L-tryptophan is a natural amino acid that is essential for our health. It has been advocated as indispensable when it comes to treatments of anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation and insomnia, behavioral disorders, and premenstrual syndrome. In the recent few years, L-tryptophan use has become quite widespread, since it has so many positive effects on our health. However, even though it is considered to be a natural and safe substance, there is still the question of proper dosage.
Therefore, in the following paragraphs, we’ll discuss the recommended dosage in terms of sleep, sleep deprivation, and insomnia. We’ll take a look at certain effects and side-effects of improper dosage as well. So, let’s get started!
What Is L-Tryptophan?
L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is found in protein-rich foods. When we say that L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid, we mean that there’s little of it in our bodies and we have to take it in through supplementation or protein-rich diet. This amino acid has been discovered in the early 1900s, after isolating it from casein protein. Ever since then, we’ve discovered that L-tryptophan has a very low concentration in the body (the lowest concentration when compared to other amino acids).
However, further discoveries showed the actual importance of this amino acid. For example, with the increased availability of amino acids in health food stores, and with the general rise of interest in natural remedies, L-tryptophan has received the recognition it deserves. This amino acid has been recognized effective in cases of depression, affective disorders, behavioral disorders, psychomotor issues, sleep deprivation, insomnia, and many others.
What Are The Benefits Of L-Tryptophan Intake?
When it comes to the benefits of L-tryptophan intake, we can start by saying that it can be useful for serotonin and melatonin production. L-tryptophan can be converted into a molecule known as 5-HTP, which is further used to make melatonin and serotonin. In cases of brain injury or spinal cord injury, tryptophan can contribute to the neuroprotective nature of melatonin.
Because L-tryptophan partakes in the biochemical synthesis of melatonin, we can say that its intake can surely contribute to the treatment of sleep deprivation and sleep disorders. With regular L-tryptophan intake, we are more likely to promote melatonin and serotonin production, which can further regulate our circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle. With proper melatonin production and a healthy sleep-wake cycle, we are likely to be more functional and to generally feel and look better.
Note: L-tryptophan is known to decrease mood swings, tension, and irritability in women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD. Furthermore, it is also known to improve the effects of conventional treatment for smoking cessation.
Where Can I Find L-Tryptophan?
L-Tryptophan is usually found in protein-rich food. So, the more protein you consume, the more tryptophan you’ll take and store in your body and metabolism. Here’s a list of some food that is richest in tryptophan;
- Eggwhite – 673mg
- Sesame flour – 659mg
- Spinach – 594mg
- Duck meat – 543mg
- Turkey meat – 509mg
- Tuna fish – 493mg
- Chicken meat – 491mg
- Soybeans – 480mg
- Red salmon – 435mg
- Mozzarella cheese – 399mg
- Beef – 391mg
You can also find L-tryptophan in supplementation. Such supplementation usually contains molecules derived from tryptophan, or 5-HTP molecules and melatonin. It is not recommended to take supplementation that contains L-tryptophan alone, because in that case it can be used for protein and niacin production in the body, instead of melatonin and serotonin. That is why it is recommended to only take combined tryptophan supplementation or only melatonin supplementation.
Moreover, before you decide to take any kind of supplements, make sure to talk to your doctor and see how each of the supplements may interact with your body and current health situation.
L-Tryptophan And Sleep
Studies have shown that L-tryptophan, because of how it interacts with 5-HTP to produce melatonin and serotonin, can have a significant impact on sleep. For example, there have been 40 controlled studies over the past 20 years concerning the effects of L-tryptophan on human sleepiness or sleep. The majority of these studies concluded that a daily intake of 1 gram of L-tryptophan can increase sleepiness and decrease sleep latency or the time one needs to fall asleep.
However, there are less firm data when it comes to the effects of L-tryptophan on total wakefulness or increase in total sleep time. Nevertheless, the confirmed effects have been deemed the best in patients suffering from mild insomnia and sleep deprivation. Mixed results were confirmed in people with regular sleep-wake cycles; eventually, these subjects were described as not appropriate for such studies, since their sleep patterns don’t require improvement.
Note: Other studies show that L-tryptophan intake can help with sleep disorders like sleep apnea or narcolepsy.
Patients who consumed between 300-600mg of L-tryptophan and 5-HTP supplements reported better sleep quality and fewer sleep disturbances overall.
Furthermore, a combination of L-tryptophan (2mg) and fluoxetine (20mg of antidepressants), showed incredible results in improved better sleep quality in patients suffering from depression and chronic insomnia.
L-Tryptophan Dosage For Sleep And Sleep-Related Disorders
According to the Health Information Library, here are some recommended dosage numbers for sleep, sleep deprivation, and other, sleep-related or behavioral disorders;
L-Tryptophan Side Effects
L-tryptophan is considered to be a natural and completely safe amino acid when taken in normal quantities of course. Dosages between 1 and 5 grams do not cause any particular side effects. Possible L-tryptophan side effects have been examined for more than 50 years now, and no particular side effects have been reported.
However, there seem to be occasional cases where L-tryptophan intake can cause dizziness and nausea. Such cases occurred in individuals who weigh little but take more than 4 or 5 grams of L-tryptophan daily. These side effects can also be more serious if people take L-tryptophan together with antidepressants.
There have been cases of the so-called serotonin syndrome when serotonin levels are excessively increased. This can happen in cases of regular, high dose L-tryptophan intake. The side effects usually include tremors, excessive sweating, agitation, and delirium.
Low Levels Of L-Tryptophan And Their Effects
L-tryptophan has the lowest concentrations in our bodies, so without proper nutrition or supplementation, its low levels can have a serious impact on our health. Here’s how low levels of this amino acid affect our mind and body;
- Mood disorders – low levels of L-tryptophan can lead to depression, anxiety, and general behavioral and mood changes. Studies have shown that people who have low tryptophan levels are more likely to experience nervousness, tension, and anxiety, especially in stressful settings. Low tryptophan levels can even result in increased aggression and impulsiveness.
- Impaired cognitive skills – low levels of L-tryptophan can impair our ability to learn, process memories and information, and generally memorize new information. Studies have shown that lowe levels of tryptophan have long-term effects on cognitive skills and memory performance.
- Low brain activity – because of low tryptophan levels, there can be a decrease in brain activity. Certain studies show that without L-tryptophan, there is a decrease in serotonin, which is responsible for increasing brain activity. Moreover, with low brain activity, people are prone to developing depression, mood disorders, and insomnia.
Before starting with any type of supplementation, you must consult a doctor or medical professional. These people with take into consideration your overall mental and physical health and determine what dosage will suit you the best.
We recommend you first start increasing protein intake when it comes to your diet. If that doesn’t show effective, see your doctor, and consider supplements. Even though L-tryptophan doesn’t cause any particular side effects, if taken inadequately, it can surely have some negative effects on your health, as aforementioned.Also Read: