Welcome to the second part of our 'Minerals that help trigger sleep' series.
Today, we look at our first trace element- Copper also known as Cu. Those who suffer from insomnia, often have high blood copper levels.
What is the link between copper and sleep?
Copper is a metal and trace element that is essential for the daily operations of your body. Copper is a nervous-system stimulant- it gives you strength (by causing your muscles to contract), gives you energy (by helping complete the Kreb's cycle) and gives you mental agility (by making your brain fire thoughts).
The problem is too much copper will cause your nervous system to be running on over-drive or in a 'stressed' state. High serum copper levels (copper dissolved in your cellular fluid) are linked to agitation, irritability, anxiety and sleeplessness.
The first large micronutrient serum study titled 'Serum copper, zinc and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in short and long sleep duration in ageing men' was conducted on 2682 men living in Finland. Participants who slept the recommended 7-8 hours had normal blood copper levels and healthy inflammatory markers, however, those who slept less than 6 hours or more than 10 hours showed unhealthy blood copper levels and had low-grade inflammation. Low-grade inflammation has been linked to sleep disorders in passed studies and is known to precipitate heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
What was unclear was what came first- the high levels of copper or the poor sleep.
What foods are rich in copper?
Foods that are rich in copper include organ meats, soya, beans, cocoa, peas, cherries, nuts, lentils, barley and whole wheat. The soil in which the food is grown has a large impact on its overall copper content. Copper is also found in varying concentrations in tap water and mineral water.
What supplements can be taken?
Supplements rich in copper include meal replacement shakes, brewer's yeast and most multi-vitamins.
If you suspect you have high blood copper levels you can try a copper-restricted diet that limits copper to less than 1mg per day.
If copper is being stored in your soft tissues and damaging organs like the brain and liver, then prescription medicine such as D-penicillamine and trientine can be taken to help flush the copper out through your urine until blood levels are within normal limits.
What precautions need to be followed?
There is still much research to be done. Copper is an essential trace element and is much needed for healthy neurological function. Eradicating it from your diet would be difficult, but also fatal.