In this episode we talk about 4 vitamins and minerals that when deficient, can cause insomnia. We begin the episode talking about the most common cause of insomnia in women over the age of 40...elevated cortisol.
We then talk about Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Magnesium, and iron.
We talk about the reasons why you end up with a problem with any of them and the connection to sleep.
If you're not sleeping well...one of these deficiencies is most likely to blame.
Dr. Martin Jr.: You're listening to The Doctor Is In podcast from martinclinic.com. Although we share a lot of practical and, in our opinion, awesome information, what you hear on this podcast is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. It's strictly for informational purposes. So enjoy.
Hello, I'm Dr. Martin Jr., ...
Dr. Martin Sr.: ... I'm Dr. Martin Sr., ...
Dr. Martin Jr.: ... and this is The Doctor Is In podcast, and this is episode 164. [00:00:30] Today we wanna talk a little bit more about sleep. We've done some previous podcasts on sleep, but we wanna talk about the five major causes of insomnia or sleep issues. Four of them are nutritional deficiencies, and one is a hormone which, if you've listened to our previous podcasts, you're gonna know the answer to that, which we'll get into in one second.
Now, what's interesting is that you and I, off air, have been talking about a systematic review study that looked at melatonin. [00:01:00] Melatonin is that hormone that you secrete at nighttime. It's amazing, you need to sleep to get melatonin, but if you're not getting melatonin you're not sleeping. It's kinda like a-
Dr. Martin Sr.: And your body makes it.
Dr. Martin Jr.: Your body makes it naturally.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Because people think, “I gotta take melatonin as a supplement,” but your body makes melatonin. Just understand that it's not a herb or whatever.
Dr. Martin Jr.: Your body makes it, and it's interesting, studies have shown that in a dark room you make more of it, when [00:01:30] you're sleeping better, cool, and all of that stuff, which we can get into some of the sleep tips later.
But what they found is that when you're sleeping well and you're releasing melatonin, it actually improves your fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity. On our last episode we talked a ton about the effect of having high fasting glucose and the opposite of insulin sensitivity, which is insulin resistance.
Real quickly, before we go on, let's quickly explain why you want to be [00:02:00] insulin sensitive. Because insulin, like we said in the last episode, but really quickly we'll summarize, blood sugar levels are so toxic that, whenever you eat food and it's broken down into glucose, and your blood sugar levels spike up a little bit, you have to do something about it. Your body secretes insulin, and then insulin basically comes along and say, “All right, get out of here,” it tells the glucose to go into storage. Which, if you wanna learn a lot more about that, go back and listen to our previous episode because we talk about that in a lot more detail.
[00:02:30] But insulin resistance happens when you're constantly having to lower your blood sugar levels because it's always spiking, and eventually your cells just stop listening to insulin, so your cells become resistant, which is where the term insulin resistant comes from. When you are insulin resistant, you need to secrete a lot more insulin to get the same job done.
However, on the flip side, when you are insulin sensitive, [00:03:00] when your cells are really sensitive, it's like a person that's really sensitive, you don't have to say or do much around them, they react. And that's what happens. The cells that are insulin sensitive, they only need a little bit of insulin, and then they do the same job as normally. That's a good thing, whenever you need less insulin to do a job, that's always good for your biochemistry, it's good for your physiology, it's good for your brain, it's good for your heart, it's good for your muscles, it's good for your fat cells.
Dr. Martin Sr.: It's the hormone that wants you dead, right? [00:03:30] Insulin wants you dead, overuse of insulin wants you dead. And it really, really, really, really wants you dead.
Dr. Martin Jr.: It's funny, because insulin is so crucial to life. Insulin is one of those things that ... I always look at insulin as a comic book or movie character that starts off with the intentions of really helping everybody out, and then by the end they're just a plain old villain who just craves more power. That's how insulin works, it's supposed to help us out, and without it you die, without insulin you die, [00:04:00] your blood sugar levels would never come down and you would die, it's just game over, you need insulin to control your blood sugar levels, and other things, insulin does other things as well ...
But it's the most powerful food partitioning hormone in the body. It controls where things go in your body after you eat. It tells you ... Are you going to storage? Without insulin, you're gonna burn it off, it's all these things that happen.
But, at the end of the day, when you sleep ... Listen, sleep is anti-aging, you age better, sleep ... They've [00:04:30] shown one of the stages of sleep, which is REM, you're doing a brain dump in a sense. It's like when your computer gets so backed up with all this data, and you clear the cookies, and you clear the cache, and then all of a sudden the computer's running better. That's what sleep does to your brain, it dumps a lot of that junk in your brain, your filtration system that you and I talked about, the plumbing of your brain, works better at night, so you sleep better-
Dr. Martin Sr.: Isn't that neat, about that glymphatic drainage?
Dr. Martin Jr.: The glymphatic system.
Dr. Martin Sr.: The glymphatic system that we talked about a few episodes [00:05:00] ago.
Dr. Martin Jr.: Yeah, that was a brand new system that they discovered. They always knew that the brain ... Like anything else, when you make energy, it creates a lot of waste. In order to make energy, we create waste, and we have our lymphatic system, our respiratory system, our sweating, all of that stuff gets rid of the waste in our body.
The brain, it consumes 25% of the energy in our body, which is incredible to think about. So there's a lot of waste, and they never quite knew how the plumbing worked. But now they discovered this glymphatic [00:05:30] system, the plumbing of the brain, and they've found it works better at nighttime.
So sleep is crucial to brain health. If somebody has a lifetime of not getting enough sleep, or a lifetime of insomnia, they are so much more likely to end up with dementia or Alzheimer's. So it's good for your brain, sleep's good for your brain, sleep is good for your insulin sensitivity, it's good for your heart, it's good for your hormones that control hunger, it's good for fat loss ... Sleep is everything. Sleep [00:06:00] and eating and exercise, if you nail those three things there, you're healthy. You're absolutely healthy.
So here's the thing: a lot of people are not sleeping well. A lot of people have insomnia, a lot of people just no longer wake up feeling refreshed in the morning. It's amazing how common sleep issues have become.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Big time.
Dr. Martin Jr.: And it's amazing, for women, as they age, [00:06:30] sleep ... Any hormonal issue affects their sleep. Cortisol affects their sleep, they just don't sleep well. That's what's happening now. So what we wanna do for the remainder of this episode is just talk about the most common causes of insomnia, and they're all fixable. So let's talk about the four ... There's more than this, but let's talk about four big nutritional deficiencies that can directly affect a person's sleep.
Let's talk about the first one, because it's something that we talk about a lot, and [00:07:00] that of course is Vitamin D.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Linus Pauling, he was a great guy, I remembered studying a lot of stuff that he came out with when his research won the Nobel prize on Vitamin C, and I've always said, “He just missed by one letter in the alphabet.” Because now we're finding the most essential of all vitamins is the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D. Much more ...
Look, you need Vitamin C, your body doesn't produce it, and you need to get [00:07:30] it in your diet. But the key for all causes, really, is if you're not sure, then take Vitamin D, because Vitamin D is essential. And it's essential for the production of melatonin, it's very simple. That's why you get out in the sun, and think about it, you're in the sun all day, you usually sleep that night. Because it'll drain the life ... But it's because of all the melatonin it's producing. You actually get a good night's sleep when you've been out. [00:08:00] That's why I go to Florida.
Dr. Martin Jr.: There was a study done in men that I found interesting, and they found that men who have a Vitamin D deficiency, not getting enough, which is so common, a lot of times it was linked to getting under five hours of sleep every night. It just directly affected their sleep. So we could do a whole show on melatonin and the effect that it has on ... So many anti-cancer effects, it's such a powerful ... When you produce it, I'm not talking about taking melatonin, I'm saying when you naturally produce melatonin and when you sleep well, [00:08:30] it's incredible how much better your body functions.
Again, as you mentioned, you need Vitamin D to get melatonin in the first place. So a deficiency in Vitamin D, for a lot of people, can cause a sleeping issue, can cause right out insomnia or it can just affect the quality of sleep that they get. So that's the first one, is Vitamin D.
Let's talk about another real common one as well, which is magnesium.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Think of the word “relax”, I always say magnesium, if you wonder when you need it, it's to [00:09:00] relax. Again, magnesium, it participates in over 600 functions in your body, so magnesium is the essential mineral. And we don't have much of it, it's not in food like it used to be, because of soil erosion and pesticides and herbicides-
Dr. Martin Jr.: And even if they consume it, they're not absorbing it the same way because of all the digestive issues that people have.
Dr. Martin Sr.: And magnesium is essential. So again, it's one deficiency that we see big, big, big time in people [00:09:30] today. If you're stressed, guess what mineral goes out to your body.
Dr. Martin Jr.: It's interesting, because Vitamin D is directly tied to a neurotransmitter, which is GABA, which is so important as well to help with sleep. There's a direct connection to your ability to sleep, but then there's also a lot of side pathways that definitely affect your sleep, which is why-
Dr. Martin Sr.: And if you're eating a lot of sugar, guess what happens. Your magnesium, it's one of the minerals that you are really secreting a lot out. It [00:10:00] comes right out of your body on a high carbohydrate crappy diet.
Dr. Martin Jr.: So let's talk about the third one then, we talked about Vitamin D, we talked about magnesium. Another big one that you talk a lot about is Vitamin B12.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Yeah, Vitamin B12 should be at optimal levels. We're learning so much more now, and it's so common today that B12, like you said, anybody with digestive issues is gonna be low in B12. Almost every medication that you can think of, from [00:10:30] high blood pressure to diabetic medication like Metformin and whatever, these are common meds today, and guess what-
Dr. Martin Jr.: Antacids ...
Dr. Martin Sr.: Antacids, you are going to be low in B12. Again, if you're taking B12, “Oh, Doc, I take it, I take a multivitamin,” you're not getting B12 in it, you need to take the methyl B12. To be absorbed, it has to be [crosstalk 00:10:48]-
Dr. Martin Jr.: Methylcobalamin, and it has to be sublingual. You can't swallow it at all in terms of in a [00:11:00] capsule, because if it's mixed in with the other B complexes, you may be getting the other B's, but you're definitely not getting the B12-
Dr. Martin Sr.: And when you get a blood test done, and it's in that normal range, no. Because it needs to be in an optimal range.
Dr. Martin Jr.: Again, we've talked about this on previous podcasts, but does it matter ... We get this question a lot when it comes to thyroid, we get this question a lot when it comes to testosterone, but for example, if a guy has every symptom of low testosterone, they're tired at nighttime, they've got all these symptoms of low [00:11:30] testosterone, and then they get it checked and their doctor's like, “It's normal.” And then they're like, “It says it's normal.” Yeah, but it's not optimized for you. Your body needs more testosterone than what it has, so for you that's low.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Same thing with B12.
Dr. Martin Jr.: And then when they get it higher, they feel better, and then their doctor says, “Oh, it's too high, we gotta bring it down,” and then they bring it down and then they don't feel good anymore. B12 is kinda the same way. I firmly believe that there's an optimum level, and each of us is a little different, that we function better at. And a lot of it has to do with our history.
[00:12:00] They're finding this out more and more now, even with the bariatric surgeries that people are getting. It is absolutely destroying their ability to get B12 normally, so they have to sublingual it. But it's such a problem nowadays, B12, that so many people are low in it. But again, the numbers don't matter to us as much as just how do you feel when it comes to that. There's a direct effect that low B12 has on people's ability to sleep.
Which moves onto the next one that's kinda related to this, which of course is iron. [00:12:30] Iron is one of those things that women especially are ... Here's the thing. I'm gonna read off some symptoms: low energy, heart palpitations, lightheaded, burning legs when climbing stairs, stressed, irritable, depressed, brain fog. A lot of those symptoms sound like thyroid, so a lot of women have thyroid symptoms, and it's masquerading for some of them as they've got anemia, they've got low iron. And vice versa in a [00:13:00] lot or ways. But iron presents itself, they're fatigued-
Dr. Martin Sr.: Pale.
Dr. Martin Jr.: They look pale, there's a lot of symptoms. But the problem with iron is most people just don't get enough because we're scared to eat meat, we're scared to eat red meat nowadays, and there's a difference between the iron found in meat-
Dr. Martin Sr.: In the plant kingdom, right?
Dr. Martin Jr.: Versus plants. If you're a vegetarian, or you're a vegan, you definitely are struggling to get enough iron.
Dr. Martin Sr.: And we don't call it “hem” iron, we call it [00:13:30] what?
Dr. Martin Jr.: Heme iron.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Heme. You corrected me today.
Dr. Martin Jr.: Yeah, because you were talking about “hemming”, and I was-
Dr. Martin Sr.: Well, your Google corrected me.
Dr. Martin Jr.: I was like, “I'm pretty sure it's not that,” because every time you mentioned that I kept on looking at my jeans thinking I gotta shorten them because you were calling them hem.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Hem.
Dr. Martin Jr.: But it's heme.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Like the Hemi engine.
Dr. Martin Jr.: Dr. Google says it's ... It is funny, but-
Dr. Martin Sr.: Heme, heme iron.
Dr. Martin Jr.: And it's funny, because you have ... I remember Grandpa Martin, the same thing, you have your way of saying certain [00:14:00] words. I like how you say “diabetes”. Now you're conscious to say it, but you don't say diabetes like everybody else does.
Dr. Martin Sr.: What do I say?
Dr. Martin Jr.: Next time you say-
Dr. Martin Sr.: Diabetes.
Dr. Martin Jr.: Yeah. Yours rhymes with “bus”. It's just different. And it's funny, I never noticed it until somebody else pointed it out to me one time, they way you say it sounds so-
Dr. Martin Sr.: My dad was like that.
Dr. Martin Jr.: Yes, that's what I mean, I remember Grandpa being like that. But the way you say diabetes sounds so much more pleasant than-
Dr. Martin Sr.: Yeah, but it's better.
Dr. Martin Jr.: It is better, I agree with that.
Dr. Martin Sr.: It's better, let's change it. [00:14:30] Don't listen to Google.
Dr. Martin Jr.: I would be happy if people called it ... I can't even say it how you say it.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Diabetes.
Dr. Martin Jr.: Yeah, I like it better. I can't say it, but I like that better.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Beat it with a diet, diabetes.
Dr. Martin Jr.: And then you did a video awhile ago, it was on Facebook, a lot of people saw this video because you were talking about milk. And the way you say “milk” in the video, it cracks me up even when I watch it now because I never noticed it till somebody in the comments pointed it out.
Dr. Martin Sr.: What did I say?
Dr. Martin Jr.: I can't remember, it wasn't milk. Say milk.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Milk?
Dr. Martin Jr.: In the video it wasn't that. So people pointed [00:15:00] it out, it's amazing, even the way I say words ... I talk fast. Because we get our podcasts transcribed, because some people prefer to read it, and I'm sure the transcription service is like, “Man, can you tell that guy to slow down? Can you tell that guy to slow down?”
But yes, you and I, it's funny because every time you say certain words it reminds me of Grandpa, and how he was the same thing. I remember when I was learning some stuff from him, I was like ... And I [00:15:30] like the way he says it better.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Well, he was French too, right? A lot more French.
Dr. Martin Jr.: Yeah, he put his own spin on the word. I just like that better. Anybody can say diabetes, only you can say ... I can't even say it. I won't even try to say it. But yeah.
So, at the end of the day, the type of iron ... That was long sidebar, by the way ... The type of iron that you get-
Dr. Martin Sr.: Heme.
Dr. Martin Jr.: ... heme iron that you get from red meats is absorbed better than you would get the non-heme [00:16:00] iron from the plant kingdom.
Dr. Martin Sr.: And I always say Popeye, you might know-
Dr. Martin Jr.: Yeah, I do know, Popeye's still [crosstalk 00:16:08] I used to watch that.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Popeye the sailor was very strong, and he said because he ate spinach. But he wasn't getting heme iron, when he was, he was getting it from the red meat he was eating, not spinach.
Dr. Martin Jr.: What a weird cartoon, by the way. I do remember watching it as a kid, I used to love it, aside from the disproportionate size of his forearms, which were awesome. [00:16:30] What a weird thing that somebody just came up with an idea, this guy just gets super strong when he opens a can of spinach. But yeah, it was a great cartoon.
Okay, so we talked about the four deficiencies, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, magnesium, and iron, and then we hinted at the other one, which is a hormone, which is cortisol. Cortisol, we've said this before, is the number one cause of insomnia in women over the age of 40. If a woman over the age of 40 is having a hard time sleeping, [00:17:00] generally they have some kind of cortisol issue, too much cortisol.
And of course it's because cortisol is a cyclical hormone, meaning it naturally at some points in the day is higher, and at other points of the day is lower. Our cortisol levels are supposed to be the highest as we wake up in the morning, and it's supposed to get lower as the day goes on because we don't need the energy, we don't need that fight or flight as we prepare to sleep.
So at the end of the day cortisol's supposed to be lower, but so many people [00:17:30] struggle with elevated cortisol, so it's high, and their body just can't shut down to go to sleep, they can't fall asleep, they can't stay asleep, and it creates a real insomnia issue. And we've talked about that cortisol problem specifically on previous podcasts, and we've written about it a lot in our emails. But that's another major reason.
So if you're listening to this episode and you're having a hard time sleeping, and you haven't tried lowering your cortisol and you haven't tried optimizing your D or B12, your magnesium and your iron, then I would [00:18:00] definitely start there. Those are nutritional deficiencies.
Now let's talk about a couple of real quick tips, based on research, for sleeping. We know, for sure, that a black, dark room-
Dr. Martin Sr.: Dark, dark, dark.
Dr. Martin Jr.: ... is best for melatonin secretion, even to the point-
Dr. Martin Sr.: Cover your eyes, then.
Dr. Martin Jr.: Yeah, and if you can't cover your eyes, then even if you take a little electrical tape and you cover those little blue indicator lights on everything in your room. When something's charging, that thing's off. Alarm clocks, same thing, it's amazing ... I [00:18:30] remember reading this, and I have to verify this, they found that when a light was shining on them at nighttime, it definitely affected their melatonin, even a little bit of an alarm clock light. So we know that. You want dark, pitch, pitch black.
We also know that a cool room-
Dr. Martin Sr.: Cool, yeah.
Dr. Martin Jr.: People sleep better in a cool room. And I know that temperature is the constant struggle between men and women for eternity, eternity, I'm 45, been married going on 25 years, and our temperature differences [00:19:00] at nighttime still shock me to this day, how our temperatures can be so different in the same house all day, come to bed at nighttime, and she's freezing, and I'm warm. It's just amazing to me, the temperature differences that we can have.
But we know for sure, research is saying cooler room. You can have a lot of blankets on you, but the room better be cool, you better not be sweating all night, you better not be too-
Dr. Martin Sr.: I wanna see ... In the winter, I like to see the frost [00:19:30] on my eyebrows in the morning.
Dr. Martin Jr.: It is funny, people tend to sleep better in a cooler room. So that's another thing.
Another thing that is so much more relevant today than in the past is blue light from your iPad, from your phone-
Dr. Martin Sr.: Turn that stuff off.
Dr. Martin Jr.: Yeah, for somebody that has insomnia, I think research is pretty clear that, if you have a hard time sleeping or staying asleep at nighttime, you may wanna turn off your screens by about 8:30, 9:00 if you go to bed at about 10:30 or 10:00. You want that-
Dr. Martin Sr.: [00:20:00] Blue lights off.
Dr. Martin Jr.: Off at nighttime, there's no question.
Dr. Martin Sr.: It's hard to do, because we're so addicted to looking at social media. I'm looking at studies, and reading stuff-
Dr. Martin Jr.: Exactly. Now it's so much more convenient to get all that stuff on your phone, on your iPad, that's what we do, before bed you read it. But again, if you have an issue with insomnia, that's definitely something that can affect. And then there's even something to be said about sleeping in a cool room, but then having, before that, a [00:20:30] warm bath before bed can help people with insomnia.
Dr. Martin Sr.: With some salts, because then you get magnesium salts.
Dr. Martin Jr.: That's right. So those are some practical tips outside of the nutritional deficiencies to fix to help you sleep. Also, for some people they may exercise too late in the day, and that can cause a delayed phase reaction, it can delay the phase of sleeping at nighttime. So there's different things in there as well, eating at nighttime can do that as well for some people. There's a lot of reasons why we can't sleep, but like we [00:21:00] said before, the number one cause of insomnia in women over the age of 40, first and foremost, fix your cortisol, and then go down the line of those nutritional deficiencies.
Again, we wanna thank you for listening to this episode, and have a great day.
Dr. Martin Sr.: Thanks for listening to The Doctor Is In podcast from martinclinic.com. If you have any questions, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're not a newsletter subscriber, you can head to our website and sign up for free. [00:21:30] We also have a private Facebook group that you can join; it's a community of awesome people. Finally, I do a Facebook Live every Thursday morning at 8:30. Join us again next week for a new episode.