L-tryptophan is actually one of the 20 standard amino acids in the human diet. Although there is the myth that Thanksgiving Turkey dinner is solely responsible for fostering a good relaxed sleep due to the L-tryptophan content, this is largely placebo because the amount of l-tryptophan in turkey is relatively standard compared to other protein-containing foods. In fact, there are more likely other factors that will have contributed to the sleep effect. L-tryptophan is a biochemical precursor to serotonin, niacin and auxin. L-tryptophan is found in a variety of foods but is also taken as a dietary supplement, specifically as a sleep aid and a mood regulator. Its attraction for those interested in mood regulation is for those who believe in its association with serotonin. It is said that l-tryptophan can be converted into 5-htp, which can then be converted into serotonin. While serotonin itself will not readily cross the blood-brain barrier, some users believe these conversions are capable of taking place within the body to increase the levels of serotonin in the brain from the inside. It is also said that at night the pineal gland is able to convert serotonin into melatonin which can foster sleep in some individuals. As a result of these potential conversions, L-tryptophan has been linked to relaxation, mood regulation and sleep regulation.
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