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5-HTP appears to improve the quality of sleep in normal subjects as well as those with
insomnia. Evidence suggests that REM sleep and deep sleep are increased without
increasing overall sleep time, i.e. the proportion of quality sleep is increased. 5-HTP is
one step closer to serotonin and has been shown to provide better results than Ltryptophan
in relation to insomnia. 5-HTP converts efficiently in the brain to
serotonin, which is a potent tranquillising agent. Some researchers consider 5-HTP to
be the most efficacious natural sleep-promoting agent available.

Magnesium and Calcium

Primarily due to their requirement for proper function of the nerves and muscles,
deficiencies in the minerals magnesium and calcium may lead to irritability, tension and
insomnia. Magnesium is also a cofactor for the conversion of tryptophan into
serotonin, the sleep-inducing neurotransmitter.
Valerian Root (valeriana officinalis)
Studies have found that the herb valerian root reduces the time it takes to fall asleep,
improves sleep quality and reduces the frequency of waking up at night. It is non-habit
forming and for the majority does not appear to produce excessive sleepiness or
grogginess upon waking.

A recent clinical trial at the National Institute of Mental Health in Japan involving 22
young men demonstrated L-theanine’s ability to promote quality sleep. When 200 mg
of L-theanine was given to the subjects before bedtime, it enhanced the quality of
actual sleep of all the participants. Upon waking, all subjects reported a significant
absence of “feeling exhausted,” and a reduced need for sleep. This study also showed
that L-theanine produced a remarkable improvement in sleep efficiency– an index of
actual sleep time enjoyed between the time of falling asleep and waking. The study
confirmed that L-theanine improves the quality of sleep by allowing the mind to fully
rest and recuperate.

Insomnia Summary
Nutrient/Herb Typical intake range
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)1 50 - 300mg 45 mins before retiring
Magnesium2 200 – 300mg 45mins before retiring
Calcium3 400 – 600mg 45 mins before retiring
Valerian root extract (0.8% valerenic acid)4 150 – 300mg 45 mins before retiring
L-Theanine5 50-600mg per day


Caffeinated beverages
Refined carbohydrates


Complex carbohydrates
Vegetables (esp. dark leafy green)
Nuts and seeds
Whole grains

Lifestyle Factors

Take regular, gentle exercise
Minimise impact of stress (use stress management techniques)
Practice relaxation techniques as part of bed-time routine
Promote balanced blood sugar – low blood sugar levels during the night can trigger early

1. May increase risk of scleroderma-like symptoms in susceptible individuals. May cause serotonin
syndrome if combined with antidepressant drugs that increase serotonin levels – avoid concurrent use.
Best avoided by pregnant women and nursing mothers.
2. High doses may cause loose stools. Concurrent use with heart medication under medical supervision.
Avoid high doses in kidney diseases.
3. Do not take concurrently with blood pressure medication unless under medical supervision. Those
with hyper-parathyroid conditions should not use calcium supplements unless under medical
4. Do not use during pregnancy or lactation. May potentiate the side effects of sedatives. Do not use
concurrently with MAOI antidepressants. Warfarin or phenytoin.
5. May increase the activity of chemotherapeutic agents in tumour cells. Not to be taken concurrently
with anti-depressant medication. Do not take during pregnancy or lactation.