5-HTP, Melatonin & How They Interact
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), a byproduct of the amino acid L-tryptophan, is responsible for producing serotonin, the “feel good” chemical, in our brains. Serotonin is a neurochemical that plays a major role in keeping us balanced and engaged. Usually, when we have higher serotonin levels in the brain, we sleep better, have a good appetite, and are generally more alert and focused. Conversely, low serotonin levels are associated with anxiety, lack of sexual energy and a range of depression symptoms.
When we ingest 5-HTP, it is transported through the bloodstream and into the pineal gland in the brain where it is it is converted into serotonin. As night falls, the pineal gland starts ramping up melatonin production (which is converted from serotonin), which peaks about four hours after we go to bed. Melatonin doesn’t necessarily help us “fall” asleep, but it is responsible for helping us stay on a regular sleep schedule and sleeping more deeply.
Having low melatonin levels can be detrimental to our physiological functioning on many levels. Besides being a key factor in sleep disorders (sleep deprivation causes irritability, memory problems, weight gain, and an increased risk of heart disease, for starters), low melatonin levels can also mess with our immune systems, our blood glucose, and blood pressure regulation and reproductive cycles. It is even thought that maintaining melatonin levels as we age is critical to preventing age-related damage to our bodies.
Why Stack Melatonin and 5-HTP?
Both melatonin and serotonin are integral to keeping our natural body “clock” (or circadian rhythms) functioning smoothly. While melatonin is responsible for the sleep cycle, serotonin is part of what keeps us calm and balanced during the day. When one or both substances are lacking, our entire physiological system gets thrown out of whack, leading to a range of health problems which can easily start a vicious negative spiral if we don’t take steps to keep our systems in check. 5-HTP alone or stacked with Melatonin may be a treatment for sleep disorders over both the short and long term.
Other possible therapeutic uses of 5-HTP with melatonin include:
- PMS: Unofficial reports claim that each of these substances plays a role in managing symptoms associated with PMS, namely regarding mood and/or sleeping irregularities.
- Some suggest this supplement stack works well for lucid dreaming.
- Both melatonin and 5-HTP could be useful in treating fibromyalgia.
Consumer Reports & Discussions on 5-HTP and Melatonin Stacks
“Melatonin works for me [for sleep]. I had really bad insomnia my whole life until I started taking melatonin. Most of the products you see in stores have too high of a dosage, you really only want 1-1.5mg (in higher doses it can have the opposite effect: making you sleep worse). Take it 30 min before bed.“
“Hello. Just thought I’d give a warning about supplementing with 5HTP or melatonin. My mood has been dysphoric for the past couple months and I’ve been trying to figure out why I feel so crappy. During that time I’ve been supplementing with 5HTP and melatonin. I thought 5HTP, being a precursor to serotonin, would help my depression. The melatonin helped me get to sleep, of course. My mood kept getting worse.”
One study suggests that taking vitamin D can act as complementary support to melatonin. This may be useful in ensuring that melatonin does not lead to symptoms of depression, which is reported by some users.
The most effective and highly-rated natural aid supplements usually include a combination of 5-HTP, Melatonin, B 6, GABA, and L-Theanine. These nootropics, as well as Magnesium, SAM-e, Valerian Root, Ashwagandha and Phenibut are reported as effective stacking options with 5-HTP and melatonin for sleeplessness and anxiety.
Side Effects, Warnings, and Dosages
Each of these substances is generally considered safe on their own with very little in the way of side effects. No harmful interactions have been reported from using 5-HTP and melatonin together, however, it’s important to remember that neither substance is approved by the FDA as an official treatment for sleep disorders or other health issues.
- In rare instances, supplemental 5-HTP can lead to serotonin syndrome, a condition that may be more likely to occur by taking the two at high doses and in tandem.
- Both melatonin and 5-HTP can interact with depression-related/sedative-type medications and supplements.
- It is thought that melatonin may amplify sleep problems and depression for some people.
- Do not use either product if you are pregnant or nursing.
- It is questionable whether giving melatonin to children or adults over 65 is safe.
- While melatonin is reportedly safe for long term use (in low doses), 5-HTP is recommended for short term use.
- Side effects of each of these substances are generally mild but can include headaches, drowsiness, stomach upsets, sexual dysfunction, depression, sleepiness, and irritability.
Melatonin: Start with 1 mg (or less) an hour before bedtime
5-HTP: Start with 100 mg an hour before bedtime