The Link Between Vitamin D, Ear Infections, and Sleep Apnea

Ear infections are almost a right of passage for young children these days. Ear tubes, along with tonsillectomy, are two of the most common procedures performed in the US every year. I’ve alluded to in the past that facial skeletal underdevelopment can predispose to middle ear and sinus problems. But how does vitamin D play a role in both ear infections and obstructive sleep apnea?

A recent study found that supplementing with vitamin D helped to reduce ear infections in children who were prone to recurrent infections. Another study found that adults with higher levels of obstructive sleep apnea were found to have significantly lower levels of vitamin D. While the first study didn’t explain the mechanism between higher levels of vitamin D and less frequent ear infections, it’s safe to assume that there may be a link between obstructive sleep apnea and middle ear infections. This would be consistent with what I describe in my sleep-breathing paradigm, where sleep-disturbed breathing can be directly or indirectly linked to a multitude of medical problems. There are anecdotal reports of vitamin D supplementation helping to treat obstructive sleep apnea, but I haven’t seen any randomized, prospective studies to date.

If you have obstructive sleep apnea, do you know if you have low vitamin D levels?


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3 thoughts on “The Link Between Vitamin D, Ear Infections, and Sleep Apnea

  1. Those who are working with the D3 hormone (A.K.A. Vitamin D3) (e.g. Dr. Stasha Gominak, Michael F. Holick, Ph.D., M.D., Vitamin D Council) seem to be finding that the very low side of the “normal” range of 30-100 ng/L produces a range of symptoms including OSA, pain, and infection. The highest “after intervention” results from the study mentioned in the Ear Infections article were 36.2 ng/mL. All believe that a level lower than 50 ng/mL is not good and Dr. Stasha Gominak recommends 60-80 ng/mL for good health.

    They are also quick to mention that the D3 hormone, being produced in abundance by exposure to sunlight (perhaps 20,000 I.U. Per dose!) is quite seasonal in nature with the very high 25(OH)D levels being seen late summer early autumn. The study makes no mention of season nor any attempt to catch changes in D3 hormone levels due to sun exposure or diet. I think this should have been done.

    In the future I would like to see studies done which look carefully at the D3 hormone levels and look to move it into the “above 50 ng/mL range so we can see how D3 hormone can perform. Before air conditioning and computers we used to spend a lot more time outside and probably had much higher rates. As well, there was a lot less obesity and a BMI above 30 appears to predict 55% lower D3 levels.

    Even with the very low D3 levels even after intervention (and perhaps with seasonal changes moving the controls further away from good levels) the study shows good value in better maintenance of D3 levels. This is good to know.

    Dr. Stasha Gominak, Neurologist, sees that there are D3 receptors in the areas of the brain which control breathing and sleep. She has also apparently had some success helping people with OSA sleep better by getting their D3 levels up 60-80 ng/mL. I think there are many interacting things going on here which we will eventually understand and be able to use to move away from OSA and CPAP much better in the future. In the mean time I am glad to see doctors who are willing to work with their patients to find the real causes and cures.

    It does appear that D3 is part of the cure. I am very happy to hear about this early Autumn because I believe that my cod liver oil, fish, artificial sun exposure, and D3 supplementation will work with the better diet, pursuit of active lifestyle, and other efforts I am already making to find better health such that this winter will be better than last winter but perhaps not as good as the winter after.

  2. Vitamin D is also necessary for muscle contraction, let’s not forget. Tongue, throat, bulbar, they all need it to contract. Magnesium too.

  3. How interesting! I had frequent and very severe earaches and apnea as a child.

    As an adult, I found out that I had low Vit. D levels despite normal exposure to sunshine due to frequent gardening. Even as an adult, I still have occasional ear infections.

    Wth supplementation, my Vit. D levels are now on the low end of the normal range. I wonder what impact that might have on my apnea!

    I wonder what the link might be.