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Dear Dr Cannell: Sleep disorders linked to vitamin D deficiency

Posted on: November 13, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD


Dear Dr. Cannell:

Many people are wondering in what ways vitamin D might be helpful to kids with autism or autism spectrum disorder. I saw an article today, which seems very relevant. Dr. Cannell, this article is new (pre-publication); have you seen it yet?

Gominak SC, Stumpf WE. The world epidemic of sleep disorders is linked to vitamin D deficiency. Med Hypotheses. 2012 Aug;79(2):132-5. Epub 2012 May 13.

From this article, it appears that normalizing the vitamin D levels also helps to normalize the sleep. If we search on PubMed “sleep disorder and autism”, we get 436 links. Could it be that good quality sleep helps an autistic/ASD child’s brain to heal and reorganize itself?

Speaking as a non-physician, I can easily believe this. I’ve always thought of sleep as mental housekeeping. When my sleep is bad, I’m depressed, I’m irritable, it takes very little to defeat me, and I don’t think clearly.

Best regards to you Dr. Cannell, you are one of my heroes.

Adrianna, Iowa

Dear Adrianna:

Thank you, I never thought of the connection. The paper you cite is available for download above so everyone can read it by clicking on the link. I have talked with the first author before and her data, while not controlled, is certainly suggestive that vitamin D improves sleep.

I do know that sleep disorders are 10 times more frequent in autistic kids than in controls.

Sivertsen B, Posserud MB, Gillberg C, Lundervold AJ, Hysing M. Sleep problems in children with autism spectrum problems: a longitudinal population-based study. Autism. 2012 Mar;16(2):139-50. Epub 2011 Apr 8.

I am unaware of any study that tried to improve sleep to see if it improved autistic symptoms. However, the autistic kids that seem to respond to vitamin D in our free clinic all have improved sleep after getting their vitamin D levels up to the higher ranges of normal.

John Cannell, MD

2 Responses to Dear Dr Cannell: Sleep disorders linked to vitamin D deficiency

  1. Dan

    Well, if Vit D3 reduces inflammation, it might help sleep because of less discomfort. Recently, I have been wearing UVEX Orange Safety glasses after 8 pm to block out blue light. I get very tired now around 9 pm and fall asleep easily. Also, use F.Lux on all my computers to manage lumens.

  2. IAW

    One of the above links did not work for me. So at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22583560 is the abstract “The world epidemic of sleep disorders is linked to vitamin D deficiency”. The link was also previously at http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/blog/professor-walter-e-stumpf-ahead-of-his-time.

    I myself do not always read the abstracts or studies so I just wanted to point out that in the abstract it states “Most patients had improvement in neurologic symptoms and sleep but only through maintaining a narrow range of 25(OH) vitamin D3 blood levels of 60-80 ng/ml”.

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