Dream supplements may at first sound like a strange concept but actually they are a part of an emerging nutrition science known as nootropics.
What are nootropics?
Nootropics are substances that enhance the functioning of the human brain, in particular the functions related to memory, motivation, and attention, all of which can affect general intelligence. Nootropics can include classic vitamins as well as enzymes, herbs and plant extracts synthesized from these extracts, and even animal products. Undeniably, the most famous nootropic is the stimulant caffeine, naturally occurring in coffee, tea and cocoa, and injected mercilessly into a stunning array of beverages and over-the-counter medications. It’s easy to overdo it, but in fact recent studies have suggested that caffeine improves focus and memory in the short term, and may improve memory and general mental performance in the long term. Just as caffeine—in moderation—is good for the waking brain, certain herbs and supplements are good for the sleeping brain. After all, sleeping is hard work; contrary to popular belief the brain during sleep is not resting but can be more active than it is in waking life, especially in REM sleep.
Enter the Dream
And that’s where sleep and dream supplements come in. Some supplements, such as melatonin and 5HTP, aid in falling asleep and can even reduce awakenings. Others, such as the B vitamins, appear to directly promote the bizarre and creative attributes of dreams. Some of these effects are understood more than others, and the research really beginning to take off after years of stagnation. A holistic approach to dream studies has to include these benefits, as dreaming is the product of a healthy mind and body. After all, we are not just brains in jars. That said, supplements alone are not a healthy way to promote sleep and enhance your dream life. No dream pill will do the work for you—particularly if you are interested in lucid dreaming and some of the more advanced topics in dream studies, such as out-of-body experiences and mystical experiences. Daily activities, motivation, and physical health are crucial to a healthy dream life. For example, many people assume that the best way to train or “work out” the brain is solely through mental exercises, such as the newspaper crossword puzzle. However, the greatest boost to brain health is cardiovascular exercise. Take a look at the brain scan image below of what a 20 minute walk does to brain activity.
Setting the Space Integrated with a healthy diet (especially full of leafy greens high in the B vitamins), a regular physical practice, and targeted cognitive techniques, dream supplements can provide a welcome boost to dream power. This requires some preparation and a strong motivation to go deeper into the dreamworld. That’s simply why popping a dream pill after zoning out from a Netflix horror movie marathon won’t do the trick. When done with focus, the ritual of taking dream supplements creates a strong behavioral signal that we are entering an intentional space where we are invited to slow down, focus, and rather than check out, we check in. Dream supplements are no placebo, however. Dream supplements enhance the brain’s functioning while you sleep regardless. The evidence for 5HTP, for example, strongly suggests that, in small doses and taken at the right time, can promote NREM sleep in the first part of the night, and indirectly lead to consolidated REM (dreaming) sleep in the morning. However, when intentionality and motivation is added to the sleep-optimized brain, a strong platform for intentional dreaming is created. Although the science behind nootropics is brand new and sorely in need of more research, dream supplements are clearly beneficial when integrated with other practices that support mindful living. Don’t go to bed to fall sleep, but to wake up to your full potential.