Try L-Theanine for Deeper Sleep
For millennia green tea has been known to boost energy as well as bring a calm focus. It has been the focus of intense research and the compound responsible for increasing focus, clarity, and calm has been identified as L-Theanine (also known as Suntheanine). In supplement form it’s an amino acid that can be taken during the day or just before bed.
Do you wake up feeling like you hardly slept at all, even though you were in bed all night? Many people suffer from hyperactivity during sleep, which means that even though they’re asleep, their nervous system is still active and not getting the full restorative benefit of deep sleep. This overactive mind can of course make it more difficult to fall asleep, but it’s especially cruel that denies you the benefits when you finally do fall asleep. L-Theanine has been shown to help turn light sleepers into deep sleepers by increasing alpha waves and reducing the stress hormone cortisol.
My Experience with L-Theanine
My curiosity was first piqued when I read a 2011 study examining L-Theanine’s effect on children with ADHD, who often have significant sleep problems. For individuals with ADHD, it’s hard to know which comes first: the sleep problems or the ADHD. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that L-Theanine significantly improved sleep quality. For someone like me, who is pretty damn sure he has ADHD and often has trouble sleeping due to stress/anxiety, it seemed like L-Theanine might be useful. I was right. And if you have ADD or have high anxiety, L-Theanine could help you as well.
The Brand I Like
I’ve had the best results with Sports Research L-Theanine. Each dose comes in a capsule made of organic coconut oil. Since L-Theanine is fat soluble, the coconut oil capsule helps your body absorb it to get the maximum benefit. Additionally, the active ingredient is sourced from Sun Theanine, which is the Japanese company that originally isolated and patented L-theanine – there isn’t a better source in terms of purity or quality.
My Experience with L-Theanine, Continued
I track my sleep with Sleep Cycle and the results were impressive when I started taking L-Theanine right at bedtime. I usually average in the mid-eighties for sleep quality with the Sleep Cycle app (for more on this very useful app, click here), but when I started taking L-Theanine right before bed, I was seeing consistent 100% scores! The next day I felt amazing – I had great energy and my mood was fantastic. It was obvious from the Sleep Cycle graphs why this happened: I was simply spending more time in deep sleep. Of course, L-Theanine isn’t a magic bullet – the 100% nights happened when I had avoided alcohol and caffeine and most importantly, had gone on a long run. Without these other factors, the scores slip a bit and I’m more likely to wake up earlier in the morning.
If my schedule only allows six hours of sleep, I find I’m much less fatigued during the day and I’m able to get more done. On six hours of sleep or less, I’m usually useless most of the day so this was a nice benefit.
How to Reduce Your Anxiety with L-Theanine
A 2004 study published by the Journal of Human Psychopharmacology showed that L-Theanine was more effective than a standard benzodiazapene at reducing resting anxiety. This is the family of drugs that includes Valium and Xanex, which are obviously powerful drugs – very impressive results.
For me it feels like this: When I have so much to do at work that I feel like I can’t even start because as soon as I do I’m missing some other task that’s more important, I can use L-Theanine to cut through the stress. When I take an L-Theanine, I just start knocking things out one at a time and by the end of the morning, there’s a big dent in my to-do list and by the end of the day it’s often all crossed of. That’s an amazing feeling!
How to Take L-Theanine
I use L-Theanine for two different purposes: to achieve a calm, relaxed focus during work, and to improve the quality of my sleep. I use it consistently through the week but I try not to overdo it. This supplement has been so useful to me that I don’t want to become immune to its effects. I’m not sure whether that’s valid or not, but it tells you how much I appreciate what it does for me.
For sleeping: I take it right at bedtime because I usually don’t need help falling asleep, but many take it 30-60 minutes before bed to get in a calm, relaxed state of mind. The normal dose is 200mg, but many have reported good results with 400mg (two standard pills) for sleeping. 200mg has been great for me.
For reducing anxiety and getting things done: 200 mg is the normal dose, but there is one very important instruction: you need to take L-Theanine on an empty stomach to get the best effect. If you take it with a meal or when your stomach is full, it is hard to see the benefits. Try it on an empty stomach – you’ll see what I mean.
Make a Change:
Try 200 mg of L-Theanine one hour before bed for two weeks.
References and Additional Resources
http://nootriment.com/l-theanine-for-sleep/ – good list of academic references
http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2006/1/report_theanine/page-01 – good list of references, also links theanine to its effects on alcohol and liver function.
https://examine.com/supplements/theanine/ – most comprehensive source on research for L-Theanine
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21735448 – discusses how L-Theanine is extracted from Green Tea
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15378679 – L-Theanine is more effective than a benzodiazapine
http://www.koreamed.org/SearchBasic.php?RID=0124KJN/2003.36.9.918&DT=1 – L-Theanine promotes Alpha waves in healthy adults