Sleep Better With Theanine
I wrote about about the relaxing properties of the neurotransmitter GABA, which can be taken as a nutritional supplement. Well, it turns out that many of the benefits of GABA can also be obtained by taking its precursor, a rarely heard-of nutritional supplement called theanine.
Theanine is an amino acid that is found naturally in the green tea plant and may be responsible for the improved sense of well-being and relaxation that aficionados claim they receive from the popular Asian beverage. Like GABA, theanine can improve the quality of sleep and can provide a calming effect for anxiety sufferers. Unlike its more well-known derivative however, theanine crosses the brain barrier and may thus have more significant effects on the nervous system. And, it’s an anti-oxidant too.
If you’ve tried GABA and have not been satisfied with the results, you may want to consider replacing it with theanine. It’s analogous to the amino acid glutamine, which provides comprehensive health benefits although it is unclear where or not these benefits may also be obtained via theanine supplementation. Theanine has been shown to improve the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with feeling of reward and pleasure, and this may account for some of theanine’s reported positive effects on mood.
Theanine may have beneficial effects on the immune system too. A study done in 2003 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that patients drinking theanine-containing beverages had up to 5 times higher levels of anti-bacterial peptides than those who didn’t drink the beverages.
The best bet on theanine for relaxation is 200 mg to 400 mg a day. There are not a lot of studies though, so the jury’s still out on exactly how much benefit theanine can provide in a real-life setting, but from a biochemistry standpoint theanine looks like it’s got some potential. If you’re taking GABA and not getting the results you want, or maybe if you want a little more relaxation or deeper sleep, taking a couple this little known nutritional supplement at bedtime might be something you’d want to try.