Vitamin D is essential to health and wellness and supports the immune system, respiratory health, bone health, and calcium absorption. While the risk of developing vitamin D deficiency in the summer does exist, it is less likely to happen in relatively higher latitudes (e.g., Canada) because the sun sets late in the evening. Conversely, the sun sets in the late afternoon in the winter in these areas, and the corresponding decrease in sunlight leads to a greater risk of vitamin D deficiency for society at-large and especially for night owls.
Night owls who align their lifestyles with their natural circadian rhythms wake up later in the day, many in the afternoon, and work at night, when they are at their most productive. This circadian alignment is great for their health; however, it does leave them at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency, unless they make a conscious effort to go outside before the sun sets.
In addition, morning larks who work night shifts will also be at greater risk of experiencing vitamin D deficiency in addition to the negative health risks that they are already subject to when working against their natural circadian rhythms. Moreover, the COVID-19 lockdowns and curfews that many of us are experiencing mean that we are spending more time indoors. Consequently, all of us need to make a conscious effort to ensure that we are obtaining enough vitamin D on a daily basis.
So what can be done?
1) Make an effort to take a walk or spend time in the sun when you wake up because as the sunlight hits your skin, your skin produces vitamin D. For those who are lighter in skin tone, 10 -15 minutes of midday sun is said to be enough for you to obtain your daily requirements. If you are darker in skin tone, though, it will take longer for your skin to produce vitamin D. For you, the time recommended in the sun can be substantially longer, from 30 minutes to a few hours a day. Also remember that afternoon sun will be less strong than midday sun; therefore, the time required to produce vitamin D will be longer. At all times of the year and regardless of skin tone, be mindful of the damaging effects of UVA and UVB rays on your skin. So, make sure that you protect yourself appropriately.
2) In some countries, foods such as dairy, dairy alternatives, orange juice, cereals, and oatmeal are fortified with vitamin D. Check your packaging to see how much of your required daily allowance you are getting.
3) Eat foods that are sources of vitamin D. Sources of vitamin D include salmon, mackerel, tuna, and other fatty fish. Cheese, egg yolks, cheese, mushrooms, and seaweed (e.g., kelp) also contain vitamin D.
4) Take vitamin D supplements. Recommendations for daily allowances range from 1000 - 4000 IU (25 -100 micrograms).
So, keep this in mind and make sure that you obtain the vitamin D that you need, particularly in the wintertime.
... And do check out my latest podcast episode; nutritionist Laura Brigance and I talk about her sleep wellness journey as well as the importance of working together to develop courses and programs that teach you about sleeping well and eating well.
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