How Vitamin C Relates to Sleep Health Back to Blog >

How Vitamin C Relates to Sleep Health

December 15, 2021

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a vital component to our overall health. It is a well-known antioxidant – which means it helps repair cellular damage from regular stress and exposure to toxins. It also aids in the regulation of gene expression. Vitamin C, however, is not something that the body can produce on its own and must be supplemented by external sources (ie diet, supplements, etc). The daily recommended dose of vitamin C is 2,000 mg – however many people do not meet this dosage.

There are, therefore, many systems in our body that rely on vitamin C to function properly, and one of the most important is our sleep cycles. Sleep is a process that heals the body and is vital for the health of many regions of the body, and many sleep disorders are associated with a lack of vitamin C. For example, a study published in the Journal Appetite, found that patients reporting sleep deprivation (<6 hours of sleep each night) had low levels of circulating vitamin c (1). Additionally, associations have been discovered between vitamin C and certain sleep disorders. Taking prescribed vitamin C has been shown to lower symptoms of restless leg syndrome (RLS) (2) – a condition where a person feels sensations like pins and needles when they try to sleep causing them to jerk and have trouble sleeping. This vitamin also increases what is called flow mediated dilation (FMD) (the extent to how much blood vessels open to allow blood to flow through them) (3). The increase in FMD as a result of vitamin C intake has helped patients with sleep apnea recover and get more sleep each night. 

How Sleep Deficiency Affects Your Health 

Memory Impairment

First, sleep deprivation, specifically due to vitamin C deficiency, has a strong correlation to impairments with memory (4). A study found that sleep-deprived rats had a higher buildup of a protein called beta amyloid – a compound that has a known association with dementia and memory loss (5). It has also been found that when a person lacks proper sleep their memories remain in one region of the brain called the hippocampus, when in healthy individuals they would be in a different region of the brain called the frontal cortex (6). This is how memories are stored during sleep, therefore, a malfunction in this process prevents the proper development of memories in the first place. 


There are many studies that have linked chronic sleep deprivation with weight gain and obesity. This occurs due to a hormonal imbalance – in sleep deprived individuals they have found higher levels of a hormone called ghrelin and lower levels of leptin. Ghrelin is known as the “hunger hormone,” and it signals to the brain that you need to eat. Therefore, ghrelin increases feelings of hunger whereas leptin decreases them. This hormone is produced (mostly) by the stomach, and in healthy individuals it is only produced when the stomach is empty. However, when individuals experience long-term sleep deprivation their ghrelin levels spike in a manner that is unrelated to real hunger (7), often resulting in overeating. This is why people that report sleep deprivation typically have higher BMIs and body fat percentages than those with healthy sleep patterns. 

Type II Diabetes 

The linkage between sleep deprivation and type II diabetes is similar to obesity in that it is a result of a hormonal imbalance. Sleep deprivation can also cause an imbalance in the hormone insulin. Insulin is typically released when blood sugar levels rise in the body. It signals to cells to “open” and take in the sugar to use for energy. When the body is deprived of sleep the body begins to lose sensitivity to insulin – this resulting in blood sugar levels remaining high after eating a meal with no means to return to normal (since the cells cannot recognize the insulin to allow the sugar inside to be used for energy) (8). 

Type II diabetes is a disease where the body either cannot produce enough insulin, or (in the case of sleep deprivation) the body does not recognize insulin when it circulates in the blood. This can cause symptoms such as fatigue, blurred vision, frequent urination, and excessive thirst (9). This form of insulin resistance is also linked to sleep apnea, because sleep apnea can also form when the body has higher than normal levels of glucose (sugar) circulating. 

Due to the various health complications that result from sleep deprivation - it is vital to make sure that you are getting enough vitamin C to limit the risk of hurting your health due to sleep related issues. There are two main ways that vitamin C can be incorporated into one’s routine – and it is essential to do this since the body cannot produce this vitamin on its own. 

Common Foods with Vitamin C

There are foods that naturally contain high levels of natural vitamin C. Fruits and vegetables are well-known sources of vitamins and minerals, however, each one has its own concentration of certain types of vitamins. Here are a few of the best-known sources of vitamin C. 

  • Camu Camu 

    • This small fruit is native to South America. It is highly potent in vitamin C – having up to 60 times as much of the vitamin as an orange (10). This fruit is so tart (due to the vitamin C content) that it is rarely eaten in its natural form, however, it is becoming a popular ingredient in powder form. 
  • Kiwi 

    • This tropical fruit is a vitamin C powerhouse – with a single serving of kiwi containing about 79% of the daily recommended vitamin C (11). Keep in mind that most of the antioxidants of the kiwi fruit are found in the fuzzy skin, but many people find the texture unpleasant [if this is you try blending the skin into a smoothie instead]. 
  • Sweet Yellow Peppers 

    • Many vitamin C-dense foods are on the sweeter side, however, these peppers are a great savory option instead. They are easy to cook and add to various vegetable-based meals. These peppers also provide about 140% of the daily vitamin C (12). 


Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that cannot be made by the body on its own. Vitamin C deficiency can result in sleep deprivation – potentially resulting in health complications such as memory loss, type II diabetes, and obesity. It is therefore essential to have a diet high in vitamin C to prevent these issues from arising. 

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