If you’re into lucid dreaming, you’re going to LOVE Tryptophan and what it can do. Let’s explore this a bit more. And if you’re in a hurry, here’s where you get this stuff cheap, online.
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Dreams have always been thought of as a person’s intuition, an omen, a prophecy, or simply a conjuring of your own wild imagination.
The definition of a dream is described as “a universal human experience” triggered by sensory, cognitive and emotional occurrences during sleep.
But what triggers a dream? Do personal encounters and memories affect what happens in your dreams?
There are a number of theories surrounding the causes of dreams. Some people look at them as a representation of their innermost desires and wishes, while others take their dreams as a form of psychotherapy and deriving meaningful ways to cope with their problems.
Researchers even argued that dreams may be nothing more than a cognitive process summarising the events of the day, which may explain why we see familiar faces or places and hear familiar sounds or voices.
Everyone dreams in their sleep. While we forget what we dreamt about 95% of the time, at some point in our lives, we have all gone through the 5 phases of sleep.
- Phase 1: Reduced muscle activity, leading to light sleep.
- Phase 2: Slow eye movement stops, brainwave activity slows down.
- Phase 3: Much slower brainwaves, or “delta waves”, begin to form.
- Phase 4: Entering deep sleep, with no muscle or eye movement.
- Phase 5 (rapid eye movement): Eye movement quickens, breathing becomes more rapid, with an increasing heart rate, blood pressure.
And it’s the last phase – called the REM phase – that many researchers and studies have associated with the cause of dreaming.
Generally, the dreamer would have limited control over the nature of the dream. But there are studies that show that controlling one’s dream is in fact a learnable skill.
One can learn what his dreams will contain, and how they turn out.
What if you could boost the intensity of your dreams and remember them? What if you could change your dreams to ones that make you happy?
This article will explain how you are able to do this, with an easy-to-find little chemical called tryptophan.
What is tryptophan?
Tryptophan is an amino acid that can influence your dreams, and overall happiness. It is responsible for the two of the many things that drive us as humans: sleep and emotions.
Sleep is a basic need and is essential to start the day. Studies have shown that the body (meaning, you) benefit greatly when you get sufficient rest.
This is because after a long day of working, walking, exercising, eating, your body needs to recuperate at the end of the day and recharge.
Some of the benefits of sleep include:
- Enhancing memory & problem-solving skills
- Improving physical & athletic performance
- Boosts the immune system
One of the reasons your body gets these benefits from simply getting enough sleep is because of this amino acid. Tryptophan contributes to both optimal sleep and mood cycles.
How does it work?
As with all amino acids, the way they work goes deeper at a cellular level. Converted from the vitamin B-6, which is found in a wide variety of foods, tryptophan helps in the regulation of your body functions – and they’re commonly used during therapy to treat insomnia and anxiety.
It is important for just about anybody at any age.
For infants, tryptophan helps in a normal and healthy growth. It is important for brain development and helps in regulating digestion and sleep cycles in babies.
For adults, it helps control how you are feeling.
It has been observed in a study that by lowering the levels of tryptophan in participants, they reported experiencing mood disorders and in some cases, clinical depression.
They also found that increased levels of tryptophan contributed to better moods and sleep.
All the more reason to understand how tryptophan works in the body.
The body synthesises tryptophan in the brain to create hormones, or “brain-signals”, like serotonin and melatonin. The term ‘synthesize’ implies that these amino acids are created chemically in the brain, and only exist for a certain period of time.
This is why it is crucial to replenish the levels of tryptophan in the body for a healthier psychological, physiological and physical state.
It is also good to note that low levels of tryptophan is linked with poor dream recall!
Tryptophan is responsible for many essential bodily functions, as it is converted to produce other fundamental chemicals in the body. Most importantly, for the purpose of this article, they convert to become important hormones including serotonin, melatonin and N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
All of which play a part in our dreams.
- Serotonin: The mood influencer
As a synthetic hormone, serotonins are converted through the chemical combination of the tryptophan protein and tryptophan hydroxylase, which is an enzyme created during the synthesization of the serotonin hormone.
And all this is happening in your brain.
Serotonin affects the brain and intestines mostly, including your cognitive functions, sleep cycles and mood swings, or how you feel. It is also present in the central nervous system (CNS), allowing it to directly influence the body and mind. It is known to benefit in the following ways:
- Facilitates a good sleep cycle by regulating circadian rhythm (the internal process that your body goes through to recognize night- and day-time)
- Promotes a regular appetite
- Enhancing memory & problem-solving skills
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Of course it does.
Also commonly known as a neurotransmitter, serotonin is also widely associated with all emotions – fear, anxiety, sad, happy. A surge of serotonin can lead to positive emotions, such as feelings of bliss, contentment and pleasure.
Low levels of serotonin may result in depression. Many antidepressants are labelled as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) because these drugs help to regulate moods and treat depression.
Serotonin is an important player in our neurotransmission.
You can boost your body’s serotonin levels through good nutrition, regular exercise, surrounding yourself with loved ones, going out during the daytime more often, or simply by consuming tryptophan supplements.
We’ll talk about the supplements in a bit.
- Melatonin: The sleep regulator
Melatonin, on the other hand, helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. It is most notable during this part of the day, and too little of it may cause sleep disorders like insomnia.
Similar to the serotonin hormone, melatonin is produced in the brain (converted from tryptophan) and carried to all parts of the body, with peak production levels occurring during the night.
This helps to regulate your body’s circadian rhythm.
Because of this, you are more likely to experience the REM phase.
Partly because the brain just won’t sit quietly stil (metaphorically) but because your body has a more regulated circadian rhythm, it goes through each of the five stages of sleep – the last one of which includes the REM cycle, when the most vivid of dreams happen.
Low levels of melatonin have been linked to various diseases, which include mood disorders and dementia. Some reported having suffered from sleep disturbances during the night, and it can lead to long-term disorders and impact our work and social life.
We all know how devastating it can be to try to get through a day with a lack of sleep.
These can be countered by taking melatonin tablets, which aid in reducing the difficulty in falling asleep and regulating the body’s circadian rhythm.
You can fall asleep faster than you can say “melatonin”!
For the rest of us, you can boost your melatonin levels by consuming foods rich in melatonin or tryptophan, such as dairy, poultry and seafood.
- N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT): The psychoactive drug
Often mistaken for a psychedelic, DMT can also be naturally produced in the body, albeit for a short period of time.
While tryptophan goes through a whole chain process before finally settling as DMT, the enzymes in our bodies break these down before the DMT chemical is able to exert its full effect. This is why we don’t hallucinate, even if our bodies produce DMT.
You put all these together – the improved mood levels, a regulated circadian rhythm, better REM sleep – and you’ll be on your way to sleeping well and having good dreams every night.
Tryptophan and lucid dreaming
Most of the time when we dream, it just doesn’t register in our brains that we are in one. Everything feels real and genuine, and as mentioned we will forget what we dreamt about when we wake up 95% of the time.
But what happens when you know you’re in a dream?
When one is fully aware that they are, in fact, in a dream, it is called “lucid dreaming”, and it is with this level of consciousness that allows some of us who are capable of doing so to narrate our dreams as we please.
Imagine dreaming that you could fly. We’ve all had that dream once before.
Now imagine you know you’re in a dream, and you’re flying. You could decide where your wings would take you, see who you want to see, go where you want to go.
It is more common than you think. More than 70% of participants in a study conducted in Brazil had experienced lucid dreaming once in their lives, and were able to recall their dreams. These ranged from identifying familiar faces, voices, and images in their dreams.
Tryptophan is one of the chemicals that promotes dream lucidity and recall. You can control your dreams and impart positive emotions into them.
As the amino acid that is responsible for the brain’s production of the mood-influencer hormone serotonin and sleep-regulator neurotransmitter melatonin, it’s easy to see how tryptophan directly impacts our dreams and emotions.
Now, who wouldn’t want that?
Including tryptophan in your diet
Because the human body cannot produce its own amino acids, therefore it is only acquired through the food that you eat.
It’s a good thing that you can find tryptophan in almost all proteins.
Proteins include all dairy, poultry and seafood. Different types of food contain varying amounts of tryptophan, so it is recommended to have a healthy serving of proteins to increase your tryptophan intake.
For starters, if you eat about 30g of chicken, that gives you about 0.41g of tryptophan. It is also recommended that adults should have a daily intake of 150 to 600 milligrams of tryptophan to reap its full benefits.
Other foods that are rich in tryptophan include:
- Turkey: about 0.39g
- Tuna: about 0.38g
- Lamb: about 0.35g
- Salmon: about 0.35g
- Halibut about 0.34g
- Shrimp: about 0.33g
- Codfish: about 0.29g
Consume too little tryptophan-rich foods and you may find yourself feeling moody, depressed and suffering from sleep disorders, which could potentially lead to poor performance in your studies or at work.
This is due to the suppressed amounts of serotonin or melatonin that your body is able to convert with the amount of tryptophan you consume.
Simply by eating right, you can get all the tryptophan that your body needs!
On a plant diet? Good news – you can also increase your tryptophan intake with nuts, legumes and whole grains. These foods are also known to contain high levels of tryptophan, and they help you sleep better:
- Nuts and seeds: Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds
- Legumes: Tofu, soybeans
- Whole grains: Quinoa, oats
Including tryptophan supplements or sleep-aids
Better known as L-tryptophan supplements, some people take these to help them sleep. They serve as sleep-aids, because of its effects that include drowsiness and euphoria – two things that help put you in good and happy dreams.
It is recommended that a dose is taken roughly 45 minutes to an hour before bedtime. It helps to shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, but while it has its benefits, there are known side effects of taking L-tryptophan supplements.
Side effects can include blurred vision, dry mouth, dizziness, or nausea. It is always better to consult your doctor before buying or taking L-tryptophan supplements.
That is not to say that tryptophan is bad for you, though.
If you have difficulty falling asleep during the night, this may help you fall asleep faster. But if you’re looking to boost your dreams (and cheer yourself up while you’re at it), maybe opt for tryptophan-rich foods instead.
You may find yourself sleeping through the night and waking up happier in the morning.
It’s all any one of us could dream of.
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