If you take a hefty dose of vitamin B6 before going to sleep, your dreams will be more intense. Not only are you more likely to remember in detail what you dreamt, but your dreams will probably also be more emotional, more bizarre and more meaningful. Sleep researchers at the City College of New York wrote about this in Perceptual And Motor Skills in 2002.
Dreams and vitamin B6
People who take high doses of vitamin B6 may start to dream more vividly. This is probably mainly because vitamin B6 supplementation leads to an increase in the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin, wrote Carlton Fredericks in the 1980s in his Program For Living Longer. [amazon.com] Serotonin makes dreams more vivid.
Zinc has the same effect, and Carl Pfeiffer wrote about this in 1976 in his book Mental and Elemental Nutrients. [amazon.com] Zinc boosts the uptake of serotonin by the brain cells. [J Neurosci Res. 2005 Apr 1;80(1):145-9.] That may be why bodybuilders who use the testosterone supplement ZMA sometimes start to have more vivid dreams. ZMA contains both zinc and vitamin B6.
According to Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, the authors of the longevity classic Life Extension: A Practical And Scientific Approach, [Wikipedia] [amazon.com] the effect of vitamin B6 on dreams wanes after a period of time. After a while the body apparently gets used to the vitamin.
What Fredericks, Pfeiffer, Pearson and Shaw have to say about vitamin B6 and dreams is all anecdotal material. The researchers wondered whether they could demonstrate the effect of vitamin B6 on dreams in a scientific study.
The researchers did an experiment with 12 students. Five days in a row they gave the students a placebo just before going to sleep. On another occasion the students were given a supplement containing 100 mg vitamin B6 five days in a row, and on yet another occasion a supplement containing 250 mg vitamin B6.
The students noted down in the mornings the “vividness, bizarreness, emotionality and color” of their dreams. The researchers used these to give the dreams a Dream Salience Scale Score. The higher the score, the more intense the dream.
After taking 100 mg vitamin B6 the subjects’ dreams became more vivid, but the effect was not statistically significant. The higher dose supplement had more effect on the Dream Salience Scale Score – and that was statistically significant.
Supplementation with vitamin B6 can help people whose diet is deficient in vitamin B6 to improve their memory. Perhaps, write the researchers, the supplementation improved the students’ memory, as a result of which they were better able to remember their dreams. The researchers are not convinced of the validity of this theory, however.
Another possibility is that vitamin B6 supplementation boosts serotonin levels in the brain. That could make dreams more vivid and intense. The researchers incline more towards this theory.
“This first study needs to be replicated using the same procedures and also demonstrated in a sleep laboratory before the results can be considered certain”, wrote the researchers.