Tryptophan Supplements – What Should You Know?

Tryptophan Supplements – What Should You Know?

Everyone desires a peaceful sleep by the end of a tiring day. But sometimes it seems like an impossible thing. If you are into supplements using, you would know that there are many supplements, which promote a good night sleep.

One ingredient called Tryptophan is common in many sleep regulators. It is an amino acid, which is found in many foods and supplements. The best is to take it from the food sources but if food sources are not available, supplements are a good idea.

This article is a guide on using tryptophan based supplements and their significance on mood enhancement and peaceful sleep.

What Is Tryptophan?

Tryptophan is an amino acid, which is found in high proteins food. These amino acids are not only helpful in building blocks of the body but also to serve a number of other functions such as transmitting cellular signals.

The role of tryptophan is relatable with mood enhancement and sleep regulation, which is also evident through research.

Tryptophan can be converted into a molecule that is called 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), it is further used to produce serotonin and melatonin, two vital mood and sleep controllers.

Tryptophan Supplements - What Should You Know?

The role of serotonin is evident in various organs and not just the brain. It performs a number of functions but most common of them are its specific role in sleep regulation, mood, and cognitive functions.

Melatonin is another hormone, which is responsible for your sleeping and waking up cycle. In a combination, both of these are essential to make your body functions normally.

Effects of low tryptophan on behavior and Cognitive system

There are many functions of tryptophan inside the body; the prime area of its target is the brain. It performs the following functions for you.

Low levels of tryptophan can induce mood disorders

There are several studies which show that people that have depression, stress, anxiety or related disorders are more likely to have low levels of tryptophan than normal people. There are several studies that tell that anxiety and stress are higher when study participants have low tryptophan levels.

It is evident that tryptophan levels can contribute to developing anxiety and aggression. Using supplements with tryptophan will promote an overall good social behavior and stable mood.

Low tryptophan levels may impair learning and memory

The low levels of tryptophan are also associated with cognitive impairment. The study tells that tryptophan levels when low affect the long-term memory and overall bad cognitive performance as compared to the healthy individuals.

Additionally, low tryptophan levels also have a negative effect on cognition and memory. What do you think is the reason behind all this? The experts say that low tryptophan levels mean serotonin production is reduced as well. This effect on serotonin production is responsible for causing memory and cognitive impairments.

Low tryptophan levels may affect sleep

The sleep regulation is due to balanced levels of tryptophan inside the body. The conversion of tryptophan to serotonin also gives rise to the production of melatonin. The research study tells that increasing tryptophan inside body means that the levels of serotonin and melatonin will also be increased. Increased melatonin is associated with sleep regulation and stability of mood.

Melatonin is found in food sources but there are supplements of melatonin available in the market too. Naturally, it is a part of food items such as tomatoes, strawberries, and grapes.

Melatonin works as a sleep-wake controller of the body. It not just controls the sleep but also the metabolism of nutrients and your immune system. It is evident by research that when your body has high levels of tryptophan, the sleep cycles are improved.

It also enhances the mood, makes the mood stable and reduces the severity of mood swings. Melatonin is also responsible for decreasing the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.


What are the sources to get tryptophan?

There are many different protein-containing foods that are extremely good sources of tryptophan. It means that you can get tryptophan from any protein that you eat. The intake of your food decides what quantity of tryptophan you are taking.

The choice of protein source also matters. There are some foods that have high amounts of tryptophan in them such as poultry, shrimp, eggs, elk, crab, and others. The standard daily dose of tryptophan is said to be 1 gram per day.

You can fill this daily requirement either by taking the tryptophan-rich food or you can use the supplements having tryptophan boosting effects.

Tryptophan Supplements - What Should You Know?

Can you use tryptophan supplements?

If you believe that it is not possible for you to take a sufficient amount of tryptophan from food sources, using supplements is a good idea. It will improve the sleep quality and overall health.

Tryptophan supplements are generally safe for human use and are available everywhere. But you should know that it is not as simple as it looks. There are supplements which have molecules derived from tryptophan but they are not called tryptophan supplements. These supplements may contain 5-HTTP and melatonin in them.

If you are taking the supplement that calls itself as tryptophan supplement, it may be helpful in a number of functions and not just the production of serotonin and melatonin. It suggests that if you want to use tryptophan for just sleep regulation, it is better to use a supplement with tryptophan derivative i.e. 5-HTTP or melatonin.

If your concern is to improve the mood and cognition, using general tryptophan supplements will work better. The standard dose of 5-HTP supplements if from 100 mg to 900 mg per day.

If the purpose is to regulate sleep, using melatonin in 0.5mg to 5 mg per day is the best option. For general tryptophan supplements, the ideal dosage is up to 5 grams per day, which shows effective results.

Is there any side effect of using tryptophan supplements?

As you know tryptophan is an amino acid that is found in many foods, it is clear that it is safe for human use. The daily dietary requirement is no more than 1 gram per day but some people like to take a higher dose, which is generally up to 5 grams per day.

The possible side effects have been studied for tryptophan. Only the users have reported a few side effects. Most of these effects are mild and vanish within hours on its own.

But the occasional side effects such as nausea and dizziness may hit many people when they use a high dose.

Side effects are more likely to occur when tryptophan or 5-HTP is taken along with drugs that may affect the serotonin levels. A common example of such drugs is antidepressants, which cause interactions with tryptophan supplements.

Not just the low levels but high levels of tryptophan are also damaging to health. When serotonin levels are increased in the blood due to overdosing, there comes a condition called serotonin syndrome.

Never take medicines that may affect the working of serotonin. It is better to take advice from a physician especially when you are already on daily medicines of any kind.

Things To Keep In Mind 

Tryptophan is used to perform a number of functions by the body. It produces hormones like serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is significant for mood, cognition, and behavioral changes. Melatonin causes sleep regulation.

It means that if tryptophan levels are low, the production of serotonin and melatonin will be decreased too. It may cause damaging effects on health. Tryptophan is available in protein-rich foods yet there are tryptophan supplements to ensure positive effects on mood and sleep, in absence of food sources.

It is better to follow the standard dosage and general guidelines before using tryptophan or a supplement with tryptophan’s molecule. They may occasionally cause side effects. These side effects are not serious unless you have taken an extremely high dose of supplements.

Overall, tryptophan is a significant amino acid, which has positive health benefits. Certain individuals may avail these benefits either from using a food source or by using a tryptophan supplement in routine.



As a graduate of Public Health and Policy, Andrea developed an interest in disease development, food and safety and the latest advancements in health. She is a Freelance writer who had affiliations with multiple blogs. Andrea is now pursuing her post-doctorate in Behavioral Sciences.

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