Tryptophan, the royal road to sleep


Sleep is vital to our health. Recent research says we need at least seven hours of it. If dreams are the royal road to the unconscious as Freud once said, then tryptophan is our royal road to sleep. This Mindfunda will tell you more about this essential amino acid. I wrote before about sleep: how long can you stay awake and 15 other secrets about sleep and about how neurons get trained during sleep. Sleep is important. Let us explore tryptophan, the royal road to sleep

Tryptophan,the royal road to sleep #1

The first step in understanding tryptophan is understanding amino acids.  There are two kinds: essential and non-essential amino acid. The essential amino acids who find in our food, we have to eat them. Our food consists of three groups: fat, carbohydrates and protein. To understand the tryptophan pathway we focus on protein. Your body uses tryptophan to make proteins. Protein is build out of amino acid.

Non essential amino acids are quite important for your body, even though their name would imply that they where just fun to have around but non-essential. But your body can build them no matter what you eat. Things are different for essential amino acids. In total there are 20 amino acids. 13 of them are non-essential but 9 of them you have to digest in your daily meals. Our little friend tryptophan is one of them.

Why do I focus on tryptophan? Because tryptophan is the building block of melatonin. The stuff that makes you drowsy and guides you into sleep. So how does that happen?

First you need to eat food rich in tryptophan. Cashew nuts, bananas, spinach, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, mozzarella, tuna fish, eggs. You can create some delicious meals with tryptophan rich food. But I know what you are going to say now. Tryptophan is not melatonin. I need melatonin to fall asleep when it gets dark.

Tryptophan,the royal road to sleep #2

The second step to creating melatonin from tryptophan involves vitamin B3. A bit of tryptophan “leaks away” into the production of Niacin (vitamin B3). that is why it is sometimes a good idea when you have sleeping problems to take some 5 htp. That way there is no leakage of tryptophan into vitamin B3.
And that is why I always advice people to use a good vitamin B supplication whenever they are having problems sleeping.
Using this a substance called 5 hydroxy tryptophan is created. If you have trouble sleeping you might want to consider taking 5 htp as a supplement.

5 htp

It can also help you reduce food cravings and aggression.

To create serotonin from 5 htp your body needs zinc, magnesium and Vitamin C. vitamin C with rose hips is easier for your body to use so always make sure that when you want to use a vitamin C supplant you search for one with that ingredient.

Vitamin C with rose hips

Only when these substances are available in your body serotonin can be build. So mak sure, bu healthy eating or using supplements that your body can compose serotonin.

Tryptophan,the royal road to sleep #3

The last step is creating melatonin from serotonin. That is easy. You need two things. Movement and darkness. So when you eat the right foods, use supplements when you need them and you still can not fall asleep: start moving when it gets dark. Go for a walk in the dark.


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