5-HTP is a naturally occuring, chemical precursor to both seratonin and melatonin. One that we’ve learned how to synthesize and sell as a supplement.
Seratonin and melatonin are both important in the regulation of our sleep, and are seen in synergistic levels during the day – seratonin is pronounced in daylight, and shut down when it’s dark – exactly the opposite of melatonin. Interestingly, seratonin drives the pineal gland where melatonin is produced…
In addition to sleep, 5-HTP is used for depression, anxiety, headaches, fibromyalgia (which is medical terminology for “we have no idea what’s wrong with you”), binge eating, ADHD, and others.
Our interest, though, is the over-the-counter availability of 5-HTP, primarily for sleep, in the UK, the USA, and Canada.
5-HTP acts primarily by increasing seratonin levels in the central nervous system. Since increased seratonin is known to be coincident with sleep, it made sense to try and elevate these levels artificially – enter the supplement.
5-HTP has been shown specifically to increase the amount of REM sleep you can get – although dosage levels seem to be important. Too much 5-HTP can cause vivid dreaming and nightmares, and too little and there’s no effect. About 200mg of 5-HTP before going to bed seems to be the recommended starting dosage.
5-HTP hasn’t been thoroughly, clinically studied, so extra caution with it’s use is warranted. Some of the reported side effects of use include:
Of particular concern is the interaction between 5-HTP and other medications used for treating other disease. If you have any doubt, ask your pharmacist or doctor.