Over the last 40 years, though, sleep disorders have become epidemic in the developed world. A lack of restful, high-quality sleep affects our daily functioning, mood, as well as mental and physical performance. Insufficient sleep leads to a general slowing of response speed, decreased alertness, attention and vigilance. It may sound strange, but being awake for 18 hours may have a similar effect as having a blood alcohol level of 0.08, which is legally drunk. 19

In addition, sleep loss may have wide-ranging effects on the cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, and nervous systems, including obesity in adults and children, diabetes impaired glucose tolerance, cardiovascular disease and hypertension, anxiety symptoms, and depression. 1 In fact, people consistently sleeping 5 hours or less per night may have a 12% increased risk of death! 20, 21


“You know you’ve grown up when a nap is no longer a punishment but a reward.”

Looney Tunes



Melatonin is a hormone produced primarily by the pineal gland, and is involved in the regulation of the human sleep–wake cycle. It serves basically as a hormonal signal that gives time of day information to our body. Nighttime darkness causes increased synthesis and secretion of melatonin that appears to reinforce darkness-related behaviors such as sedation, and sleep initiation. 2

Supplementation with melatonin may be a helpful way to get regular sleep. It has been used for the last two decades for the treatment of sleep disorders in adults and children. 3, 5, 6, 7, 8

Recently three comprehensive reviews, that investigated a total of 44 individual, high-quality studies, found that melatonin decreases sleep onset latency, increases total sleep time and improves overall sleep quality. 3, 4, 7

According to the authorized health claims of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) melatonin contributes to the reduction of time taken to fall asleep (1 mg close to bedtime), and to the alleviation of subjective feelings of jet lag (consuming 0.5 mg close to bedtime on the first day of travel, and on the following few days after arrival). 9, 10



Omega-3 is connected to a variety of health benefits. A growing body of research shows diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids are linked to better-quality sleep, in both adults and children.

Omega-3 fatty acid DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) has been found to play a role in ensuring healthy sleep patterns. DHA is involved in the production of melatonin (see above), and as such, low levels of DHA can interfere with sleep. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

In studies, higher consumption of fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids has been found to improve sleep continuity and duration. 16, 17, 18



Vitamin D deficiency is a major public health problem in all age groups with over one billion people affected worldwide. 24 The importance of vitamin D in the regulation of sleep is revealed by a scientific review wherein researchers concluded that widespread vitamin D deficiency may be the cause of the current epidemic of sleep disorders. 22

The effect of vitamin D on sleep likely happens in the brainstem, which controls sleep. 25 To date, a number of studies have identified a significant correlation between serum vitamin D deficiency and poor sleep quality. 22-28

In a study from Iran, Vitamin D supplementation (50.000IU vitamin D, once a fortnight for 8 weeks, which equates to 3570 IU daily) improved sleep quality, reduced sleep latency and raised sleep duration in people with sleep disorders. 23



It has been found that magnesium deficiency as well as zinc deficiency are associated with sleep disorders, and poor sleep quality. 30-35

Inadequate magnesium affects sleep quality, especially in older adults, obese individuals, and alcohol abusers.30 In a particular study, supplementing with 500 mg of magnesium per day for 8 weeks improved sleep efficiency, sleep time, sleep onset latency and early morning awakening. 31

It has also been shown that inadequate zinc intake was associated with short sleep duration, while sufficient zinc improved sleep quality. 32, 33, 34 A study found that zinc supplementation from natural sources improved sleep onset latency and sleep efficiency. 35


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