Wednesday, February 04, 2015

My Days and Nights with Vitamin B

Lots of pain in my legs and back last week. Some of you know that I have neuropathy in my legs and feet, in large part due to spinal damage caused in a motorcycle wreck. As with many things, some days are worse than others. But I’m pretty sure I know what led to last week’s increase. It had to do with sleep and the role of Vitamin B, particularly B-12 and B-1.

For many years my sleep cycles were extremely regular. I went to bed, fell quickly to sleep, slept an hour, woke up at the end of my dream period, and….repeated the process throughout the night. But in the last year or so my cycles have been shortening. I have frequent periods where I sleep 20 to 30 minutes and then wake up from a dream. I suspected Vitamin B might be partially responsible, since it acts in me somewhat like a stimulant.

I began taking high doses of the vitamin a couple of years ago to help counter the effects of my neuropathy. It works, in large part, I imagine, because Vitamin B can act as a neural growth stimulant. It facilitates the ability of nerves to recover from wear and tear. But, since the changes in sleep cycles seem to have correlated to some extent with my increased intake of “B,” I stopped taking it for a few days to see what would happen.

I seemed to sleep deeper without B but the increase in cramps and pain countered any benefit from that. I began waking up from the pain of the cramps in my legs and feet rather than from the end of a dream period. I went back to taking the vitamin and within a day the cramps had subsided.  That was a relief.

I’ve also noticed that I have an upsurge in energy levels when I take Vitamin B, and that is nice during the day but may partially explain the shortening of my deep sleep periods. I have certainly noticed an increase in dream intensity while taking Vitamin B,  although I’ve always had intense and vivid dreams since I was a little kid. Unfortunately, increasing dream sleep generally means decreasing deep sleep, which is where we get most of our “rest.”

Monday night, after having returned for a couple of days to my Vitamin B regimen, I had one of the strangest dreams I’ve ever had, and those of you who have followed my blog over the years know I’ve had some odd ones. Even my weirdest dreams, however, can usually be traced to recent real-life experiences, such as something I’ve read, or written, or seen in a movie. This dream was, to put it mildly, Freudian.  Here it is. Make of it what you will.

I’m in what appears to be a covered canal. The floor looks like cement and there is a trickle of water running down it, but the walls and ceiling are made of rough rock. Though the canal is enclosed and no sunlight can get in, I can still see pretty well. It’s dim but not dark. There’s a clear glow of light coming from some unknown source. 

As I venture deeper into the canal, working my way upstream, I come upon a skeleton lying on the rocks to one side of the central water flow. I feel horribly sad for the person who has been lost here, and I decide to pick it up and carry it out of the canal.  I turn and start downstream toward the exit with the skeleton in my arms. As I walk along, however, the skeleton begins to reflesh itself. Blood vessels, muscles, and skin begin to reappear on the body. I am untroubled by this and continue on my way.

Soon, I can see a brighter light growing ahead of me and know it is the exit from the canal.  As I step out into the light of day, I look down and realize that I’m carrying my fully grown son in my arms. He is sleeping peacefully.  I turn and gaze back at the canal.  Although it looks physically like no more than a rounded opening into a mountain, I “know” in my head that I’m looking at a womb and that I just “delivered” my son by carrying him out through the birth canal.

OK, so there’s some weirdness to start your day.


Unknown said...

I don't know much about vitamins (although I have heard plenty of arguments pro and con when it comes to vitamin supplements), but I do remember something about dream symbolism. With respect to the latter, even though I am preaching to choir by saying this to a psychologist, you might want to avoid looking through Freudian lenses when it comes to pondering canals and mountains. Hmmm. Still, though, I think you are onto something by suggesting that nutrition (including vitamin surpluses or deficits) will dramatically affect dream content and intensity. Perhaps -- to be serious for a moment -- a trip to a neurologist or a sleep-therapy specialist would be in order; my ability to sleep soundly and restfully was improved dramatically once sleep apnea was diagnosed and treated. I am not at all suggesting you have a similar diagnosis. I am only saying that we sometimes find solutions by seeking answers in different venues.

Charles Gramlich said...

R T. I tend to conduct experiments with vitamins so I am pretty clear on their effects on me at least. But people are very different in their response to supplements. I actually don't tend to buy Freudian theory in general. I wouldn't normally interpret canals and mountains in that way, but in the dream itself I was absolutely clear in my thoughts as to what had happened and what the canal represented. It was not an interpretation after the dream but within the dream itself. Most of my dreams are clearly related to things I've read or seen. I can usually point out the origins of the imagery. This time was different, but it's a rare thing for me.

BernardL said...

I take B complex vitamins everyday too. Check your bottles. Most of them have Niacin in them, which is good for you, but not good to take at night. If you're not doing so already, take the B's early in the day with food. That's the only thing I can think of that might be giving you the different sleep pattern.

Angie said...

Wow, talk about damned if you do and damned if you don't. :( That really sucks. I hope you can find a good equilibrium that lets you get enough sleep and manage your pain. [crossed fingers]

That's actually a pretty darned cool dream. I bet you could get a story out of it. :)


Unknown said...

Bernard and Charles -- re: niacin. If niacin is involved in the formulation, protect against niacin's side effects by taking a low-dose (heart health dosage) aspirin in conjunction. I know about niacin because I used to take megadoses for cholesterol issues. As for the other aspects of B supplements, I am clueless. Well, end of housecall. No fee. Take an aspirin, and call me in the morning.

Unknown said...

Postscript: B3 = niacin

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have lots of dreams where I am in dark places like that. My husband seems to be on mountain tops in his. I wonder if that is indicative of our marriage?

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernard, I've started to alter toward more day time consumption and that seems to be helping. I think I was taking too high doses at night before bedtime.

Angie, I've got the dream written down in case inspiration should strike.

R. T. I get bad niacin flushes if I take too much. And it is very uncomfortable. Didn't know about the aspirin. I'll try that.

Patti, hum, interesting possibility there. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

What did your wife think of that dream?
I drink an energy drink that has high levels of vitamin B-12 and I only drink it in the morning because it will keep me up at night.

Cloudia said...

Don't restrict yourself to that one good-fitting interpretation. Allow yourself to BE with the dream and it will reveal things over time, even years later if it's a real good one. I feel like we are all just skeletons in a dark place, but the journey through the long, one directional path to the light, fleshes us into full humans by the end of the walk, and that those who 'carry us' along part of the way are special angels. Perhaps you brought your son back from some moral peril you are not even consciously aware of, but the dream is thanking you with this image of Resurrection and hope. Or something. . . .
ALOHA from Honolulu

Brian Miller said...

wow dude...that is a pretty crazy dream...not so much the cave but the connection to the womb...

interesting on the B vitamins..i have used it as a vitamin stim for some time -- natural energy

Sarah Hina said...

That's a beautiful dream, Charles. I hope you incorporate it into a story at some point.

It sounds like you've been worried about your son, but are confident you can carry him into the light. Or maybe it's a reminder to look back and see what love you've brought forth into the world. Even if it doesn't feel like it right now.

I'm sorry you've been dealing with physical issues. That there is enough to weigh anyone down. Stay well, my friend.

X. Dell said...

I'm sorry to hear that for you there's this Hobson's choice of pain and restlessness. But I'm happy to hear that there's fruit in your womb.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, Freud would have had a field day with your dream! I'm currently taking Vitamin B12 shots to raise the level to normal. I, too, get cramps in my legs and feet which I attribute to B12 deficiency, though no joint paints. B12 is, indeed, good for the nerves and also boosts energy levels. Many Indians who are vegans are deficient in B12 and need to take a supplement. Unlike other vitamins, B12 is present only in animal foods including eggs and dairy products.

G. B. Miller said...


Personally, with my particular ailment, taking potassium supposedly eases the hand fatigue and assorted aches and pains.

So for the past few months, I have returned to eating the occasional banana.

Not sure how that affects the neuropathy that I have (in the legs), but it does seem to quell the occasional numbness I would get in my upper thighs.

As for you dream, I shall quote Marcia from Peanuts.

"You're weird, sir."

And, I might add, don't ever change.

Father Nature's Corner

Charles Gramlich said...

Alex, yes, I think it's taking the B too late in the evening that is having the effect on my sleep. My son is adopted. My current wife thought it was weird but par for the course in my nighttime adventures.

Cloudia, it was certainly a rather lovely, if weird dream. It will be one I'll remember for a long time.

Brian, yes, I like the energy I get from B.

Sarah, my son is getting ready to graduate college and will then be going on to grad school. he's taking GREs and stuff now, so that may have been the trigger for the dream.

X. Dell. is it really nice to hear that? Or are you as weird as I am? :)

Prashant, I eat quite a few eggs, and some cheese but don't drink milk. I can often feel the boost of B if I don't take it for awhile and then start back.

G.B., Lana insists I eat a banana ever once in a while, even though I really don't like the taste of them. I also have a potassium salt that I will use on occasion. I know potassium is definitely a concern for many.

jodi said...

Charles-do you get blood draws to check your counts? I had very low B12. After trying oral doses I was rechecked and the levels were the same. I now get regular injections intramuscularly, which is the only way I can absorb the B12. I feel much better when my levels are 'normal'. Good luck!

Vesper said...

Wow, what a dream! Amazing!
I'm sorry about your sleep problems. Do you have to take Vitamin B in the evening?

Richard Prosch said...

So yeah, that's an odd one --but really interesting and would make a good short story. I've asked you before (I think) but have you experienced the classic sleep paralysis -- awake but frozen, odd rushing in the ears, sense of a presence near you, fear, etc. I first had that as a kid. Scared the bejeebers out of me, but now if it occurs, it's just sorta cool and interesting.

Charles Gramlich said...

Jodi, I haven't had blood draws but I can tell the difference when the B is working so I'm sure I'm able to absorb it orally.

Vesper, I'm going to start taking it earlier. It was mainly because that's when I'd be working on the computer and would think about it.

Richard, I've had quite a few sleep paralysis events. Pretty strange but, like you, no longer really frightening. I also have a lot of lucid dreams

SzélsőFa said...

Sorry to hear about your pain and that unfortunate bt somehow interesting (loss of) balance of day/night pattern while taking the (seemingly necessary) vitamin supplements.

That dream is somehow weird, but I think the meaning is definitely positive.

Riot Kitty said...

Wow. I hope you are out of pain soon. But excellent dream analysis.

Ron Scheer said...

The dream is a love letter from somewhere, and it reminds me of Wordsworth's line, "The child is father to the man."

I don't have particularly memorable dreams, though once when I kept a dream journal the practice seemed to encourage a flood of them. I've read that if you are in Freudian or Jungian analysis, you get corresponding dreams. Says something about the way dreams work, but I'm not sure what.

My troubles with sleep after neurosurgery were resolved with melatonin, which is also an anti-inflammation supplement.

Erik Donald France said...

Fascinating on the vitamin B ~ and cool on the dream ~ !!!!!

Jerry Brady said...

Owww! I really feel bad about that. That's an excruciating pain that you are trudging through all day. Just the whole routine of it is hard to think of. However, I'm sure you have the fortitude and courage to see that through, and truly get to the bottom of what has occured and what has inflicted such a pain. Thanks for sharing that! All the best!

Jerry Brady @ Lambert And Williams

Jerry Brady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles Gramlich said...

Szelsofa, thanks for the kind words.

Riot Kitty, I need to go see as specialist about this I imagine. Maybe they can help.

Ron, typically it seems that any attempt to recall dreams better really does work. I go through periods where I just don't think about my dreams, but when a memorable one comes along I start paying attention again.

ERik, definitely gonna hang on to the B vitamins.

Jerry, thanks for visiting.