Sunday, 6 December 2015

Adding 'Dream Supplement' Vitamin B6 to Lucid December!

Regular readers of this Blog will be aware that I tend to avoid using lucid dream supplements and try to get my 'dream nutrition' from foods instead. However, when I was in my local health food shop, I saw some Vitamin B6 (pyridoxal phosphate) (50mg) on sale, and knowing that Vitamin B6 has an effect on dreaming (increasing vividness of dreams and likelihood of lucid dreaming), decided to add this to my Lucid December challenge. The vitamin supplements that I bought have a recommended daily intake of 1 - 2 a day, taken with meals. I will be taking 2 pills a day, one midday and one before bed - recording this information in my Lucid December Dream Journal Reports. I am not using any other dream supplements, as I feel it is counter-productive to mix and match supplements as you are unable to see what is working and what is not - and cannot be sure that one supplement is not having an effect on how the body/brain reacts to other supplements. Thus, I will give Vitamin B6 a trial period before introducing any other supplement into my dream practices. I have started to take my 2 Vitamin B6 tablets on 5 December 2015 (Day 5 of Lucid December), so the first day in which it will be possible to assess any effect/difference experienced in my dreaming will be Day 6 of Lucid December.

I have already written a Blog post on Vitamin B6 (click on red link to open this Blog post in a new window). However, I am going to provide some information about the effect of Vitamin B6 on sleep and dreaming in this post.

Vitamin B6 is important for cardiovascular, digestive, immune, muscular, hormonal and nervous system function. It is water-soluable, so it dissolved in the body's fluids and any excess, not used by the body, is excreted in urine. When taking Vitamin B pills, you may notice that your urine is a fluorescent yellow colour - this is nothing to worry about, it is a sign that excess vitamins are being excreted. The body is not able to store extra amounts of Vitamin B6 to be used later. The precise amount of Vitamin B6 required to maintain health depends on age, gender and circumstances such as pregnancy and breastfeeding. Here is a basic breakdown of the average Vitamin B6 requirements:

Newborn to 6 months: 0.1 milligram (mg) per day Infants 7 months - 1 year: 0.3 mg
Children 1 - 3 years: 0.5 mg
Children 4 - 8 years: 0.6 mg
Children 9 - 13 years: 1 mg
Boys 14 - 18 years: 1.3 mg
Girls 14 - 18 years: 1.2 mg

Men & women 19 - 50 years: 1.3 mg
Men +51 years: 1.7 mg
Women +51 years: 1.5 mg
Pregnant women: 1.9 mg
Breastfeeding women: 2.0 mg

The reason why Vitamin B6 is thought to have such a strong impact on dreaming is that it is critical in converting proteins (such as tryptophan - another chemical linked to increased dreaming) into key neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine,  serotonin and melatonin ('the sleep chemical'). 

One study by Ebben, Lequerica & Spielman, 'Effects of pyridoxine on dreaming: a preliminary study' (2002) Perceptual & Motor Skills 94(1), 135 - 140 has analysed the effects of Vitamin B6 on dreaming. The abstract (outline) of the study states: 'The effect of pyridoxine (Vitamin B-6) on dreaming was investigated in a placebo, double-blind study to examine various claims that Vitamin B-6 increases dream vividness or the ability to recall dreams. 12 college students participated in all three treatment conditions, each of which involved ingesting either 100 mg B-6, 250 mg B-6, or a placebo prior to bedtime for a period of five consecutive days. The treatment conditions were completely counterbalanced and a two-day wash-out period occurred between the three five-day treatment blocks. Morning self-reports indicated a significant difference in dream-salience scores (this is a composite score containing measures on vividness, bizarreness, emotionality, and color) between the 250-mg condition and placebo over the first three days of each treatment. The data for dream salience suggests that Vitamin B-6 may act by increasing cortical arousal during periods of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. An hypothesis is presented involving the role of B-6 in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. However, 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.'

A further study, by a PhD researcher into lucid dreaming, Denholm Aspy, of the School of Psychology at the University of Adelaide, Australia, is currently being conducted (reported September 2015, during the recruitment process for the study). The subjects will participate in a 10-day trial, during they will be provided with three types of capsules: placebo, Vitamin B6, and a combination of other B vitamins. Every morning during the period, subjects will also have to answer a questionnaire about the dreams they recall from the night before, which will then be subjected to analysis.

In fact, difficulty in recalling dreams has been linked to Vitamin B6 deficiency in some patients. In his book, Nutrition and Mental IllnessAn Orthomolecular Approach to Balancing Body and Mind (1988), leading medical researcher and pharmacologist, Dr Carl Pfieffer (1908 - 1988), makes the link between poor dream recall and Vitamin B6 deficiency. Pfieffer was a pioneer in treating mental illness at the Brain Bio Center in New Jersey and in 1973, he and his research team made the link between Vitamin B6 and dream recall, discovering that their patients deficient in Vitamin B6 did not recall their last dream of the night upon waking, but as they improved their Vitamin B6 intake, dream recall would increase significantly. If they exceeded the normal dose of Vitamin B6, patients awoke through the night with vivid dreams and would remember several in the morning. Pfieffer and his staff found a middle ground: supplement until you remember your last dream but not so much that your sleep is affected by too many of them. There is other evidence to suggest that too much Vitamin B6 can disrupt the sleep as dreams due to the bizarre and stimulating nature of dreams which taken place during supplementation. 

Be warned though; taking an excessive dose of Vitamin B6 has also been linked to heart palpitations, cramps, insomnia, high blood pressure, and panic attacks. 

Taking more than 200 mg a day of Vitamin B6 for a long time can lead to tingling and a loss of feeling in the arms and legs, known as peripheral neuropathy. Generally, the symptoms are reversible, so once you stop taking supplements, the symptoms usually stop. However, in a few cases, when people have taken large amounts. Vitamin B6, especially for more than a few months, the effect has been irreversible. Taking doses of 10 - 200 mg a day for short periods may not cause any harm. However, there is not enough evidence to say for how long these doses could be taken safely and advice should be sought from a medical professional before introducing a new supplements into your diet.

If you do not wish to take Vitamin B6 in supplement form, it is very possible to get your recommended daily intake from foods. Some common foods which are high in Vitamin B6 include:
  • pork
  • beef
  • poultry - such as chicken or turkey
  • bananas
  • chickpeas
  • fish - especially tuna, salmon
  • bread
  • whole cereals – such as oatmeal, wheat germ and brown rice
  • eggs
  • soya beans
  • sunflower seeds
  • peanuts
  • milk
  • potatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • spinach
  • pistachio nuts
  • some fortified breakfast cereals

Let me know if you are taking part in my Lucid December Challenge and whether you have personal experience of using Vitamin B6 for dreaming and lucid dreaming!

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