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Tiring Tryptophan - How some proteins promote sleepiness

Written by Hardy's on May 10th, 2017.      3 comments

Cast your mind back to Christmas Day and that satisfied, sleepy feeling that you enjoyed after tucking into your festive feast… It could just have been a case of overindulgence, or a symptom of how early your household got up to see what Santa had left, however there are also certain compounds in foods that promote tiredness.

Chief among these is an amino acid called tryptophan, which is present in high levels in egg whites, nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat and chicken – as well as the turkey that you may have tucked into during the holiday celebrations. While the temptation of an after-lunch lie-down might have been strong on that day, you don’t need to worry about nodding off next time you consume the foods above; that’s not all tryptophan is good for.  Let’s take a closer look at how it works…

An essential amino acid, tryptophan isn’t naturally produced in the human body, so we need to get it from the foods we eat, or through supplementation.
 
Our bodies create it by utilising the proteins that we consume as the building blocks to tryptophan.  Because tryptophan is a precursor to the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin, it acts like a natural mood regulator – influencing our natural sleep cycles and our body’s stress response. In its ability to help the body produce and balance certain hormones naturally, tryptophan is prized for its calm-inducing effects and, because it helps make other essential amino acids more readily available in the body, tryptophan can lift people’s moods while decreasing the production of stress hormones.

As well as inducing sleep and lessening anxiety, tryptophan-rich foods and supplements stimulate the release of growth hormones and can even help us burn more body fat. Importantly, tryptophan – and its important by-product, 5HTP (5 hydroxytryptophan) – works in the brain and central nervous system to increase the body’s production of feelgood serotonin.  Because serotonin is the calming chemical that’s released when we eat certain carbohydrates, supplementing with tryptophan is believed to help reduce food cravings for carbs and balance blood sugar levels in the body.

BEFORE BEDTIME
Your mother may have told you not to go to bed with a full stomach, but you don’t want to slide between the sheets starving either.  The best bedtime snack to get a good night’s sleep that enables you to function with lots of energy during the day contains a mixture of both carbohydrates and protein.

While you possibly don’t want to tuck into a steak right before bedtime, there are other high-tryptophan foods that make a good bedtime snack. Dried dates, a handful of almonds, some oats and yoghurt, or a bit of quality dark chocolate are all good sources – and it seems like Nana was on to something with the cup of warm milk when you woke up in the night; milk is replete with tired inducing tryptophan to take you back to the land of zzzzs.

Amino acid therapy may be somewhat of an emerging field, however 5HTP, as well as eating more foods high in tryptophan, has already been proven to help with sleep disorders, mood disorders, migraines and tension headaches, PMS and menopausal symptoms – among other conditions.  If you are looking for support for a better sleep or are considering options to manage stress or boost your mood naturally, talk to a Hardy’s expert in-store.




 

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