Does 5-HTP Work for Sleep?

Posted August 18, 2020 by in Health + Fitness
woman sleeping

Are you having trouble staying asleep or better yet falling asleep altogether? If it really bothers you, 5-HTP might be for you. However, there are some very important things to consider before you get out there and buy it OTC. 

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know, starting with the causes of sleep disorders, and ending with the safety profile of 5-HTP.

So does 5-HTP work for sleep? Keep reading to find out:

5-htp for insomnia

What Causes Sleep Disorders?

Most sleep disorders, including insomnia, are characterized as the lack of ability to fall asleep or stay asleep for as long as needed. Long periods of sleep deprivation can lead to significant health depreciation. For instance, cognitive impairment, heart disease, diminished immunity, obesity, etc.

In the short-term, even after a single night of low sleep quality, an individual might experience a lack of focus, fatigue, and a an abnormal mood profile. Insomnia is one of the most common out of the disorders and is defined by a habitual inability to fall asleep.

Insomnia can truly be caused by a variety of factors. For instance, stimulants and psychoactive drugs, injuries and pain, stress, and anxiety. And even neurological disorders.

Insomnia can also be a result of environmental effects, such as shift work or jet lag. For example, shift work can cause excessive sleepiness and insomnia. That means any person who has rotating work shifts with normal sleep time overlap is at high risk for health depreciation.

Does 5-HTP Work for Sleep?

So does 5-HTP work for sleep? Well, you’re about to find out.  5-HTP is a natural chemical precursor for a variety of neurotransmitters and hormones. The human mechanism creates this compound from the processing of Tryptophan. 

Tryptophan on its own is an amino acid and is present in various foods, such as red meats, soy proteins, eggs, fish, and spinach. Tryptophan, either supplemented or from the diet is broken down via the liver into 5-HTP. It is also broken down into other additional metabolites, such as Vitamin B3.

Once Tryptophan has been processed, the 5-HTP will travel through the blood into the brain. That’s when it crosses the blood-brain barrier, which separates the bloodstream from the brain itself.

Once inside of the brain, the 5-HTP is converted into Serotonin. Also known as happiness neurotransmitter. Serotonin is always at a high when you are experiencing feelings of calm, relaxation, and happiness.

Circadian Rhythm Effect

Serotonin can subsequently be converted into Melatonin. Melatonin is the main hormone directly involved in sleep onset and maintenance of circadian rhythm (daily sleep/wake cycle).

The supplement of 5-HTP is sourced from Griffonia Simplicifolia, which is an African climbing shrub. The seeds of the plant contain anywhere from 5% to 25% of pure 5-HTTP.

When you purchase 5-HTP, you must consider that the dosages of the product are based on the 5-HTP content. Not the plant extract. This will help you ensure that you are taking the right dosages. Thus carefully affecting the Serotonin/Melatonin levels in the brain.

Now, none of this answers the question directly, but this is only the beginning. As you can see, 5-HTP plays a part in sleep, so supplementation can help. But how exactly? 

Regulating Serotonin and Melatonin via 5-HTP

As you’ve realized, 5-HTP is paramount to the biosynthesis of Melatonin and Seratonin.

Increasing your Serotonin levels will have various effects on the body, and it can lead to reduced feelings of stress or anxiety. It is often accompanied by feelings of happiness, and a universal sense of well-being.

By depleting the susceptibility of the body to over-excite, Serotonin can most likely eliminate one of the primary causes of insomnia. This means that 5-HTP on its own, as a sleep supplement can be useful for quieting the mind and body in preparation to fall asleep.

In addition to that, by boosting the Melatonin, 5-HTP might improve overall sleep quality. Thus helping the patient achieve deep states of rest for a longer period of time.

Melatonin is paramount to circadian rhythm regulation, which is the 24-hour cycle that plants, animals, and humans experience in response to light and darkness, among other things.

Throughout the day, Melatonin is kept low because there is a lot of ambient light around us, while Serotonin is at its highest during the daytime.

When night falls, the sun has set and the darkness has come. In this period, Serotonin will switch to Melatonin (not entirely), which means your body will begin to prepare for the sleep state.

Any circadian rhythm disturbance will have an impactful effect on quality, ease, and frequency of sleep. By employing the use of a 5-HTP supplement, an individual might be able to restore their natural sleep cycle.

5-HTP pills bypass the light-detecting system in our bodies, which gives you control over when and how you want to fall asleep. This is irrespective of other environmental or internal factors.

5-HTP might also facilitate reduced sleeplessness by increasing the Melatonin, thus leading to quicker and more restful sleep.

How Do I Take 5-HTP for Sleep?

For the most optimal results, it is recommended to take your dosage right before sleep, however, other sources recommend 30 minutes before bed. The supplement itself is most often in a pill, powder, or capsule form.

Some people even take 5-HTP and Melatonin together, and there is a hypothesis that the two might have a synergistic effect when taken together.

Because of this, some supplement companies have developed a combination of formulas for this purpose alone. For instance, you might find a supplement with Melatonin, 5-HTP, and L-Theanine.

As far as science is concerned, there are no negative effects when you mix the two together, and you can do so if you please. However, they do not need to be taken together for you to experience beneficial effects. 

The effective dose is variable for each person, based on their age, personal sensitivities, weight, etc. It’s advised that you start with the smallest dose possible, and increase only at necessity.

For instance, these are the best sleep gummies, which are health-centric and lead to better sleep.

And most importantly, you should consider speaking to your doctor to determine if 5-HTP is even appropriate for your sleep needs, and if so, what dosage you should be taking.

5-HTP Safety Profile

5-HTP is considered a “Possibly Safe” chemical for oral use in adults (on the Natural Medicines database). Also, 5-HTP should be avoided by nursing or pregnant women, as it is considered “Possibly Unsafe.”

Most prescription sleep solutions will have a hangover effect that might cause sluggishness the next day, especially if one was not able to experience 8 hours of sleep. So one of the reasons people use 5-HTP is because it has a reduced side-effect profile. 

5-HTP users say that there is no hangover effect with this natural supplement. However, it’s still important to consider the potential adverse effects that might occur, and this is true for any neurology active supplement, whether it’s synthetic or natural.

The side effects of 5-HTP are mild if not abused. Some gastrointestinal issues might occur from the increase in Serotonin levels. If excessive 5-HTP has been converted to Serotonin in the intestine, it might cause muscle contraction, resulting in diarrhea or nausea. A user might also experience stomach cramps, heartburn, or loss of appetite.

Serotonin Syndrome

With any Serotonin affecting substance, there is potential for developing Serotonin Syndrome, however, the risk is increased if you mix 5-HTP with an antidepressant of the Monamine Oxidase Inhibitor (MAOI) or Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitor (SSRI) class.

Serotonin Syndrome is a potentially fatal disorder that occurs when the Serotonin stimulation is excessive in brain receptors. Regular symptoms are irregular heartbeat, excessive sweating, and brain fog.

Serotonin Syndrome is a very serious and potentially fatal condition that occurs when there is too much stimulation of Serotonin neuro-receptors in the brain. Symptoms include excessive sweating, mental “fog”, and irregular heartbeat.

As you’ve gathered, anyone taking 5-HTP for sleep-aid should consult a medical specialist beforehand. A specialist will make sure that the drug is suitable for you, and that it does not conflict with medication that you might be taking.

So even though 5-HTP is universally safe, it’s important to use it properly to avoid health issues.


Now that you know the answer to the question of “Does 5-HTP work for sleep?”, you are well on your way to deciding if it’s right for you. 

Sleep is important, but your health is more important. If you can resolve your health conditions naturally, then more power to you, but 5-HTP is relatively safe, so we see why you might want to try it. 

In any case, if you’re interested in other health-related topics, navigate to our blog and find the applicable category for your interests.