5-HTP is a commonly recommended supplement because it’s natural, the body metabolizes it into the neurotransmitters we want when taking it (serotonin and melatonin), and when taking it in sufficient dosage, (up to 100 mg or so) it can help us get some quality sleep.
There is a very important reason to learn why some of your 5-HTP supplements aren’t working for what you want to use it for however, or why its purported applications for mood don’t seem to work.
Why 5-HTP doesn’t work: Your body’s metabolism
The body is all about homeostasis: it wants to remain at balance in all systems as much as possible and with the least effort possible.
Adding 5-HTP to your regimen means your body necessarily uses it to make serotonin and melatonin. However, because this addition of 5-HTP isn’t steady, the body makes short work of it, and quickly metabolizes the extra serotonin and melatonin. Generally, the turn-around for 5-HTP is approximately a couple hours,1 meaning they get a nice boost in those neurotransmitters — for a short time.
So what can you do if you want to use 5-HTP during the daytime, or to ensure that you get a full night’s rest on a steady supply of those neurotransmitters without causing spikes and falls in your serotonin/melatonin levels?
Why your 5-HTP doesn’t work: You need a delayed release formula!
I have to admit that 5-HTP wasn’t ever that significant to me until I came across Natrol’s 5-HTP TR formula. TR standing for “Time Release.”
The formula appears to contain some form of calcium that helps to slow the tablet from breaking down so quickly in the body. Instead of unleashing all of that 5-HTP on your system all at once, it releases it in a slow trickle so that it creates a gentler increase in serotonin rather than a spike and a fall.
There are plenty of favorable reviews for this one on iHerb as well. Because of all the glowing accolades from users stating that it helped with their depression, their sleep pattern, and their mood in general despite never having heard of this specific supplement before, I decided I needed to try it for myself.
My experience (so far) with Natrol’s 5-HTP TR
Obviously, when taking the Natrol 5-HTP TR formula, the drowsy effects you would get from taking regular 5-HTP don’t set in anywhere nearly as quickly and intensely with this one, to a point where they are nearly nonexistent. At worst, for myself, I got a few yawns after taking it during the daytime, but it was nothing that a cup of coffee couldn’t fix. This was perfect.
In fact, the time release 5-HTP kept me at a chipper mood throughout the day in a way I’d not experienced with 5-HTP before, and this has happened consistently while taking it. I wasn’t beaming smiles happy in the way you might experience with kratom’s opioid effects, but it was a welcome and reassuring effect for sure.
I have taken it for sleep and had restful sleep with plenty of dreams to count. It didn’t revolutionize my sleep per se as I do not presently have any sleep issues, but knowing 5-HTP, it should help those who have issues with waking up frequently in the middle of the night for no apparent reason.
I do intend on taking this supplement daily to explore how it impacts me. The effects so far on the occasions that I’ve tried it are favorable and interesting.
Time release 5-HTP vs. regular 5-HTP
The major differences between the Natrol 5-HTP TR and a regular 5-HTP supplement are the onset, intensity and duration of effect.
The Natrol 5-HTP TR generally had a delayed onset, the intensity was gentle, not “sudden” as normal 5-HTP, and lasted (by my entirely fallible subjective guess) for around 4-6 hours.
Normal 5-HTP in my experience hits you relatively quickly, and disappears quickly. So obviously, alone, it doesn’t work as well for maintaining a steady mood or a steady restful sleep.
So my regular 5-HTP doesn’t work?
No, that’s just my clickbait keyworded title. (Don’t hate the player, hate the game).
Regular old 5-HTP still does what it does effectively, but at a different duration and intensity of effect. You could still use a small dose of regular 5-HTP to help yourself fall asleep faster, and this is exactly what it excels at. One of the iHerb reviewers mentions taking regular 5-HTP in addition to the time release one (being mindful of dosage of course!).
Natrol’s 5-HTP TR formula will help you stay asleep at night, but it will also take a little while to kick in by comparison. So if you wanted, you could have the best of both worlds, by taking a small dose of regular 5-HTP and a tablet of the Natrol TR formula as one of the reviewers did. Again, being mindful of the total dosage. You really don’t want to overload on serotonin.
If you never got much out of 5-HTP but are still willing to give it another shot, you should try Natrol’s 5-HTP TR. The time release formula makes a world of difference, not to mention it’s inexpensive. Whether you are already a 5-HTP user, or have never tried it before, I would definitely recommend this specific supplement.
I personally think it’s among the more innovative supplement preparations I’ve seen, and would seriously consider making this one a mainstay in my supplement arsenal.
PubMed — Kinetics of l-5-hydroxytryptophan in healthy subjects. ↩