What is the Connection Between 5-HTP and Sleep?

Brandon May

The connection between 5-HTP and sleep involves the supplement's action toward elevating levels of serotonin in the brain by acting as a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is often referred to as the "feel good" hormone which aids in anxiety and depression, and therefore aids in relaxation and sleep. Although other lifestyle changes can be made to increase serotonin, like including foods high in tryptophan, getting enough sunlight during the day or exercise, 5-HTP is a supplement that is very popular for providing instant effects. 5-HTP and sleep have connections that have been well documented by the scientific community, and 5-HTP is quite safe to take by most individuals.

5-HTP is used as a sleep aid.
5-HTP is used as a sleep aid.

A natural sleep aid works with the body's natural hormones that help influence and induce the sleeping process, while at the same time causing little harm to the body. The hormones most related to sleep are serotonin and melatonin, and each works together throughout the day to help ease symptoms of depression and nervousness. By easing anxiety and calming the body, serotonin is used by many individuals who experience low levels of this hormone to fall asleep. Tryptophan, a naturally occurring amino acid found in high amounts in foods like turkey and chicken, is a precursor to serotonin, and is also a close relative to 5-HTP.

5-hydroxytryptophan, also known as 5-HTP, is a precursor to the development of typtophan and ultimately seratonin.
5-hydroxytryptophan, also known as 5-HTP, is a precursor to the development of typtophan and ultimately seratonin.

5-HTP is a substance extracted from seed pods of the West African plant Griffolia simplicifolia, and is a natural precursor to the hormone serotonin. As tryptophan is banned for sale as a supplement by the Food and Drug Administration, the buzz of 5-HTP and sleep inducement is very popular in natural supplement circles. Research has shown that 5-HTP and sleep are closely linked, as 5-HTP significantly aids in the production of serotonin. As this hormone helps ease symptoms of anxiety and helps calm the mind and body, many people with non-severe or mid-severe depressive symptoms take this supplement to avoid prescriptions medications.

Side effects of taking 5-HTP include the curbing of appetite and, although rare, mild gastrointestinal complaints. As 5-HTP can curb the appetite, it is also seen as a promise for weight control, but should not be used to help ease depression in individuals suffering with anorexia, as this might decrease weight even more. The connections between 5-HTP and sleep inducement are quite strong in the scientific literature, but as always should be addressed by a physician experienced with dietary supplements.

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