Does vitamin C help you sleep?

Sarah Hyland

Studying Health Sciences, Writer & Product Trainer
@sarahsciland


19 June 2020

The important functions of vitamin C

Vitamin C is an important nutrient with many important functions. It's essential for repair and wound healing. It helps to protect our cells from damage. We need it to make collagen, which is the protein structure that holds us together. Skin, cartilage and other connective tissue is made from collagen. Many of these roles sound very structural - like a vitamin polyfilla.

Why would vitamin C help sleep quality if it's busy with biological DIY? Allow me to explain the link between sleep problems and this little builder.

Here are several issues, which impact your sleep and I explain how vitamin C could help ease or prevent them:

A cold

Vitamin C can play an important role in our immune function. It supports the immune system and is a powerful antioxidant. There has been some controversy over its benefits as a cold remedy. It has proven benefits as a preventative for the very active and those exposed to cold weather1. As a cold treatment, the results have been mixed. Most trials been done using ascorbic acid, the synthetic version. The most promising trials have been on very high doses of ascorbic acid. Most ascorbic acid is flushed from the body rather than absorbed.
The accepted wisdom is to try to get your vitamin C from your diet and from food sources. Fresh fruit and vegetables contain a plethora of other nutrients too, like bioflavonoids. These enhance the action of vitamin C.

My Self-Care Tip: Boost your intake of bio-available, food-sourced vitamin C with Nature C

It can be difficult to find a bio-available vitamin C supplement that is food-sourced. Most vitamin C supplements are made from ascorbic acid, which is the synthetic version of the nutrient. Watch my self-care video to find out more about our Nature C, which is rich in naturally occurring, food-sourced vitamin C:

Allergies

Stuffed up and snoring or itchy and scratching - allergies can keep you awake. When you have an allergy, your own immune system is having a bit of an overreaction. It has mistaken something like pollen or dust for a deadly threat. It produces a chemical called histamine to try to deal with it. This is what is causing the symptoms.

Vitamin C can reduce inflammation and support the immune system2. It can reduce the severity of allergic symptoms. It does that by protecting the cells that may be damaged by an inflamed immune response. It can slow down the body's immune response. It can slow the production of histamine that is causing the symptoms.

Snoring

You will know if you are a snorer because it makes sleep difficult for the person awake next to you. They will have testified to your condition. They may even have confessed - to wishing you smothered. If you bed down alone, it's possible to be blissfully unaware. Nonetheless, you may wake with a dry and maybe sore throat. Your nose may feel blocked every morning. You may be wondering why you feel groggy and unrefreshed every day.

Snoring is the racket that airways make when they are constricted. When you are asleep, all your muscles relax, including your throat muscles. This may partially narrow or block the airways. It only needs some minor inflammation or a bit of mucous to clog up the pipes and you have the full orchestra. This can happen when you have a cold. More frequently, it can happen when you have allergic rhinitis or hayfever.

Stress

We all have a think in bed. We review the day, have ideas about tomorrow. If, alternatively, you are torturing yourself with the same negative thoughts, over and over and over – you may be a bit stressed. Another sign that you are too stressed to sleep is muscle tension. During sleep you are supposed to be relaxed. Does your face still have an expression? Does it perhaps, look like a grimace?

Anxiety and stress can keep you awake. Then, perversely, a lack of sleep can make you even more nervy.

Vitamin C may help here too. One clinical trial measured the stress levels of students. They were given vitamin C to see what impact this would have. Vitamin C improved their anxiety levels as well as their ability to focus3.

It's easy to fall short on vitamin C when you are stressed: your body has extra demands. We don't store Vitamin C in our body. You may not be eating as much fruit and veg as you need. It can be difficult to eat well when you are on the go all the time.

Restless legs

This is a horrible condition that can really disturb sleep. It's very hard to describe the feeling of restless legs, it is unbearable urge to move. Maybe somewhere between a powerful itch and an hysterical nerve? This is deep inside the leg, not the skin. Shifting around relieves the sensation briefly. If the urge to move is ignored, the legs can jerk. Like snoring - this can wake the person you are lying next to you. My husband loves it (winky face) when I kick him repeatedly. With his snoring and my restless leg – we are made for each other.

A low iron level is a common cause of restless legs. It's important to have your bloods checked by the GP to assess your serum ferritin levels. This is the marker of the iron stores in your body.

Vitamin C is important because it can increase the absorption of iron. There are two type of iron – haem and non-haem. Haem iron is found in foods like red meat. Non-haem iron is found in many plant sources of food like vegetables, grains and pulses.

Vitamin C can bind to this non-haem iron and make it easy for our body to store and use. People who rely on meat-free sources of iron in their diet need to make sure that they are getting Vitamin C in their diet. I am looking at you – potato waffle vegans! You need to love your veggies.

And finally...

One study examined a large group of people and their sleeping habits. Those who slept for only 5-6 hours a night were found to have lower vitamin C levels4.

You may have plenty of vitamin C in your diet and will not benefit from taking more. Your body will not store it, remember. Keep a food diary for a couple of days. We tend to be creatures of habit. Count up your fruit and vegetable portions. You need at least five: seven to nine should earn you a medal. A portion is roughly the size of an orange or a 7 cherry tomatoes. Good sources of vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruit like oranges
  • Red and green peppers
  • Berries like strawberries and blackcurrants
  • Vegetables like broccoli and spinach

Canned and elderly fruit and vegetables may have lost quite a bit of their vitamin C. Go for the freshest process that you can. The best preservation methods for vitamin C are freeze drying and freezing.

References

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5409678/    

2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326039007_Intravenous_vitamin_C_in_the_treatment_of_allergies_an_interim_subgroup_analysis_of_a_long-term_observational_study
3. https://europepmc.org/article/med/26353411
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3703747/

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