Medically Reviewed By Elizabeth A. Swick, MS, RDN
L-Theanine for Stress Reduction and Better Sleep
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for adults aged 18 and over, but following that guideline isn't always easy. If you're like many people, you make an effort to get enough rest but struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. For those who want to get better sleep, l-theanine may be a solution. Read on to learn more about using l-theanine for sleep.
What Is L-Theanine?
L-theanine falls under the category of non-protein amino acids. This means it is similar in structure to the building blocks used to create proteins, but the human body does not need it. In 1948, Japanese researchers discovered it in green tea leaves. In the years that followed, studies have shown that l-theanine may be responsible for some of the potential health benefits of tea.
How Does L-Theanine Help With Sleep?
Early research studies suggest that l-theanine may support sleep by affecting the production of neurotransmitters. Specifically, the substance may increase dopamine and serotonin manufacturing. It may also help the body make GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that calms the nervous system. Research also shows that l-theanine may increase alpha brain waves associated with relaxation. Together, these effects may help the mind and body relax when it's time for sleep.
What l-theanine doesn't do is act as a sedative. As a result, it is less likely to cause drowsiness or make it difficult to wake up in the morning than other sleep aids.
What Are Some Other L-Theanine Benefits?
The actions of l-theanine suggest that it may offer additional benefits beyond supporting sleep.
L-Theanine for Natural Stress Relief
By boosting alpha brain wave activity and encouraging the production of neurotransmitters, l-theanine may help to counteract the effects of stress hormones.
When you're in a stressful situation, your body releases stress hormones to prepare you to fight or flee from the stressor. Unfortunately, modern-day sources of stress are chronic problems like grief, relationship troubles, and financial concerns. This means that stress hormones can stay elevated for long periods and cause adverse health effects.
L-theanine may make it easier for your body to relax during times of stress to help keep these hormones in check. Because stress may contribute to insomnia, the potential natural stress relief benefits of l-theanine may also enhance its effectiveness in promoting restful sleep.
L-Theanine for Mood Support
Some people take l-theanine to improve mood naturally. Dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters are often called happy hormones because they are linked to the brain's pleasure center and reward system. Research shows that low levels of serotonin and dopamine contribute to symptoms of depression, and many antidepressant medications work by increasing levels of one or both of these chemicals in the brain.
While l-theanine is not proven to be a substitute for antidepressant medications or a cure for depression, its ability to aid in neurotransmitter production may positively affect mood. The potential mood-boosting benefits of l-theanine may also be helpful for people who wish to use the amino acid for sleep, as a lack of sleep may cause irritability and mood swings.
What Are Some Sources of L-Theanine?
One way to add more l-theanine to your diet is to drink tea daily. All teas typically provide at least some l-theanine, but the content can vary significantly from product to product.
Because l-theanine is not a macro or micronutrient, labels typically don't disclose how much l-theanine different teas contain, making it very difficult to choose one. Plus, tea also contains caffeine that can interfere with sleep. For these reasons, many people use supplements to get l-theanine for stress and anxiety or better sleep.
When shopping for an l-theanine supplement, consider the type of amino acid it contains and the dose. Suntheanine l-theanine is a proprietary form of amino acid that has been clinically shown to support relaxation without causing drowsiness. This pure form of l-theanine is one of the critical ingredients in Body Kitchen Stress Release.
Tips for Taking L-Theanine
Before taking an l-theanine supplement, talk to your health care provider. They can advise you as to whether a particular product is right for you. To support restful sleep, take l-theanine at night. For stress and anxiety, consider taking the morning supplement before starting your daily routine.