Thursday, May 01, 2008

Vitamins and Sleep Disorders: Thiamine, Niacin, Vitamin C, Vitamin D

Millions of Americans suffer from sleep disorders. Sleep specialists are only now starting to fully appreciate the complexity and importance of sleep. Sleep disorders can be the root cause of common conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, depression, headaches, seizures and more.

A good night’s sleep is priceless. People spend lots of money on high tech mattresses, fitness machines, soothing music tapes, meditation courses, sleeping pills, and more in a quest for a good night’s sleep. Recent sleep research suggests that these "cures" are not cures. A cure means you sleep normally almost regardless of the environment. Think of how well little children sleep. When they need to sleep, they fall asleep and stay asleep almost anywhere.

Very recent work suggests that vitamin D plays a crucial role in sleep - and that healthy sleep is not possible for many people severely deficient in vitamin D. I recommend watching a video on You-Tube. Type Stasha Gominak into the You-Tube search box. The lecture is broken up into 5 pieces. In my opinion, the safest way to attain higher levels of vitamin D is to get into the sun. In my case, it took a long time for my sleep to return to normal.

Thiamine is another vitamin that plays an important role in sleep. It's hard to get enough ordinary thiamine. Today, however, there are choices - fat soluble forms of thiamine known as allithiamines. Two forms of fat soluble thiamine are readily available. These are known as TTFD and Benfotiamine. Fat soluble thiamine was popularized in Japan several decades ago, yet remains underutilized there and obscure here in the U.S.

I developed a renewed interest in thiamine about 6 months ago when I had the insight that thiamine, vitamin C, niacin, and vitamin D are special nutrients because they are associated with the four human pandemic vitamin deficiency diseases beriberi, scurvy, pellagra, and rickets respectively. Read more here

If thiamine was special, where were the literature reports of safety and effectiveness for doses well in excess of the 1 to 2 mg doses needed to prevent deficiency? There is extensive literature including double-blind, placebo controlled trials for vitamin C, niacin, and vitamin D. Unlike 12 years ago when I first investigated vitamin C and B-complex vitamins, this time I had a text book on vitamins to consult – “The Nutritional Biochemistry of Vitamins.” When I read this book I learned that the common, water-soluble forms of thiamine found in food and supplements are not absorbed beyond 2 mg/dose in the digestive tract. A passing reference was made to the existence of fat-soluble thiamine, and the fact that absorption of these forms was unlimited. Once inside the body, most cells require special proteins to pull the common forms of thiamine out of the blood and into the cells where thiamine is needed. Again, fat-soluble thiamine is not limited in this way. Once in the bloodstream, fat-soluble thiamine enters all cells. Fat soluble thiamine is a somewhat fragile molecule, so cells nearer to larger arteries probably receive larger doses.

Although obscure, the fat soluble thiamines TTFD and Benfotiamine are readily available here in the USA. They can be found and purchased by searching on the internet. Unfortunately, I’m still not done explaining the problems with potency – no wonder fat-soluble thiamine remains obscure. TTFD, the preferred form of fat-soluble thiamine popularized in Japan, is not stable to stomach acid. Enteric-coated or time-release formulations are required to reliably deliver the entire dose in the pill to the bloodstream. If TTFD is purchased without special formulation, it is important to take it on an empty stomach with lots of water. TTFD is also available as a skin cream – another means of reliably delivering the entire dose to the bloodstream.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, there is much to gain and almost nothing to lose by trying vitamin D and fat-soluble thiamine. Extra vitamins work better in combination than alone, so I recommend taking at least 2000 mg/day of vitamin C, 250 mg of time-release niacin two or three times/week, and a daily multivitamin too. Don’t give up on better sleep until you’ve tried all these vitamins together.


At 1:52 PM, Blogger jdawg said...

How do I know if I'm experiencing a thiamine side effect? I'm taking the mononitrate version.
And, should vitamins always be taken with food? Specifically this one?


At 7:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

At 4:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have non restorative sleep issues and wake with lots of joint pain. I wake fully awake, like I've been shocked awake. My whole body aches like I've been poisoned. I don't have apnea. So last night I tried 125 mg niacin plus a sauna and hot tub. Big flush. I woke with the same discomfort but slept an extra hour, maybe longer if my wife's alarm didn't go off. That's rare for me. Normally I awake at 4 or 5 and can't get back to sleep, it's too uncomfortable. So am I niacin deficient, or was the niacin, flush, sauna and hot tub helping me detox something? Any ideas? Thanks Greg.


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