Snooze University

Does Calcium Deficiency Cause Insomnia?

by Dale Cudmore | Updated: Nov 19, 2022

Most people know that calcium plays a big role in bone density and strength, but it also plays a role in mental health.

A calcium deficiency can lead to anxiety, depression, and other symptoms that may interfere with sleep.

Let’s take a look at research that looks at how calcium levels affect sleep, and whether there’s evidence that a deficiency can cause insomnia.

Research on Calcium Deficiency and Sleep Quality

There are 2 particular studies that I could find that looked at this topic.

The first is a review of data from the 2007–2008 NHANES (1). They found that:

Calcium intake was associated with decreased difficulty falling asleep and non-restorative sleep.

That wording might be a bit confusing, but it’s saying that more calcium was related to falling asleep faster and experiencing less low quality (non-restorative) sleep.

One possible explanation for this that was pointed out by the authors was that calcium lowers blood pressure, which may lead to better sleep (2).

The second study is even more clear.

A cross-sectional study of 1422 young adults found that 62.66% of participants were poor sleepers (3). There were strong correlations between poor sleep and other lifestyle factors:

The participants with poor sleep quality reported lower calcium intake, higher anxiety and depression levels.

The more you learn about insomnia, the more you’ll see how interlinked insomnia, anxiety, and depression are.

Below is a proposed model of the many ways a lack of calcium could lead to insomnia.

Studies show that these 3 factors are all bidirectionally related (4). In other words, if you develop one (like depression), you’re likely to develop either of the others (insomnia or anxiety).

SummaryIt’s clear that there’s a link between low calcium levels and insomnia. More research needs to be done to draw more specific conclusions on other risk factors (i.e. age, gender, etc.) that may affect the risk and severity of a calcium deficit on sleep issues.

Causes of Calcium Deficiencies

A deficiency can obviously be caused by a lack of calcium in the diet.

However, hypocalcemia (clinical calcium deficiency) is often caused by other issues that affect the absorption of calcium in the body, mainly (Calcium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals):

  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Magnesium deficiency
  • Impaired parathyroid hormone production
  • Calcium malabsorption (several causes, including smoking and alcohol)
  • Certain medications
  • Certain other illnesses

I highlighted both vitamin D and magnesium deficiencies because they are most common.

The fact that there’s so many potential causes that may not be obvious is why it’s important for anyone who suspects a deficiency in a nutrient like calcium to be seen by a doctor, who can run tests to diagnose problems.

Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency

Calcium deficiencies can be tough to identify, because the signs are typically mild until a serious symptoms occur, which can include:

  • Fragile bones
  • Increased risk of falling
  • Neuromuscular irritability
  • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  • Muscle spasms

In severe cases, brain or renal calcification can occur, along with neurological disorders like depression or bipolar disorder, among other symptoms.

How Are Calcium Deficiencies Treated?

If caught early on, treating the low calcium levels alone may resolve all sleep issues.

As explained, it’s important to get a blood test to confirm if only calcium is low, or if someone has low levels of vitamin D or magnesium, or some other underlying issue.

Minor calcium deficiencies can be corrected through diet: It is a myth that dairy products are the only good source of calcium, there are plenty of good plant-based sources of calcium as well.

Larger deficiencies may require calcium supplementation to correct them: Studies have shown that calcium supplements are effective at treating conditions like premenstrual syndrome when calcium deficiencies are the root cause (5). In addition, magnesium or vitamin D supplements can be taken if needed as well.

Can a Lack of Calcium Lead to Chronic Insomnia?

Once primary insomnia develops, other issues like anxiety or depression may develop that won’t necessarily go away even if calcium levels return to normal.

In that case, calcium levels need to be improved, but the sleep problems will also need to be treated separately.

Depending on the case, further guidance of a doctor who can prescribe a comprehensive insomnia treatment plan may be needed.

Summary: Calcium and Insomnia

While calcium deficiencies aren't particularly common in developed countries, they can cause insomnia and lack of deep sleep when they occur.

The exact mechanism isn’t clear, but it appears that the relationship between a calcium deficit and anxiety and depression is the most likely driver of sleep trouble.

If you suspect that a lack of calcium is giving you sleep trouble, a doctor can run a simple blood test to check and treat if necessary.

References

  1. Sleep Symptoms Associated with Intake of Specific Dietary Nutrients
  2. Factors related to blood pressure in a biracial adolescent female population
  3. Poor sleep quality among young adults
  4. A Systematic Review Assessing Bidirectionality between Sleep Disturbances, Anxiety, and Depression
  5. Calcium carbonate and the premenstrual syndrome: Effects on premenstrual and menstrual symptoms

Medical Disclaimer: The information on SnoozeUniversity.com is not intended to be a substitute for physician or other qualified care. We simply aim to inform people struggling with sleep issues about the nature of their condition and/or prescribed treatment.


About the authorDale is the founder of Snooze University and a sleep researcher. I overcame my sleep issues and now I'd like to help you do the same by summarizing the latest sleep studies for you.