Can zinc help you sleep?

Can zinc help you sleep?

Sarah Hyland, Studying Health Sciences & Writer & Product Trainer for A Vogel explains to us how Zinc plays an important role in sleep.

Have the the years of lockdown improved or worsened your night's sleep? The slow pace of life may well have kicked insomnia out of the bed (a small blessing in troubled times). However, the big fluffy pillow that is restful slumber, has not been delivered to all households. For those of us who are still awake in the small hours, the trace mineral zinc may hold some answers.

Why would zinc help?

Recent studies have shown that zinc can improve sleep quality(1). One study looked at ICU nurses with sleeping issues. This was an interesting group to study because an ICU nursing job can be very stressful. They work very long hours and may have to stay awake when the rest of us are tucked up in bed. Shift work like this can cause long term sleep problems that can have a negative impact on mood and health.

At the start of this study, the ICU nurses with the worst sleep quality were found to have low levels of zinc. Zinc tablets were given to one group while another group were given a placebo. One month later both groups were assessed. The zinc-supplementing group of nurses reported better sleep quality than the placebo-group.

Our body clock

Our sleep and waking cycle (or body clock) is one of our original caveman features. Alongside our urge to eat food, we have a natural tendency to sleep in the dark and wake up during the day. There may be personal differences between how much sleep we need or when we like to wake up. Each of us has a natural circadian rhythm which should be the basis for our routine. Many aspects of modern living disturb this natural pattern of day and night, waking and sleeping.

A recent sleep survey done in the UK found that only 38% of people felt that they slept well(2). 79% said that their insomnia had been a problem for over two years. A circadian rhythm that is out of synch can leave you wide awake in the middle of the night. By lunchtime you can be falling asleep on your laptop.

People who sleep less than five hours a night have been found to take in less zinc than those who sleep for a long time(3). Zinc is thought to act like a circadian rhythm regulator. In other words, it may be able to adjust an inner clock that is telling the wrong time. Zinc may be able to induce sleep when sleep is appropriate, usually between 11pm and 7am.

The type of sleep that zinc appears to influence is the non-dreaming part of sleep(4). This is called slow-wave sleep; sounds relaxing doesn't it? Like being rocked gently. This is the part of sleep that is important for restoration and repair. Our learning processes benefit from this type of sleep. All of our newly acquired information is committed to memory during this sleep stage.

Food sources of Zinc

Zinc is found in a variety of foods.

Shellfish, especially oysters

Meats such as beef and pork.

Wholegrain breads, porridge and quinoa.

Nuts, seeds and beans.

The plant sources of zinc are not as easily broken down or absorbed by the body, so vegans and vegetarians may need to eat more zinc-rich foods than meat-eaters. Intensive farming methods have reduced the nutritional value of food available today. Our grannies, back in the day, probably didn't have to eat too much to keep on top of their zinc levels. Their basic food was more nutritious. In fairness, they had fewer take-outs too!

Some medical conditions that affect digestion can affect zinc levels, as can a poor diet. Other tell-tale signs that zinc may be low are a poor sense of taste and smell, dermatitis and low immunity.

So, consider your zinc levels when you are asking yourself, 'Why can't I sleep?'

My Top Tip:Use it to help restore natural sleep

Taken just half an hour before bedtime, it can help if you worry that you can't sleep - encouraging a more natural sleep, helping you sleep better and wake feeling refreshed.

"Helps me sleep. I've used it on and off for years and it really helps."