How Does Gut Health Affect Sleep?

Gut health affects your body's ability to fall asleep and stay asleep

Tryptophan (TRP) is an essential amino acid, which means that it must be included in the diet because the body cannot produce it. Tryptophan is used by gut bacteria to manufacture several important metabolites, including serotonin. 

Serotonin is essential for sleep and a variety of normal brain processes that affect mood, behavior, memory, and learning. Low levels of serotonin can be linked to emotional imbalances and sleep difficulty.

  • Why take care of your gut to support your sleep health? Because approximately 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut.
  • To support serotonin production in the gut and in the brain, it is important to include a variety of protein dense foods because they most often contain tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin.
  • Protein intake is important for serotonin production, but a healthy gut microbiome is key to being able to properly utilize nutrients like protein in the diet. 
  •  Support the gut microbiome in producing serotonin by including a variety of whole fibrous foods.
  • Low serotonin levels may benefit from supplementation. 5-HTP and Vitamin B6 can support serotonin levels. But, advise against them if taking any SSRIs. 
  • Melatonin supports the body's natural ability to fall asleep. 

About Melatonin Supplements

  • When starting a melatonin supplement, start with a low-dose of 2-3 mg. 
  • Take melatonin 1-2 hours before bed. Assess for negative side effects the next morning including nightmares or grogginess the next morning. If negative side effects continue, reduce dose or take earlier the next evening.
  • Increase dose to 5-6 mg if lower dose does not support sleep cycles. 
  • Over use of melatonin can reduce the body's natural production of melatonin. Use melatonin as needed, not on a daily basis, unless absolutely necessary.  


Carpenter, Siri. “That Gut Feeling.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, Sept. 2012, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling.

Friedman, Mendel. “Analysis, Nutrition, and Health Benefits of Tryptophan.” International Journal of Tryptophan Research: IJTR, SAGE Publications, 26 Sept. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6158605/.

Yano, Jessica M., et al. “Indigenous Bacteria from the Gut Microbiota Regulate Host Serotonin Biosynthesis.” Cell, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 9 Apr. 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393509/.

Hinz, Marty, et al. “5-HTP Efficacy and Contraindications.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, Dove Medical Press, 19 July 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3415362/.

O’Mahony, S.M., et al. “Serotonin, Tryptophan Metabolism and the Brain-Gut-Microbiome Axis.” Behavioural Brain Research, Elsevier, 29 July 2014, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166432814004768.

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