L-Tryptophan for Insomnia

Using Natural Dietary Tryptophan to Fight Sleeplessness

L-Tryptophan is an all-natural dietary supplement commonly used to counter insomnia, as well as depression, anxiety and premenstrual syndrome. The active ingredient, tryptophan is found in many everyday dietary sources and has long been associated with sleep induction.


How does tryptophan work to promote better sleep quality?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that interacts with those brain chemicals important to sleep and the timing of your biological clock’s sleep-wake cycle. Tryptophan increases serotonin, which also increases melatonin, both neuro-transmitters in your brain’s pineal gland. These neural “gateways” regulate sleep and mood chemicals that affect sleep and mood balance. When either serotonin or melatonin is disrupted you can suffer insomnia and depression symptoms. Tryptophan supplements provide extra doses of sleep inducing amino acids that reportedly help counter sleep disturbances.

Dietary Sources of Tryptophan

Scientists have long noted that the ingestion of various types of foods have inspired drowsiness. The most common are turkey and milk. In fact this may be why warm milk was always the go-to home remedy for insomnia—the tryptophan in milk can make you drowsy. Other sources for high levels of dietary tryptophan include:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Fish – especially cod and salmon

Since most Thanksgiving dinners throw people into sleep comas the standing myth is that turkey is loaded with tryptophan. But turkey’s tryptophan is likely NOT the primary culprit for this annual post-feast symptom as much as is general overeating.

Buying L-Tryptophan Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements of L-Tryptophan are available wherever natural supplements, herbal remedies, and vitamins are sold and are inexpensive. L-Tryptophan is not FDA-approved like most natural supplements. A few rules of thumb for buying and using these supplements to self-treat insomnia:

  • Buy only those supplements manufactured in the United States
  • Buy from a popular brand-name supplement line
  • Don’t use L-Tryptophan supplements in lieu of any prescription sleep aid your physician gives you
  • Discuss taking L-Tryptophan with your doctor prior to use
  • Take only according to label directions
  • Discontinue use if you experience any adverse side effects.

Safety and Effectiveness of L-Tryptophan Supplements

For the most part people use l-tryptophan supplements safely and effectively to manage temporary insomnia and sleep disturbances. But if you are facing chronic insomnia, it ‘s best to see your doctor. There are non-pharmacological medical solutions available outside the natural supplements.

If you do any reading on l-tryptophan you’ll likely turn up more than a few references to its safety most of them stemming from one particular episode. In 1989 an illness, called eosiniphilia-myalgia syndrome, was blamed on l-tryptophan supplements from a Japanese manufacturer. However, the conclusion was that it was not the tryptophan, but other contaminated ingredients in the supplements that caused this deadly outbreak. For this reason you are cautioned against buying l-tryptophan from foreign sources as cheap and easy to get as they may be. Outside the U.S. the manufacture of natural supplements and herbal remedies is largely unregulated and therefore, unsafe.

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