It’s exciting to see new research confirming the connection between vitamin B6 and dream recall. In this new study, Effects of Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) and a B Complex Preparation on Dreaming and Sleep (which was randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled), 100 participants from across Australia were given 240 mg vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride) before bed for five consecutive days. Other study participants were given a B complex. This is the outcome of the study:
- vitamin B6 significantly increased the amount of dream content participants recalled but did not significantly affect dream vividness, bizarreness, or color, nor did it significantly affect other sleep-related variables
- participants in the B complex group showed significantly lower self-rated sleep quality and significantly higher tiredness on waking
Here are my thoughts on these results:
- It’s wonderful to read that Vitamin B6 improves dream recall – this is what I see with my clients all the time.
- With an optimal dose of vitamin B6, I would expect changes in “dream vividness, bizarreness, or color” and this also what I also see with my clients. If they are having horrible/vivid/bizarre dreams, the vitamin B6 changes them to pleasant dreams OR if dreams were not recalled prior to supplementation, they are now remembered and pleasant. The dose of 240 mg was used across the board but based on what we know about biochemical individuality, 240mg may be too much for some folks and not enough for others, so this could have impacted the results.
- It’s not surprising that the B complex taken at bedtime impacted sleep. It’s known to be stimulating and it’s not something I’d advise any client to do. For this reason, I don’t feel it was the ideal control for this study.
The lead researcher is Dr. Denholm Aspy and his primary research focus is lucid dreaming. On his researcher profile on the University of Adelaide website, he describes lucid dreaming and the potential benefits:
In a lucid dream, the dreamer realizes that they are dreaming and can then explore and even control the dream. Lucid dreaming has a wide range of potential benefits and applications such as creative problem solving, treatment for recurrent nightmares and improvement of motor skills through rehearsal in the dream environment (e.g. for elite athletes or people recovering from physical trauma).
He shares that the purpose of his research is to address exploration of the potential applications of lucid dreaming and to “develop reliable ways to induce lucid dreams.” Looking for potential applications of lucid dreaming is very interesting and new to me.
Vitamin B6/dream recall research and pyroluria (a social anxiety condition)
However, this vitamin B6/dream recall research is of particular interest to me because of my work with pyroluria, a social anxiety condition which responds really well to supplementation with zinc, vitamin B6 or P5P (pyridoxal-5-phosphate) or a combination of both, and a few other key nutrients. Here is the pyroluria questionnaire.
One of the classic signs of pyroluria is poor dream recall, stressful or bizarre dreams, or nightmares, signs which the late Carl Pfeiffer, MD attributed to low vitamin B6 status. He suggested that your dreams and dream recall serve as a good indicator of your need for vitamin B6. You should dream every night and you should remember your dreams. They should be pleasant—the kind of dreams where you wake up and want to close your eyes and continue dreaming.
Going back to the above discussion of lucid dreaming, in lucid dreams “the dreamer is aware of dreaming and often able to influence the ongoing dream content.” This is exactly how I would describe my dreams when I have good levels of vitamin B6 and my clients say the same.
Keep in mind that if you do have pyroluria, you may need to increase your dose of vitamin B6 in times of stress. Vitamin B6 can also be depleted by oral contraceptives because they cause both low vitamin B6 and zinc, reduce serotonin levels and increase anxiety. Vitamin B6 can also be depleted by antidepressants, diuretics, and cortisone, so if you start or stop taking any of these, you may need to adjust the amount you supplement.
If this intrigues you and you’re new to pyroluria, I write about dreams and vitamin B6 in the pyroluria chapter of my book, The Antianxiety Food Solution. My blog is also a wealth of information on pyroluria:
- Pyroluria prevalence and associated conditions
- Joint hypermobility / Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and pyroluria?
- Pyroluria and focal musician’s dystonia or musician’s cramp
- Am I an anxious introvert because of low zinc and vitamin B6? My response to Huffington Post blog
Dream recall and vitamin B6 status is important even if you don’t have pyroluria
Observing your dream recall and hence vitamin B6 status is important even if you don’t have pyroluria. This is because vitamin B6 it has been implicated as a co-factor in more than 140 biochemical reactions in the cell, playing a role making amino acids and neurotransmitters, making fatty acids, and even quenching reactive oxygen species (ROS).
This is partial list showing the importance of vitamin B6 (with both research and clinical evidence) for:
- carpal tunnel syndrome – I’ve had many clients see major improvements to the extent that surgery is able to be cancelled
- PMS (together with magnesium) – all the women I work with see the benefits of vitamin B6 for PMS, perimenopause and menopausal symptoms
- inflammation and IBD/irritable bowel disease
You may also wonder what the mechanism of action is? How does vitamin B6 impact your dream recall? One hypothesis is that vitamin B6 is a co-factor nutrient used in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin which is then used to make melatonin. Vitamin B6 is also an antioxidant, is anti-inflammatory, and modulates immunity and gene expression.
If you’re looking for a quality vitamin B6 product, my supplements blog lists a range of vitamin B6 supplements that I use with clients and those in my group program.
Monitoring your dream recall is one very simple way to assess changes in your vitamin B6 status. And we now have new research supporting this. I look forward to follow-on studies by these authors, learning more from them about lucid dreaming and I hope to be able to offer some of my insights from clinical practice.
*** I address some concerns about vitamin B6 toxicity in this blog: Why is vitamin B6 toxic for some and why don’t symptoms resolve when vitamin B6 is stopped? I have yet to see any signs of toxicity in my clients, but I have also not ever recommended more than 500mg/day. However, I was recently made aware (thanks to some folks in my community) that there are some individuals who have issues with very small amounts of vitamin B6. If you have experienced any issues with using vitamin B6 supplementation please share.
What are your dreams like and do you use your dreams to monitor your vitamin B6 status? What improvements have you noticed by addressing low vitamin B6 levels?
If you’re a practitioner do you use dream recall as an indication of vitamin B6 status? Have you seen adverse issues with vitamin B6 supplementation and at what doses?