Use of tryptophan for insomnia

Published : 03/14/2016 18:40:35
Categories : Suplements

When we can talk about insomnia?

Many people do not fall asleep the recommended (seven to nine) number of hours. However, we can talk about insomnia when there is a disturbance in patterns or quality of sleep . If you have trouble for sleeping, you can´t fall asleep or experience a poor sleep quality at least three times a week for over a month, then there are chances for you to suffer from insomnia.

There are people who have insomnia as a result of stress. In this case, it is better to handle the root cause or the causes of stress to regulate sleep.

Whether one way or another, many people turn to traditional or nonprescription drugs to fall sleep. However, we know that this can have serious consequences such as allergic reactions, dry mouth, dependence, daytime sleepiness, etc.

Tryptophan to treat insomnia

L-tryptophan is a natural supplement widely used to treat insomnia without the typical side effects of the drug trade. L-tryptophan is an amino acid that is part of this supplement and its active ingredient, with the potential to induce sleep. Tryptophan is found naturally in foods (eggs, cheese, chicken, turkey, fish, especially cod and salmon). However, the content in food is too low to treat insomnia.

How does tryptophan induce sleep?

Tryptophan acts on the sleep-inducing neurochemical in the brain. This amino acid increases the concentration of serotoninmelatonin also increases, both being in the pineal gland in the brain. These neurotransmitters regulate the balance of sleep and mood.

When there is an alteration in the levels of serotonin or melatonin, insomnia usually appears as well as symptoms of depression.

Several clinical trials have found that supplementation with 1-2 g of L-tryptophan 20-30 minutes before bedtime improves insomnia. Supplementation with L-tryptophan appears to be more effective in patients with mild insomnia, healthy individuals who have a longer latency time (amount of time required to fall asleep) for the start of sleep than average, and people who have 3-6 nighttime awakenings.

Supplementation with L-tryptophan also appears to be effective in treating insomnia in chronic alcoholic patients.

How should you manage tryptophan to treat insomnia?

For best results, supplementation with L-tryptophan should be administered on an empty stomach, with a small amount of carbohydrates. Taking L-tryptophan with a meal that contains protein can reduce their effectiveness, because other amino acids compete with L-tryptophan to be absorbed into the brain. Co-administration of L-tryptophan and antidepressants (such as selective inhibitors of serotonin reuptake, amitriptyline, or monoamine oxidase inhibitor) increase serotonergic activity and can increase the efficacy and toxicity of drugs.

If you are taking any of these medications, it is best to consult with your doctor before taking a supplement with L-tryptophan. in that case, it s likely that you should avoid it altogether (especially in the case of monoamine oxidase inhibitors) or use it with caution and at low doses.


  1. Ronald Steriti, NMD, PhD. How To Get a Good Night's Sleep with Tryptophan.
  2. Alan R. Gaby, MD. Nutritional Treatments for Insomnia
  3. Schneider-Helmert D, Spinweber CL. Evaluation of L-tryptophan for treatment of insomnia: a review.

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