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Niacin for Insomnia: Does it Improve or Worsen Sleep?

by Dale Cudmore | Updated: May 24, 2021

Some people claim that supplementing niacin (vitamin B3), or focusing more on foods high in niacin, has cured or improved their insomnia.

I wanted to look into research done about niacin to see if these claims have any merit.

Overall, there’s not much research about niacin and sleep quality, and most of it is low quality.

We’ll still go over what I found, but there are other natural sleeping aids that have a lot more evidence behind them.

Can Niacin Improve Insomnia Symptoms?

One group of researchers essentially tried to do what I’m trying to do here. They found that there’s not enough evidence for niacin to be recommended for insomnia compared to other treatment options like CBT or melatonin (1).

You won’t find many licensed doctors prescribing niacin supplements for insomnia.

However, there is some evidence that niacin plays a role in sleep quality.

A study of Dutch university students found (2):

Insomnia scores correlated significantly with dietary intake of tryptophan and niacin... Niacin intake also correlated significantly with sleep quality (r = .094, p = 0.045). No significant correlation was found with TST.

In other words, there was a small but significant correlation between niacin intake and sleep quality.

You can’t conclude too much from one correlational study, but it does suggest that something might truly be there and deserves more research.

SummaryThere’s not much research on niacin and insomnia. However, one study does suggest that having high levels of niacin in your diet is related to higher sleep quality and lower likelihood of insomnia.

Why Might Niacin Improve Sleep Quality?

Even without a ton of research backing up the use of niacin as a sleep aid, we can still ask: why might niacin be effective?

More generally, research shows that niacin inhibits vascular inflammation (3). In other words, it can have a relaxation effect that could improve not only sleep but play a role in cardiac health.

Can Niacin Worsen Sleep Quality?

Like almost anything, too much niacin can be a negative thing and even dangerous in extreme amounts.

Most likely, getting extra niacin is only beneficial for someone not getting enough in their diet. For someone who already does get a lot of vitamin B3 from food, a supplement can have an adverse effect.

One doctor’s observations include (4):

A tingling or flushing sensation in the skin after relatively large doses (in excess of 75 mg) of nicotinic acid is a rather common phenomenon.

A flushing sensation isn’t necessarily a problem, but can be a leading symptom for more serious side effects like headaches, faintness, and insomnia.

SummaryWhile “regular” sized doses of niacin aren’t likely to have much of a negative effect, it varies by person. Some symptoms may directly worsen sleep quality and lead to insomnia.

Summary: Will Niacin Fix Insomnia?

There seems to be some potential for niacin to help improve sleep quality, but there’s a lack of research on this topic.

Even if niacin does help, it doesn’t look like it has a large effect compared to more established treatment methods.

In regards to the original anecdotes that I came across before writing this post, it’s likely that the users were either very deficient in niacin or experienced a strong placebo effect.

References

  1. Treatment Options for Insomnia
  2. The association of sleep quality and insomnia with dietary intake of tryptophan and niacin
  3. Evidence That Niacin Inhibits Acute Vascular Inflammation and Improves Endothelial Dysfunction Independent of Changes in Plasma Lipids
  4. Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Therapy as Used by Abram Hoffer, M.D.

Medical Disclaimer: The information on SnoozeUniversity.com is not intended to be a substitute for physician or other qualified care. We simply aim to inform people struggling with sleep issues about the nature of their condition and/or prescribed treatment.


About the authorDale is the founder of Snooze University and a sleep researcher. I overcame my sleep issues and now I'd like to help you do the same by summarizing the latest sleep studies for you.