If you say you do not dream. Most likely, you do dream. It is just that you have no recollection of it. I found an interesting article by the Institute of Optimum Nutrition published way back in 1986. It says 40% of people have no or infrequent dream recall and that poor dream recall may be due to low nutritional status of zinc and vitamin B6 …
“When researching the signs and symptoms of vitamin B6 and zinc deficiency Dr Carl Pfeiffer, from the Brain Bio Center in New Jersey, found that an alarming proportion of deficient people couldn’t recall their dreams.”
And when supplemental zinc and B6 was given, dream recall would come back. If given too much, they would have really vivid dreams that woke them up. Dreams are often easier to remember during the latter half of the night.
According to the book The New Optimum Nutrition Bible, the best forms of zinc are zinc picolinate and amino acid chelates, followed by zinc ascorbate, citrate, gluconate and sulfate. From page 421…
“Amino acid-chelated minerals are bound to amino acids, examples of which are chromium picolinate and selenocysteine or zinc amino acid chelate. These are well absorbed, as are other “organic” compounds including citrates, gluconates, and aspartates. Inorganic compounds such as carbonates, sulfates, and oxides are less well absorbed.”
Be Careful with Zinc Supplementation
Obviously, you have to be careful when supplementing with minerals. Too much or too little can be detrimental. Plus supplementing too much of one thing can throw off the ratio balance of other things. For example, there is a natural optimal ratio between zinc and copper. Too much zinc could cause copper deficiencies, and so forth. Although most people have too little zinc and too much copper. So if that’s the case, you might want to find zinc supplement that does not contain additional copper if in fact you have copper overload.
One symptom of too much zinc is diarrhea and other symptoms listed on SFGate.
From personal experiments, I did find that when taking a multivitamin with good zinc and B6 in the evening that I did have better dream recall. Also I have better dream recall when I eat watermelon at night.
Foods High in Zinc
Watermelon? Why watermelon? Turns out that watermelon seeds have the high bio-available zinc as noted by World’s Healthiest Foods …
“Interestingly, we’ve seen one study showing that the iron and zinc in watermelon seeds is surprisingly bioavailable (85-90%)”
Although, I don’t eat the seeds. But maybe the mineral gets into the watermelon itself, or I’m eating the baby white edible seeds.
And globalhealingcenter lists top foods with zinc as pumpkin seed, dark chocolate, garlic, sesame seeds, watermelon seeds, wheat germ, squash seeds, chickpeas …
But again, who eats seeds? Those food he listed are not very practical. Except for garlic which you can throw into everything. And dark chocolate is nice.
More practical food source of zinc may be oysters, livers, and beef. Or more generally, seafood, organ meats, egg yolks. And they also have the right balance in zinc and copper. Plant sources of zinc are not well absorbed due to binding with phytic acid. [reference]
He also mentions that if you supplement, he recommends zinc orotate form and says zinc gluconate is “Unfortunately, gluconate supplements are just a chemical substitute for actual zinc.” [reference] While Trudy Scott (in the Hawthorn University video) recommends zinc monomethionine form such as Solaray Optizinc.
And then there is the Garden of Life Whole Foods Zinc formula …
Subjective Zinc Status
Zinc is involved in wound healing and immune function. That’s why they are often found in cold prevention remedies. So if you find yourself with slow wound healing, that may be a sign of zinc deficiency.
Zinc status is not very easily measured as noted by Kalya’s blog…
“There is no specific system for zinc storage in the human body, and it is thus regulated tightly by homeostatic mechanisms which keep about 98% of the body’s supply within the cells at any given time. This system makes zinc levles very difficult to measure using overt laboratory methods. Plasma and serum tests for zinc levels are the most common means of evaluation, however they pose significant difficulties because they are not indicative of cellular zinc.”
Plus individual zinc requirements vary and some people use up zinc more rapidly than others. Stress depletes zinc Perhaps an alternative way to note your zinc level is to note your dream recall.
If I find that I can not recall any dream for more than a few days in a row, I would take some multi-vitamin with higher zinc and/or eat zinc-rich foods until I get vague recollections of dreams in the morning. I don’t want to over-do zinc and have vivid dreams.
Zinc Taste Test
The Liquid Zinc Assay from Premier Research Labs is a good one to test with. It is zinc sulfate. Hold one teaspoon (10mg) in mouth for 15 seconds. If you don’t taste anything, it may indicate you are low in zinc. A person with good zinc level will find it to taste horrible.
If you want to use a smaller dose, Metagenics make Zinc Tally which is only 2mg of zinc in 2 teaspoons. You have to look at the labels. You can not tell the dosage of zinc by the amount of the liquid. It depends on how much water is mixed with the zinc.
While Zinc sulfate is used in taste test, it is not an optimal form for supplementation because it is not well absorbed. More better forms are chelated forms such as Zinc Orotate. Although how accurate the zinc taste test is, we do not know [reference or here] or it kind of depends on what type of taster you are [reference]
Animal products and bananas are some food sources of B6. But how is B6 related to dream recall? Review of melatonin metabolism goes like this…
L-tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP which then become serotonin. This happens during the day. When exposed to darkness, serotonin gets converted to melatonin and then you fall asleep. That’s why supplementing with tryptophan or 5-HTP (one hour before bed) helps with sleep.
B6 helps make tryptophan work.
There is an active form of B6 known as P5P (pyridoxal-5-phosphate). Vitamin B6 is converted to P5P by the body but this conversion may be inefficient for people with impaired liver function, celiac’s disease, older adults, and in children with autism. [reference]
Zinc is active player in the conversion of B6 to P5P. Low zinc means poor conversion.
Amanda Rose writes …
“Carl Pfieffer, describes in his book Nutrition and Mental Illness that in the presence of a B-6 deficiency you do not recall your dreams at night. … B-6, by the way, is critical in converting your proteins such as tryptophan into key neurotransmitters such as serotonin.”
Incidentally, when I supplemented with 5-HTP briefly, I get really good dream recall.
Again is the mention of Dr. Carl Pfieffer. Okay, I have to get his book …
Zinc, B6 and Insomina
Poor dream recall is one thing. But could it be that if someone is even more deficient, then it could lead to insomina? A simple search reveals the answer to be yes.
From FunctionalMedicineUniversity it writes …
“Now from a functional medicine position it is important to know that a simple B6 or zinc deficiency can contribute to insomnia. A common vitamin B6 deficiency can keep you awake all night, or low zinc causing impaired conversion of B6, which is needed to make tryptophan work.“
“Zinc, vitamin B6, and tryptophan are all needed to produce melatonin; zinc deficiency leads to insomnia”
And he says that zinc gluconate is a good form. Janet Ludwig also mentions zinc gluconate as a good form in her presentation to Hawthorn University…
There is a condition known as pyroluria for which people are low in zinc and B6 due to a chemical imbalance that binds up zinc and B6 making them unavailable. The severity is a spectrum. But often people with pyroluria are stress intolerant, have social anxiety, tend toward introversion, and sometimes poor sleepers.
“Most individuals show symptoms of zinc and/or B6 deficiencies, which include poor stress control, nervousness, anxiety, mood swings, severe inner tension, episodic anger (an explosive temper), poor short-term memory and depression. Mostpyrolurics exhibit at least two of these problems. These individuals cannot efficiently create serotonin (a neurotransmitter that reduces anxiety and depression) since vitamin B6 is an important factor in the last step of its synthesis.”
He also makes mention of Dr. Carl Pfeiffer.
More about pyroluria from Hawthorn University presentation by Trudy Scott here …
Some speculate that Pyroluria and Schizophrenia on are on the same spectrum with Schizophrenia on the more severe end. Therefore, some cases of Schizophrenia may be helped by Zinc and B6 as in the case of Eddie here…
You can test for pyroluria with questionnaire and lab tests. If you have poor dream recall, you may be deficient in either or both B6 and Zinc (read here for best form of these supplements such as Zinc picolinate and Pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P). ).
Zinc and B6 and Insulin
Incidentally, zinc and B6 are also needed to make insulin. Very thin people (especially as they age) may be low zinc and B6 since insulin is needed to gain weight.
There is a supplement known as ZMA that combines Zinc, Magnesium, and B6. TheeksThought wrote about his experience with various sleep supplements and said ZMA can produce intense dreams.
Here is what WebMD says about ZMA …
“One study also found that men who took 100 milligrams of zinc supplements for 10 years were more likely to get prostate cancer, but the reason isn’t clear. Taking extremely high levels of B6 for a year or more may cause nerve damage.”
As with all supplements, check with your medical professional first and not all supplements are suitable for everybody or every condition.