The science behind better sleep: How can 5-HTP help you?

Many of us lead increasingly busy lives with different responsibilities, and the pressure of juggling these tasks can often manifest in disrupted sleep routines or frequent experiences of stress. Other factors such as an irregular travelling schedule or external disturbances can also play a vital role.

Even without an immediately identifiable trigger, issues with not getting enough sleep and relaxation can cause significant problems with your health and wellbeing. If you'd like to improve your sleeping patterns and support better emotional balance, you might want to consider the benefits of 5-Hydroxytryptophan, otherwise known as 5-HTP.

What is 5-HTP and how does it work?

5-HTP is a chemical by-product of tryptophan, one of the body’s essential amino acids. These acids are known as the ‘building blocks’ of protein, which are in turn crucial for many normal activities and tasks in the body.

Amino acids are important for giving cells structure, transporting and storing nutrients, repairing body tissues and many more functions. 5-HTP is a specific type of compound produced from the amino acid tryptophan. Your body does this naturally but it can also be created commercially from the seeds of a plant called Griffonia simplicifolia, which is native to Africa.

Proponents of 5-HTP believe that is can be beneficial for treating depression, regulating sleep patterns and promoting emotional balance and wellbeing. Some also believe that 5-HTP could be useful for alleviating certain types of headaches such as migraines.

What is known about 5-HTP is that it primarily affects the brain and central nervous system, through increasing the production of a chemical called serotonin.

What’s so special about serotonin?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, which means it functions by transporting nerve impulses between brain cells. It is found in various places throughout the body, not just in the central nervous system – in fact, the majority of our natural stores of serotonin are located in our gastrointestinal tract.

In most cases, the brain can only use the serotonin that has been produced within it as the chemical can’t cross the blood-brain barrier from another area of the body. The exception to this is 5-HTP, which can access the brain from the bloodstream.

Research shows that serotonin works largely by inhibiting various functions or activities. It’s been linked to appetite, sleep, memory, learning, temperature, mood, behaviour and muscle contraction as well as many more and is thought to have a regulating or controlling effect.

When it comes to sleep, serotonin works by helping to create a hormone called melatonin. This happens as the pineal gland in the brain synthesises serotonin, and the two substances work together to control sleep patterns. Regulation is important as too much melatonin or too little serotonin can cause sleep problems and sleep disorders such as insomnia.

Serotonin has also been linked to treating depression, with some research suggesting the condition could be linked to lower levels of the chemical. As a result, some antidepressants work by targeting the synapses (the spaces between neurons in the brain) to encourage more serotonin production.

What is the evidence for 5-HTP?

Scientists are still carrying out in-depth studies into the effectiveness of 5-HTP. Some previous clinical trials have shown serotonin can aid in preventing migraines, encouraging better sleep patterns and supporting weight loss efforts. Studies have also indicated it may be effective when used as an antidepressant for people with mild to moderate levels of depression.

While you can get tryptophan from food sources such as turkey, chicken, milk and potatoes, 5-HTP itself can’t be consumed through food – it’s only created through the body’s own natural production process or through 5-HTP supplements.

If you are considering 5-HTP, please consult a health professional for more information about how it might work for you.

BioBalance 5-HTP 150mg (5-Hydroxy-L-Tryptophan) provides support for normal sleeping patterns, feelings of well-being, stress relief and emotional balance. Buy it now from our secure online shop. Never used 5-HTP before? We recommend starting with BioBalance 5-HTP 50mg.

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