A combination of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) can often improve sleep duration more than the use of either of these two amino acids alone. I blogged about this and the supporting research published in 2016.
Eve asked this question about her chronic sleep problems and headaches that she suspects are being triggered by the supplements:
I have chronic insomnia and I have been using 100mg 5-HTP, 250mg GABA and 1mg melatonin during the night for a week but the second day I used them I started getting a headache. Do you have idea what happened and can you please help me?
I shared this feedback about each person having unique needs and that I trial one amino acid at a time to find the ideal dose and then once we have a good baseline with good results and no adverse effects, we add the next one if needed. With 3 new supplements being started at once, we don’t know which one may be helping and which one (or more) is causing headaches.
A reminder I give all my clients is NOT to push through with the amino acids when you are experiencing any adverse effects. Headaches are more common with tyrosine rather than 5-HTP or GABA but too much of any one of the amino acids may cause a headache and with some folks, even a small amount can cause a headache especially if it’s not needed. At the first sign of a headache my advice is to stop the latest supplement added and see how you do. If 3 where started at one time, as in this situation, stop all 3 and add them back one at a time, watching for headaches and benefits.
Eve didn’t say which GABA product she was using. Source Naturals GABA Calm is the one I most often recommend, and the small amount of tyrosine could be causing her headaches. If this is the case, a switch to a GABA-only product or a GABA-theanine product may be what is needed.
It’s always important to also review the amino acid precautions before use. If you have migraines, tyrosine may make them worse.
But I do want to also add that some folks cannot tolerate 500mg tyrosine at all and yet they do just fine with the 25mg of tyrosine in the GABA Calm product (and sometimes up to 75mg of tyrosine when three GABA Calm lozenges are needed at once).
It’s also good to be aware that some folks do better on tryptophan versus 5-HTP so if it is the 5-HTP that is the problem I’d consider a trial of tryptophan. The best way to do that is to replace the 5-HTP with tryptophan (and I recommend Lidtke 500mg tryptophan).
You want to also look carefully at each of the products in case there are fillers that could be causing the headaches.
If it turns out that none of these are working i.e. the problem with sleep isn’t because of low serotonin and low GABA, then we ask these questions and address them:
- is there a gut issue i.e. is there candida, parasites and/or dysbiosis?
- is night-time cortisol high?
- is gluten or other grains an issue? or was there accidental gluten exposure?
- is caffeine or alcohol consumption a problem?
- is there EMF and WiFi exposure?
- are there medication side-effects?
- has there been mold exposure or some other environmental trigger?
Have you had issues when trialing amino acids for sleep or anxiety and then figured out what the problem was?