Does tryptophan cause insomnia? (5+ factors)

In this article, we will explore whether tryptophan causes insomnia. We will also talk about the related research findings, the influence of tryptophan-rich foods on sleep, the effectiveness of tryptophan supplements for insomnia, and other factors affecting sleep quality. 

Does tryptophan cause insomnia?

Tryptophan does not cause insomnia. Tryptophan may induce sleep when taken through diet or supplements. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which is an important component of the human diet, however, it can not be synthesized in the human body. 

Tryptophan is also available in supplements which can be used to treat depression, anxiety, or sleep disorders (1). Tryptophan is directly involved in the synthesis of serotonin, melatonin, niacin, and other important compounds. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter regulates sleep, mood, appetite, emotions, and the body’s stress response. Melatonin is involved in regulating the sleep-wake cycle (2). 

What does research suggest about tryptophan and insomnia?

According to a research study, when tryptophan is consumed in 0.5 to 1gm even through diet, may induce sleep in individuals. Tryptophan makes people sleep faster and when taken through supplements, may induce deep sleep (3). 

Another research study suggested that when tryptophan is taken by people who have mild sleep problems, may improve sleep. People may experience that their total awake time is reduced and sleep time is increased. The effects of tryptophan are more pronounced in people who take more time to sleep. 

People with severe sleep disorders due to other health conditions, may not exhibit much improvement with tryptophan. They may require some other medicines that treat insomnia (4).

Which tryptophan-rich foods influence sleep?

Tryptophan-rich foods such as turkey, chicken, lentils, eggs, yoghurt, bread, cheese etc., may influence sleep. When consumed in enough quantity, they may promote quality sleep and make people sleep even faster than before (1). 

The mechanism behind the sleep-inducing effect of these tryptophan-rich foods is, that they impact certain chemicals in our body such as serotonin and melatonin, which regulate the sleep-wake cycle (5). However, the effect of tryptophan-rich food may vary from person to person depending on their dietary and other lifestyle factors. 

Are tryptophan supplements effective for insomnia?

Tryptophan supplements may be effective for insomnia; however, it is important to note that not everyone may benefit from it depending on their specific condition. According to a clinical trial, it was found that tryptophan supplements when given at a dose of 1gm may improve sleep patterns compared to smaller doses. 

This study also suggested that when a dose of tryptophan greater than 1gm was given to individuals, tryptophan made them sleep better and reduced their awake time during the night (6). 

The recommended dose of tryptophan used in clinical setting is 60mg taken for 3 months. However, the dosage and duration of tryptophan may vary from person to person, and your healthcare provider will determine the most suitable dose for you (7). 

Which factors influence sleep quality?

The contributing factors which influence sleep other than medications may include the following:

  • Psychological factors such as stress, depression, anxiety etc.
  • Change of place or uncomfortable environment. 
  • Excessive use of caffeine near bedtime. 
  • Irregular sleep patterns. 
  • Use of gadgets before bedtime. 
  • Side effects of certain medications such as Cymbalta, Luvox, Celexa, etc (8). 

What other side effects can tryptophan cause?

Tryptophan may cause some side effects including:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain (8)

If you experience any of these side effects and they become bothersome, please consult your healthcare provider. 

From my perspective, tryptophan does not cause insomnia. However, tryptophan-rich diets or supplements are known to induce sleep. It is important to note that not everyone may have a similar experience while using tryptophan. Your doctor will determine the dose and duration of tryptophan supplements according to your specific needs. 

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