L-tryptophan: an amino acid
L-tryptophan belongs to the essential amino acids, i.e. it cannot be produced by the human body itself, but must be supplied with food. In nature, the amino acids occur in two different forms with different functions. In the left-handed position and in the right-handed position. In the human body, however, only the amino acids in the L configuration play an important role. In the central nervous system, L-tryptophan is converted via several intermediate steps into serotonin, from which melatonin is formed
Serotonin the “happiness hormone
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has a wide variety of important functions, including controlling or influencing perception, temperature regulation, sensory perception, pain perception and sleep, but serotonin has many more functions. Among the best-known effects are its effects on mood. Feelings of contentment, serenity and calmness predominate, and at the same time it dampens various negative emotional states, such as anxiety, aggressiveness or grief. Neurochemically, depressive moods can often be traced back to a lack of serotonin or its precursor, the tryptophan.
Melatonin the “sleep hormone
The hormone melatonin is produced from serotonin in a part of the diencephalon called the pineal gland (epiphysis). Melatonin controls our day-night rhythm. Too low melatonin levels can be associated with sleep disorders. This happens, for example, with increasing age, as the body can produce less melatonin. But irregular work and shift work can also upset melatonin production, and when travelling long distances, the melatonin balance can be disturbed by the time change. Daylight, which lasts only a few hours in winter, can also influence the daily rhythm of melatonin production. The result can be fatigue, but also sleep disturbances and a so-called winter depression