B vitamins enable the body to regulate sleep schedules so that we feel sleepy and alert at the right times.
A diet lacking in B vitamins affects the body because serotonin and melatonin perform vital functions besides affecting sleep. Taking B complex supplements before bed can throw this out of sync.
B vitamins are essential building blocks for serotonin and melatonin. The body produces serotonin in response to sunlight and melatonin in response to darkness.
Taking B vitamins before bed can keep you awake because serotonin makes you more alert, while melatonin makes you sleepy.
Excess B vitamins before bed can cause the body to produce serotonin and melatonin at the wrong time. So, you’ll feel alert at night and sleepy during the day, which is the opposite of what you want.
However, the relationship between vitamins and insomnia is complex.
Do B Vitamins Cause Insomnia?
The Sleep Journal found that multivitamin users woke up more at night, were awake for longer, had to use more sleep medications, and experienced a higher rate of insomnia because:
- Some people interact with vitamins differently, causing them to wake up more often at night.
- The interaction between different vitamins caused poor quality sleep.
- People who experience low-quality sleep are more likely to start taking vitamins.
- People who experienced depression and anxiety due to poor sleep were likelier to take vitamins.
Other studies into too much B vitamin complex show a link to insomnia. Thiamine (B1) has various side effects if you take a high dose, including headaches, irritability, rapid pulse rate, and insomnia.
How Does Vitamin B Help You Sleep?
B vitamins can enable you to sleep better. Taken incorrectly, they can have the opposite effect. Vitamins B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12 all play a part in sleep, and here’s why:
B vitamins regulate the body’s level of tryptophan, an amino acid vital for sleep.
Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, which the body uses for hormone production. The body can’t synthesize tryptophan, so it must come from diet or supplements.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps the brain send messages from one neuron to another.
This neurochemical helps you feel happy, energized, and positive, and it also plays a part in stimulating appetite and regulating emotions.
Melatonin is the hormone at the center of the sleep cycle. The body produces and releases more of it as it gets darker, promoting sleep. Without it, you won’t feel tired.
You can experience anemia if you don’t get enough B12, which causes symptoms like weakness, depression, fever, diarrhea, weight loss, and jaundice. These symptoms reduce sleep quality.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is linked to a lack of vitamin B12 through anemia. People with RLS experience leg pain, cramps, tingling, aching, and itching.
More broadly, B vitamins may assist with:
- Reducing the risk of strokes.
- Strengthening the immune system.
- Reducing the likelihood of dementia.
- Heart disease reduction.
Because B vitamins are linked to serotonin production, they can prevent mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Serotonin regulates mood, rewarding you for doing things that benefit the body, and that’s why exercise gives us a buzz.
It’s also why we feel good when we eat fatty or sugary foods. It was difficult to find foods that gave us enough fat or sugar during human evolution, so our bodies encouraged us to eat more. The more serotonin our body produces, the happier we feel.
Vitamins for insomnia and anxiety can assist your body by creating natural serotonin.
Identifying Vitamin B Deficiency
A B vitamin deficiency isn’t always easy to identify because there are many B vitamins, and one deficiency may have different symptoms.
Here are the symptoms of vitamin B deficiency:
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) deficiency: This can cause anemia, confusion, fatigue, weakness, and depression.
- Vitamin B6 deficiency: Causes anemia, confusion, depression, nausea, and rashes.
- Vitamin B1 and B2 deficiency: A deficiency can lead to confusion.
- Vitamin B3 deficiency: Causes digestive issues, nausea, and abdominal cramps.
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid) deficiency: Causes anemia and diarrhea.
A vitamin B deficiency can be difficult to identify because the symptoms are generic.
B Vitamins Through Diet
Here are some sources of each B vitamin:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): Eggs, peas, whole grains, fresh fruit, fortified cereal, and liver.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Milk, eggs, rice, and fortified cereal.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Milk, eggs, meat, fish, and wheat flour.
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid): Eggs, chicken, beef, potatoes, oatmeal, broccoli, and whole grains.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Milk, eggs, pork, chicken, fish, peanuts, and potatoes.
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin): This is produced naturally in your body.
- Vitamin B9 (Folic acid): Broccoli, liver, spinach, asparagus, peas, and fortified cereals.
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): Meat and fish, milk, cheese, eggs, and fortified cereals.
Drink milk and eat eggs because they contain the most B vitamins. Eat meat, vegetables, fortified cereals, and milk for the entire vitamin B complex.
B Vitamin Supplements
Supplements often provide 100% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA).
You can choose a multivitamin that contains B vitamins or a specific B vitamin supplement. Multivitamins are a good choice, although they’re not intended to replace a varied diet.
Getting B vitamins through diet can be difficult, which is where supplements come in. It’s especially tricky for vegans and vegetarians since the examples we’ve explored are almost all animal sources.
Vitamin B12 is produced almost exclusively by bacteria inside the digestive system and is only found in small quantities in plants. Other B vitamins can be found in animal and plant sources.
How To Tell if Vitamins Are Causing A Lack of Sleep
Various things can be done to ensure that B vitamins enhance sleep rather than interfere with it. These enable you to determine whether B vitamins or other factors cause sleeplessness.
Go through this process to see if you sleep better at night:
- Start taking B vitamins earlier in the day rather than later at night.
- Cut down on your vitamin B intake. For example, only take half a tablet at a time.
- Stop taking B vitamins for a brief period. Take note of how well you sleep over a week, perhaps in a sleep diary. Identify any improvements, i.e., longer or more restful sleep.
- Cut out other supplements to see if it was something other than your B vitamin complex tablet. Multivitamins can cause restless sleep, not just B vitamins.
While the body needs B vitamins, they must be in the right quantity at the right time.
Vitamin B Guidelines
Follow these guidelines to ensure B complex helps you sleep rather than keeping you awake:
It’s hard to overdose on vitamins, but there are side effects from having too many. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is set for a reason.
According to Consumer Lab, too much B complex in your diet can cause liver toxicity, nerve damage, skin lesions, kidney damage, and rosacea.
Avoid B Vitamin Supplements in The Evening
Caffeine can help you through the day, but drinking coffee in the evening keeps you awake at night. Adopt the same attitude if you take vitamin B complex supplements early in the morning.
Pair Vitamins with Food
Some vitamins—A, D, E, and K—are fat-soluble; B and C are water-soluble. This means certain vitamins dissolve when exposed to fat, while others dissolve in water.
You need vitamins to dissolve in the digestive system to be absorbed. Take B vitamins with water, or preferably with food that contains plenty of water.
Supplements Interfering with Medications
Vitamin B12 interacts with certain antibiotics and anti-seizure medications. Tell your doctor if you plan to take supplements so they can advise accordingly.