From an early age, Jean Gaston occasionally experienced lucid dreams — a phenomenon in which sleepers are aware that they are dreaming and can sometimes even exert control over the events that take place in their dreams. But the dreams always occurred naturally and sporadically, without explanation. It wasn’t until around age 19 that she began researching ways she might be able to make it happen at will.
It was then that she stumbled across reports that vitamin B6 might be able to induce lucid dreaming. So she bought a bottle of the supplement and started taking it.
“It took a while — it didn’t happen overnight,” said Gaston, now 24. But eventually, she started noticing a difference in both the frequency and vividness of her dreams. "One thing I really noticed was things felt more [vivid]," she said. "My senses seemed heightened in the dreams, themselves."
Gaston is one of many lucid dreaming enthusiasts who’ve embarked on a B6 self study. It’s for good reason: any curious soul can spend a few minutes on a dreaming site and come across several articles that speculate about the B6 link and community members who share stories about how the vitamin increases the likelihood and vividness of a lucid dream. But whether this is true — and, more importantly, whether the practice is safe — remains a subject of contention.
The Link Between Vitamin B6 and Lucid Dreaming
The thing about B6 and lucid dreaming is that the link is almost 100 percent anecdotal, based mostly on the personal reports of sleepers — generally nonscientists — who have tried it out. In fact, there’s been only one published study that remotely suggests a connection: a 2002 paper published in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills, which is sometimes referenced by reports exploring the claim.
Even that paper, however, didn’t directly explore B6’s effect on lucid dreaming. Rather, it suggested that people who take the supplement have more vivid, bizarre, emotional or colorful dreams — factors that may be related to, but don’t quite define, the phenomenon of lucid dreaming (one of vitamin B6’s myriad functions is that it helps convert amino acids into serotonin, which could theoretically help make REM movies more intense). Furthermore, the study was considered a preliminary experiment and only included 12 college-aged participants, far too small a sample size for the results to be taken seriously.
Even so, among lucid dreaming enthusiasts, urges to try taking the supplement are common, and the recommended dosage varies; posts on online forums have suggested anywhere from under 10 milligrams to several hundred. The question remains is whether this is actually safe advice.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Vitamin B6 is naturally available in many foods. It’s essential for maintaining good health and, per the National Institute of Health (NIH), is responsible for assisting the body in myriad purposes, including converting food to energy and contributing to healthy cognitive, digestion, immune function.
According to the NIH, the recommended daily allowance of B6 varies by age and sex, but is generally between 1 and 2 milligrams for adults. The tolerable upper intake level — in other words, the maximum amount you’re supposed to be able to take without risk of an adverse health event — is 100 milligrams.
This upper limit is based on studies that indicated there were no observable effects of taking the supplement at levels below 200 milligrams, said Alex Michels, a research associate and communications officer with Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute, a nutrition research center.
“So to be safe, of course, they set the upper limit as half the no observable effects limit,” Michels said. “Once you go above the 200 milligrams per day, then you see problems.”
Studies of B6 indicated that some people who take high doses for long periods of time end up suffering from a condition known as peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage that can cause pain and numbness in the body, he said.
It may be worth pointing out that in the 2002 study on B6 and dreaming, the highest dose given to participants was 250 milligrams, and no adverse events were reported. However, that study only took place over the course of five days.
And it’s also true that the results sometimes vary by individual, as in any medical study. “Someone could take 250 mg per day and have a problem — someone else could take 2 grams per day [2,000 milligrams] and not have any problems at all,” Michels said. “But you’re running a big risk.”
An Answer Could Be on the Way
It’s probably not a good idea for someone to take more than the recommended upper limit of B6 — for any reason, dreaming aside — unless he or she has been advised by a doctor. And given the lack of controlled research on the subject, no one could say for sure how well the supplement springboards one into lucid dreaming.
Psychologist and sleep expert Ursula Voss of Goethe University Frankfurt, who has studied lucid dreaming, said by email that she is doubtful about the link’s existence, and that while she herself takes a vitamin B6 supplement on a regular basis, she has not experienced any increased lucidity in her dreams.
On the other hand, the absence of formal studies doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no link, of course — it merely means that there’s not enough evidence to say.
That could be changing, though. Interest among the lucid dreaming community has remained high enough to attract the attention of at least one Australian researcher, who’s now in the midst of completing a study looking into the effects of B6 on dreaming, and comparing the vitamin’s effects to other B vitamins.
The researcher in question, Ph.D. candidate Denholm Aspy of the University of Adelaide, told us by email that the trial itself has ended and he’s now in the process of analyzing data and writing up his findings for publication. The upcoming paper will be the first to examine the link between vitamin B6 and dreaming since 2002.
The results may help finally shed more light on a subject that continues to fascinate many with an interest in dreams and the factors that can help shape them. In the meantime, however, when it comes to vitamin B6 (and any other type of medication or supplement, for that matter), the science is clear on at least one front: safety first.