2 Top Amino Acids for Your Sleep Health
Many times when we talk about things to boost health we focus on diet, vitamins, and minerals – and all of these things are hugely important.
When it comes to sleep health in particular, these can include: plenty of magnesium-rich foods and a supplement, zinc, and herbs like valerian root.
But we can’t forget about amino acids. When we are intentional about including these into our lives, we can increase our health – and specifically our sleep health.
Amino acids are something we have all probably heard of, but don’t really know much about. Yet there are extremely important when it comes to the general health of your body and even your mind.
And when it comes to improving your sleep particularly, there are 2 amino acids in particular that you should try: 5-HTP and L-Theanine. And I would like to introduce you to them.
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What Are Amino Acids?
Before we get to our two sleepy amino acids, let’s make sure we understand exactly what they are.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They join together to create a chain, and that chain builds up different types of proteins.
We can break down amino acids into two groups: the essential and the nonessential. It’s not that some amino acids are important and others aren’t. This is what their names mean:
- Nonessential amino acids: Our bodies can make these, so it is NON-essential to eat them
- Essential: Our bodies cannot make these, so it is ESSENTIAL that we eat them.
So when you eat protein (a steak, some broccoli, or some quinoa), that protein gets broken down to its smallest bits – the amino acids. Then these different amino acids all have different jobs to do, including (but definitely not limited to)
- Building muscles
- Monitoring glucose
- Reducing fatigue/boosting energy
- Making blood cells
- Producing antibodies
- Aiding memory
- Detoxifying organs
The list goes on and on. (You can probably see why bodybuilders are so focused on getting in plenty of amino acids – their BCAAs – many of these qualities really improve an athletic body.)
That’s the basics of amino acids, but you want to take a deeper dive into understanding amino acids, check out this 5-minute video on amino acids:
Your 2 Amino Acids For Sleep
As you can easily see, a healthy body would get a wide variety of amino acids. And a healthy body = better sleep. If you are detoxed and strong with a powerful immune system and proper energy during the day – you are absolutely going to sleep better at night.
So these protein building blocks help your sleep health in genera.
But there are two amino acids in particular that will really help you if you have trouble falling asleep.
5-HTP: The Basics
5-HTP (which is short for 5-Hydroxytryophan) is a by-product of tryptophan, an essential amino acid. Though you can get tryptophan in foods, you won’t really raise your 5-HTP levels. You need the supplement form.
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Its main uses are for:
- Sleep disorders
What’s interesting about 5-HTP is that it not only helps sleep issues directly, but it also helps alleviate other conditions that can bring on sleep troubles (like anxiety).
So how does it work?
It all comes down to serotonin.
Serotonin is a chemical in your brain that affects a lot of different activities – one of which is sleep. You may have heard about this chemical in discussions about depression; having too little serotonin can exacerbate/cause the imbalance.
5-HTP actually increases the production of serotonin.
But does science back up any of these claims? It sure does. Here are some highlights from a few studies.
One study looked at a group of 48 kids in elementary school and junior high school. They all were dealing with ongoing headaches and sleep disorders. All the students had “normal intellectual capacity,” yet they struggled with things like depressive natures. They also struggled to progress in school.
They were then given either the 5-HTP or a placebo. Researchers discovered that it helped with their sleep disorders including waking up frequently in the night and even some parasomnias (it also helped with headaches – which is a frequent cause of people’s insomnia).
(Do not give 5-HTP to your child before consulting their pediatrician first.)
Other studies have shown 5-HTP’s success in the realm of general insomnia, insomnia due to fibromyalgia, sleep quality, and sleep terrors.
What To Know Before You Take 5-HTP
All of the amazing things 5-HTP can do for you can actually be super negative to certain people. Here are two reasons why you must talk to your doctor about taking 5-HTP before you begin.
- If you are about to have surgery of any kind, make sure your doctor knows you are taking 5-HTP. In many cases, they will want you to stop taking it a few weeks prior to your operation.
- Do not take 5-HTP if you are on any sort of medication used to treat depression. Many of these drugs also increase serotonin, and you do not want to have too much. To be on the safe side, always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you start any other medication while taking 5-HTP.
If you are concerned about any other interactions, just call up your doctor or pharmacist.
5-HTP may also bring some side effects like heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, or diarrhea. If you start experiencing any of these, stop use.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, do not take 5-HTP unless directly told to do so by your doctor.
L-Theanine: The Basics
L-Theanine is actually comes from tea lives – especially green tea leaves. It’s a cross between the amino acids L-glutamate and L-glutamine. And it is mostly known for it’s anti-anxiety properties. It can relax and distress the body naturally without prescription sedatives.
It won’t make you sleepy or groggy if you take it during the day. But yet it can help you sleep at night. How does that work?
Our bodies are supposed to follow a rhythm: awake and alert during the day and calm and sleepy at night. Many factors can confuse those two – things like shift work and having so many lights on at night.
Another thing that can affect your rhythm is stress.
When you are anxious, stress hormones rage through your body. They are meant to keep you alert, so you can stay safe in the face of danger. This is helpful if you’re running away from a hungry lion, but not so helpful when your stress comes from a hard day at work and all you want to do is sleep.
Doctors will give patients prescription mediations to deal with this, but it is really only a Band-Aid approach. These pills don’t actually get rid of the stress; they essentially just “knock you out” so you can sleep.
L-theanine, on the other hand, does not knock you out. You will be fully awake. That’s why so many people can also take it throughout the day.
But since it calms your stress and relaxes your body naturally, you can simply fall into the cycle you were always meant to be in: calm and sleepy at night.
- No more racing brain keeping you up
- No more worries and frets making you toss and turn
- No more wide-eyed staring at the ceiling after being exhausted all day long
It works as a psychoactive substance that actually affects the alpha waves in your brain, boosts dopamine levels (that feel good chemical), and increases your GABA. If the word “psychoactive” seems too scary for you, remember this: caffeine is a psychoactive too. You probably take that everyday.
What Sciences Says About L-Theanine
And what does science have to say about L-theanine?
One study looked at 98 boys with ADHD. Some took l-theanine; others took a placebo. The findings showed the L-theanine group hand significantly better sleep, and a slightly better ability to be less active during sleep.
Another study showed that L-theanine does increase activity in the alpha frequency part of your brain. In laymen’s terms, it relaxes the mind but doesn’t make you sleepy.
This same study showed that simply drinking a cup of tea wouldn’t give you enough L-theanine to benefit your relaxation. A concentrated supplement would need to be used.
What To Know Before You Take L-Theanine
L-theanine does not have nearly as many warnings or restrictions as 5-HTP has. But you should always consult your doctor before taking it – especially if you are already on an anti-anxiety medication or an antidepressant.
There could be some possible interactions with high blood pressure drugs as well as stimulate drugs.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, do not take L-theanine unless directly told to do so by your doctor.
Taking 5-HTP and L-Theanine
You can choose to buy each of these sleep health amino acids by themselves. But you have another great option: a natural sleep aid pill.
There are actually quite a few all-natural ingredients that can help you sleep better without the use of a prescription. This includes:
- Valerian Root
- Magnolia Bark Extract
- Chamomile Flower Extract
Instead of buying each of these separately, you can choose the Eu Natural Serenity Natural Sleep Aid to take them all at the same time – including our two amino acids.
Conveniently, take 2 before bed with a glass of water. This allows you to combine the power of these natural substances, so you can fall asleep and stay asleep each night.
You can also enjoy a glass of green tea in the mornings (don’t drink it later since it has some caffeine) to boost your l-theanine all day.