire Stapleton, a spokeswoman for Google, says “grassroots” interest in sleep led to an on-campus talk by Sara C. Mednick, a napping expert. Google also installed EnergyPods, leather recliners with egg-like hoods that block noise and light, for employees to take naps at work.

But there is something much more important than just a nap and the total number of hours slept. Even more important is the…

Circadian Rhythm


The circadian rhythm is an internal clock that guides our daily cycle from sleep to wakefulness – and back to sleep again. But now researchers at Stanford think it may be doing much more.

Working with Siberian hamsters, biologist Norman Ruby has shown that having a functioning circadian system is critical to the hamsters' ability to remember what they have learned. “Without it,” he said, "They can't remember anything."

Like all other animals, Siberian hamsters normally develop what amounts to street smarts about their environment.

But when Ruby interrupted their circadian system, the hamsters failed to demonstrate the same evidence of remembering their environment as hamsters with normally functioning circadian systems.

Until now, it has never been shown that the circadian system is crucial to learning and memory. This finding has implications for diseases that include problems with learning or memory deficits, such as Down Syndrome or Alzheimer's disease. The work is described in a paper published Oct. 1 online in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Ruby is lead author on the paper.


“Losing Their Rhythm Cost Them A Lot”


And here’s something very interesting: According to one of the researchers, “We thought it might be possible to wipe out circadian rhythms and eliminate the rhythm in learning, but that the animals could still learn something. But they don't. That is what was so surprising. They actually can't remember anything. Losing their rhythms costs them a lot.”

And it is not about the overall number of hours slept. It is about WHEN: " What our data are showing is that these animals still performed terribly on a simple learning task, even though they're getting loads of sleep. What this says is that the circadian system really is necessary for something that is deeply important: learning."

More and more research is showing how important not only the amount of sleep you get – but also when you get it.

But first… onward to…

The Health Benefits Of Vitamin D!


Once linked to only bone diseases such as rickets and osteoporosis, Vitamin D is now recognized as a major player in contributing to overall human health, emphasizes UC Riverside's Anthony Norman, an international expert on Vitamin D.

In a paper published in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , Norman identifies Vitamin D's potential for contributions to good health in the adaptive and innate immune systems, the secretion and regulation of insulin by the pancreas, the heart and blood pressure regulation, muscle strength and brain activity. In addition, access to adequate amounts of Vitamin D is believed to be beneficial towards reducing the risk of cancer.

Norman also lists 36 organ tissues in the body whose cells respond biologically to Vitamin D. The list includes bone marrow, breast, colon, intestine, kidney, lung, prostate, retina, skin, stomach and the uterus.

According to Norman, deficiency of Vitamin D can impact all 36 organs. Already, Vitamin D deficiency is associated with muscle strength decrease, high risk for falls, and increased risk for colorectal, prostate, breast and other major cancers.

"It is becoming increasingly clear to researchers in the field that Vitamin D is strongly linked to several diseases," said Norman, a distinguished professor emeritus of biochemistry and of biomedical sciences who has worked on Vitamin D for more than 45 years. "Its biological sphere of influence is much broader than we originally thought. The nutritional guidelines for Vitamin D intake must be carefully reevaluated to determine the adequate intake, balancing sunlight exposure with dietary intake, to achieve good health by involving all 36 target organs."

How Much Vitamin D?


"To optimize good health, you must have enough Vitamin D," Norman said. "Vitamin D deficiency is also especially of concern in third world countries that have poor nutritional practices and religious customs that require the body to be covered from head to toe. Ideally, to achieve the widest frequency of good health by population, we need to have 90 percent of the people with adequate amounts of Vitamin D."

The recommended daily intake of Vitamin D is 200 international units (IU) for people up to 50 years old. The recommended daily intake of Vitamin D is 400 IU for people 51 to 70 years old and 600 IU for people over 70 years old.Norman's recommendation for all adults is to have an average daily intake of at least 2,000 IU.

While deficiency of Vitamin D impacts health negatively, ingestion of extremely high doses of Vitamin D can cause hypercalcemia, a condition in which the blood's calcium level is above normal. The highest daily “safe” dose of Vitamin D is 10,000 IU.

Source of Photo: Flick.com: oceano Mare

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