Insomnia is an epidemic in this country. One in 8 or 32 million people in the United States do not get a restful nights sleep. There are many causes of sleep problems including medication side effects, hormonal changes (in menopause), alcoholism, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, narcolepsy, allergies and many more. One of the most common causes that I see that disrupts a person’s sleep is anxiety, which occurs more often in women than men. Women may feel tired and get to sleep, but they awaken in the night thinking or worrying and often have difficulty falling back to sleep.
I have used a supplement to help patents improve their sleep quality called “L-theanine”. It is abundant in tea (especially green teas) and offers benefits beyond relaxation. It is an organic compound and amino acid, but instead of this amino acid forming the building blocks of protein, L-theanine is “free” in tea and not bound to protein.
L-Theanine works by increasing the brain’s levels of alpha waves which promotes relaxation and mental clarity at the same time. It is similar to the effects of meditation. Theanine also functions like a neurotransmitter by boosting the brain’s levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a calming neurotransmitter. GABA inhibits the excitatory neurons in the brain and is critical for sleep. Many prescription sleep medications work by stimulating GABA. Other benefits of theanine include weight loss, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of stroke, enhancing the immune system and protecting against liver toxicity.
One Japanese company, Taiyo, owns more than 65 patents on theanine. The company’s Suntheanine brand of theanine has the greatest purity, consistency and reliability in the marketplace. Many other commercial theanine supplements contain the inactive D-theanine form. Look for a small Suntheanine logo on the supplement. I recommend 100-200 mg of L-theanine and up to 750 mg of GABA to help stay sleep and quiet the “chatter” we hear in our head. Theanine can also be taken with food or between meals during the day to help reduce anxiety without feeling drowsy.