Three's Good Company
When sleep is problematic, help is available from three natural remedies: L-theanine, melatonin, and 5-HTP. Together, they make a synergistic combination. "It's a remarkable natural alternative for insomnia,"
says Michael R. Lyon, MD, medical research director at the Canadian Center for Functional Medicine.
"This combination doesn't have the side effects of drugs, which have risks and can cause daytime drowsiness or cognitive disturbances," says Lyon. Each one of these three supplements works in a different way, and they complement each other. Lyon explains:
An amino acid found in green tea, L-theanine has a calming effect because it reduces levels of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, without causing grogginess or impeding the ability to function. When taken before bedtime, L-theanine helps you to stay asleep. Taken during the day, it reduces stress while improving mental focus. Interestingly, in a recent study of boys between 8 and 12 years old, 200 mg twice daily dramatically improved attention deficit disorders. Studies, particularly those that have tested Suntheanine, a proprietary form of L-theanine, support these benefits. L-theanine's effects are usually felt within 30 minutes and can last for 8 to 12 hours.
What to take before bedtime: 100 to 400 mg.
Widely used in the United States for over 15 years, melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It initiates sleep, rather than prolonging it as L-theanine does. Darkness triggers melatonin production and levels of the hormone naturally peak shortly before bedtime. And melatonin has antioxidant properties. It's estimated that a healthy person's body naturally produces about one-half milligram of the hormone per day; however, melatonin production naturally declines as we age.
What to take before bedtime: As little as 0.5 mg is therapeutic, but up to 6 mg may be used.
"It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it."-John Steinbeck
The amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is used by our bodies as a building block to make melatonin and the neurotransmitter serotonin. Although most often discussed in the context of depression, serotonin plays a vital role in restorative sleep. We need adequate levels of the neurotransmitter to repair muscles from daily wear and tear while we sleep, explains Lyon, to avoid aches and pains, or worse, chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia.
In addition to promoting restful sleep and improving mood, 5-HTP has been shown to reduce tension and migraine headaches, panic attacks, hot flashes, and emotional overeating, to help keep hormones in balance, and to act as an antioxidant.
What to take before bedtime: Take 25 to 100 mg to improve sleep. For mood improvement, take an additional 100 mg one or two times during the day. If you are using any medications that affect levels of serotonin, such as SSRIs, talk to your doctor first before taking 5-HTP.
In addition to products that contain all three of these sleep nutrients, you can also improve your sleep by using a product that contains at least one of these remedies in the formula. Additionally, you can buy all three as single supplements and take before bedtime.
More Sleep Support
Magnesium and sleep-inducing herbs can be extremely helpful for alleviating sleepless nights. Emotional stress, illnesses, diabetes and other chronic conditions, and hormonal fluctuations reduce absorption of magnesium, which is vital for restful sleep and overall health. Top herbs for inducing restful sleep are valerian, passionflower, hops, California poppy, and Jamaica dogwood.
American Biosciences sleepsolve 24/7 is an excellent product with melatonin, 5-HTP, magnesium, and Seditol, a patented blend of magnolia bark and a proprietary extract from Ziziphus spinosa-human trials back up Seditol's sleep-enhancing power.
Enzymatic therapy revitalizing sleep formula, with L-theanine and herbs (including valerian, passionflower, hops, and Jamaica dogwood) is designed to help you fall asleep faster, achieve better quality sleep, and boost your energy for the next day.
Natural Factors Stress-RElax Tranquil Sleep combines all three synergistic sleep remedies-L-theanine, melatonin, and 5-HTP-in a fast-acting chewable form. Two tasty tablets start working at inducing sleep in about 30 minutes.