Can Vitamin B12 Be Used to Treat Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders?

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders is the title applied to a family of similar, yet slightly different, sleep disorders.  Among other things, these disorders affect the timing of sleep.

What are Circadian Rhythms?

All humans have biological rhythms – called circadian rhythms – that affect our daily schedules.  Controlled by our biological clock, these rhythms control things like body temperature, alertness, appetite, and hormone secretion.  Perhaps the most noticeable effect on our lives is the effect circadian rhythms have on the timing of our sleep.

How Circadian Rhythms Affect Sleep

If a person’s circadian rhythms are out of sync, he or she won’t be able to sleep or wake at traditional times.  If left to abide by their natural sleep/wake patterns dictated by their body clocks, CRSD patients can get enough sleep.

However, by adhering to the body’s natural clock, these individuals have a difficult time functioning in society.  They are unable to wake at the times necessary to work, attend school or socialize during daytime hours.

Many CRSD patients experience psychological and functional difficulties.  This is cause by – or can lead to – a misdiagnosis or incorrect treatment method.

Most Common CRSD Treatments

While there is no cure for circadian rhythm sleep disorders, there are some treatment methods that are more effective than others.

Behavior Therapy

First, doctors will recommend patients take a look at their sleep behaviors.  Sometimes referred to as sleep hygiene, doctors suggest patients refrain from napping, caffeine, and other stimulants. 

Blue Blocking Glasses

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body that helps control the body’s internal temperature.  In turn, this hormone helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. 

When melatonin levels are high, the body temperature decreases.  When the temperature decreases, the individual feels drowsy.      

Some patients don blue blocking glasses in the evening.  By blocking the blue wavelength light from reaching the eye during the evening hours, the individual can help the body produce more melatonin.

Bright Light Therapy

Some sleep experts say bright lights can help promote or discourage sleep when used at a high intensity.   By exposing the body to these bright lights for 30-60 minute increments, the patient can increase or decrease the likelihood of sleep.

Medications

While there is no prescription medication that can completely control sleep patterns, some CRSD patients rely on short-term sleep aids or wake-promoting agents.  These medications can help CRSD patients try to establish a normal sleep-wake pattern.

Vitamin B12: An Alternative CRSD Treatment

As is the case with nearly all medical conditions, some treatments help certain people while other individuals fail to see benefits.  Using vitamin B12 to treat circadian rhythm sleep disorders is one of those cases.

Over the years, there has been mixed response to using vitamin B12 to treat CRSD.  Some of the earliest research comes from a unique source.  A single individual was diagnosed as having a slightly overactive thyroid gland.  He embarked on his own self-medicating treatment plan with daily doses of vitamin B12.  Along the way, he noticed his N24 was supposedly cured with these vitamin B12 injections.  Side effects were minimized with the injections but returned if supplementation was stopped.

This caught the attention of some researchers in Japan. They were interested in learning if the results were medically significant or a placebo effect.  Of the ten study participants in Japan, two reported vitamin B12 as a successful treatment option.  The doctors in Japan did find the B12 had an effect on the melatonin levels and could possibly be used to help CRSD patients.

Other cases reported similar results.  In a 1998 study, 65.1% of patients with primary CRSD showed a positive response to vitamin B12 when combined with bright light therapy.  However, it wasn’t as effective with secondary CRSD patients.

Another study followed the treatment plan of a 15-year old girl and a 17-year old boy.  Both suffered from CRSD and were having trouble functioning in society.  The sleep-wake cycle improved immediately after the administration of high doses of vitamin B12.  One significant finding was the sleep onset; it advanced from 2am to midnight. 

Another study was conducted by Ehren R. Dodson, PhD and Phyllis C. Zee, MD, PhD.  They reported similar findings.  While the evidence is very limited, injectable B12 can help CRSD patients.  The effectiveness is enhanced when the supplementation is combined with bright light therapy in the morning.

In Dr. Dodson and Dr. Zee’s study, they found a 28% success rate.  Vitamin B12 injections were administered at 12:30pm for 11 days.  That does was followed by oral supplementation three times a day for seven days. The side effects of B12 injections were minimal—especially when compared to the benefits.   

When medical conditions don’t have proven cures, patients are left with experimentation.  A lot of trial and error is necessary to find something that might help.  While vitamin B12 injections haven’t been successful for all patients, they have helped some individuals regain normal sleeping patterns. 

If you’ve been struggling with circadian rhythm sleep disorders and nothing seems to help, it might be time to try some out-of-the-box thinking. 

If you suffer from CRSD and are interested in trying vitamin B12 injections as part of your treatment plan, check out the selection in our online store.