Taking Vitamin B3 to Help With Sleep

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Getting a quality amount of sleep each night is immeasurable. Hectic lifestyles, stress and medical conditions can contribute to poor sleep habits and disrupts your nights slumber on occasion. For some, difficulty in dealing with the day-to-day affairs of life worsens from acute or chronic insomnia. Many seek alternative remedies including over-the-counter medications, herbs or vitamin supplements that promise "a good night's sleep." Vitamin B-3 may help but claims are unsubstantiated by clinical evidence.

About Vitamin B-3

Vitamin B-3, or niacin, is one of the eight essential B vitamins important in your diet. You need this vitamin to help your body metabolize nutrients and niacin plays a role in producing sex and stress-related hormones. The majority of your niacin intake needs are met in the daily diet. If you have medical problems that prohibit the proper digestion of nutrients then niacin deficiency may occur, but this is generally rare in most cases. Supplemental forms of vitamin B-3 are typically used to improve conditions like high cholesterol that can impact your risk of heart disease. Consult your physician before using supplements to determine need based on your health.

Sleep Stages

The normal sleep cycle occurs in stages with 75 percent of your sleep being in non-rapid eye movement. Stages one and two occur as you begin to fall asleep and progress into a light sleep when your breathing and heart rate slow down. Stages three and four are the most restorative moments of sleep as your body relaxes and succumbs to a deep slumber. Generally, it takes 90 minutes from the time you fall asleep to enter rapid eye movement, REM, sleep. Normally you cycle in and out of REM every 90 minutes. During REM, your brain is active and dreaming although your body is immobilized. This sleep stage energizes your body and is important for helping you stay focused and active during waking hours.

Vitamin B-3 and Sleep

Limited evidence exists to support claims that vitamin B-3 helps with sleep. The "Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine" explored this and other alternative treatments for sleep in a 2005 evaluation of controlled studies. The authors found that nicotinamide, a supplemental form of niacin, given in escalating doses for 21 days to non-sleep disturbed study subjects increased REM sleep and insomnia diagnosed subjects given the same dosing protocol also experienced increased sleep efficiency. However, the authors contend that the study sample was small and insufficient to evidence that vitamin B-3 has a relevant impact on sleep.

Help For Sleep

Chronic insomnia may warrant seeking medical attention to rule out any underlying causes related to health complications. Additional contributors to poor sleep can include stress, medication side effects, use of caffeine, tobacco and alcohol. Ensure a sleep conducive environment with comfortable bedding, noise control, climate and lighting to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Avoid heavy snacking and try to end your workouts two or more hours before bedtime. If you choose to take over-the-counter vitamin B-3, consult your physician first to ensure safety.