Sometimes you wake up and know you had a dream worth recounting to loved ones or friends -- but the details escape you. Or perhaps that dream offered answers for a problem on which you've been puzzling, but the crux -- the epiphany -- slips away the moment you open your eyes. A dose of vitamin B-6 before bedtime could enhance your ability to recall dreams in vivid detail. Too much B-6, though, may increase the intensity of your dreams so much that sleep and comfort aren't possible.
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Memory of Dreams
Taking vitamin B-6 may have an impact on the quality of your dreams and your ability to recall them. A small study published in Perceptual and Motor Skills in 2002 found that when college students took 250 milligrams of B-6 before bed, they reported an increase in their ability to remember their dreams. Their dreams were more vivid, more bizarre, more colorful, and they experienced a greater emotional impact as a result of dreaming than they did on control nights when they did not take the vitamin. More research is required to affirm definitively that B-6 does brighten dreams; but heightened dreaming is often listed as a potential side effect of increased B-6 intake, as also reported in the book, "Herbs and Natural Supplements, Volume 2: An Evidence-Based Guide," by Lesley Braun and Marc Cohen.
Why B-6 Has an Impact
Researchers think that the students in the 2002 study experienced greater cortical arousal in the brain. This arousal occurs in an area of the brain known as the reticular formation, a mass of nuclei in the brainstem. Cortical arousal results in feelings of wakefulness, increased heart rate and higher breath rate. B-6 may also assist in converting the amino acid tryptophan into the neurotransmitter serotonin, which wakes up the brain -- especially during REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, sleep. REM sleep correlates with the time most people have vivid dreams.
A Potential Sign of Deficiency
An inability to recall your dreams can be a sign of B-6 deficiency. If you also experience irritability, nervousness, fatigue, cracks around the corners of your mouth, water retention, poor appetite and oily skin, you should talk to your health care provider about possibly needing a supplement.
Although pyridoxine, or vitamin B-6, is non-toxic, high doses of 1 to 6 grams per day taken orally -- not through food -- for over a year may cause nerve damage that leads to loss of control of bodily movements. Too much supplemental B-6 may also cause intolerance to sunlight, gastrointestinal distress and skin lesions. High doses should not be used long term.
Where to Find These Nutrients
Many foods, including bananas, nuts, whole grains, vegetables and meats, provide a natural source of vitamin B-6. If you eat too much of these, especially close to bedtime, they might interfere with your ability to get a good night's sleep, too. Your dreams may become too vivid, and you wake as a result. If you choose to take a supplement, consult with your doctor to make sure it's safe for you.