Having trouble sleeping? If you are, you’re not alone. According to the American Sleep Association, anywhere from 50-70 million U.S. adults have a sleeping disorder that prevents them from getting a good night’s sleep. Be it insomnia, snoring, night terrors, or other disorders, sleep problems affect 1 in 3 people at some stage of their life.
So what can we do to combat sleepless nights and sleep disorders? From counting sheep to prescription medications, the various tactics we use to help us sleep are endless. And while lack of sleep may seem like a burden in itself, the truth is that consistent lack of sleep can lead to an increased risk of diseases while impairing mental and physical performance.
Rather than relying on medications or alternative strategies to fall asleep (and stay asleep), research shows that compounds like glycine promote a good night’s sleep, naturally.
As an emerging player in the sleep-supplement realm, glycine treatment can positively impact your sleep quality in many ways. Let’s take a look at what we currently know about glycine, including how it works in our body, and how it can affect our sleep and our health.
What Is Glycine?
As we mentioned when discussing amino acids in the past, glycine is but one of many amino acids that serve as building blocks for life. Amino acids build proteins, synthesize hormones and neurotransmitters, boost performance, improve mood, and beyond.
As data continues to suggest that amino acid supplements are capable of producing health benefits, researchers continue to experiment along the way. So what is glycine exactly, and what makes it so special?
Glycine is an amino acid and neurotransmitter that the body produces from other natural biochemicals that include serine, choline, and threonine, and we consume glycine as well.
We absorb glycine in high-protein foods, such as meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and legumes, but it’s considered a non-essential amino acid because our body can produce it (of the 20 amino acids our body needs to grow and function properly, 11 of these are non-essential).
Yet unlike many amino acids that serve one principal role, glycine is a neurotransmitter with the ability to be both excitatory and inhibitory. This means it can provide the brain and central nervous system with energy, or it can quiet everything down. Glycine is commonly used to improve sleep, enhance memory, and increase insulin sensitivity.
How Does Glycine Work?
Now that we’ve come to understand the purpose glycine serves in our body, it’s time to break down exactly how this amino acid works. Like other common amino acids, glycine works as a protein builder in the body, and it’s known primarily for producing collagen.
Collagen is a protein that acts as a primary structural component for tendons, muscles, bones, connective tissue, and skin. And because collagen is the most abundant form of protein that provides our body with structure and strength, it serves a rather important role, all thanks to glycine.
But glycine can do more than simply produce collagen. For instance, it also facilitates the production of creatine, a nutrient that’s stored in the body and used as a form of energy.
Glycine helps breakdown fatty acids in foods, maintains healthy levels of acidity in the digestive tract, regulates blood-sugar levels and moves blood sugar to cells and tissues throughout the body. It also helps regulate the body’s immune response, and even aids in the production of DNA and RNA. Low levels of glycine have been linked to type 2 diabetes while glycine levels that are higher indicate a reduced risk of this metabolic disorder.
Though we consider glycine a non-essential amino acid, clearly it plays an important role in our body’s daily functionality. Yet the reason we find ourselves discussing glycine at length today is because of the pivotal role it plays as a neurotransmitter. Capable of stimulating or inhibiting cells in the brain, glycine can affect mood, cognition, immune function, pain perception, and even sleep.
The use of glycine as a means of influencing and improving sleep can lead to a number of outcomes for the user. For instance, glycine will help you fall asleep more quickly, increase your sleep efficiency, reduce symptoms of insomnia, and improve your overall quality of sleep, which will in turn promote a deeper and more restful sleep.
Research also suggests that, because glycine will help people fall asleep more quickly, it will result in more time in REM sleep, the state of deep sleep in which our body heals and recuperates.
So how does this sleep-promoting amino acid influence sleep in such positive ways? To answer such a question, we must look at the many ways glycine will affect our body when we use it as a supplemental sleep aid.
How Does Glycine Help You Sleep?
After we’ve taken glycine in supplement form, a number of bodily functions that help us sleep will take place. For starters, consuming glycine will lower the core body temperature by increasing blood flow to the extremities. A slight drop in body temperature is a key part of our progression toward sleep, and thus this drop in temperature is a rather pivotal moment as we look for a solid night’s rest.
Glycine will also increase serotonin levels in the body that aid in establishing healthy sleep patterns. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that aids in the production of melatonin, the famous sleep hormone we often take in supplement form. Studies suggest glycine may even help you bounce back to healthy sleep cycles after a period of disrupted sleep.
The key to this amino acid’s calming effects comes primarily from consuming glycine in supplement form. Let’s take a closer look at what it means to use supplemental glycine.
Using Glycine Supplements
Using glycine to aid in sleep performance is as simple as taking a supplement each night before bed. These supplements come in both pill and liquid form, making them widely available to all.
That said, consuming glycine supplements should only occur after consulting with a medical professional. Ideally, a range of 3-5 grams of glycine taken orally before bed has been used to effectively help induce sleep in scientific studies utilizing human volunteers.
Yet as with all supplements or drugs we choose to ingest, side effects may occur along the way. While most individuals tolerate supplemental glycine with no issue, some may experience nausea, vomiting, soft stools, and interactions with other drugs or prescriptions. Meanwhile, doses of glycine consumed during the day may lead to adverse effects like daytime sleepiness.
Should You Take Glycine for Sleep?
Determining whether or not you should take glycine depends on what you hope to gain from its potential. For those seeking the opportunity to fall asleep faster, increase sleep efficiency, and improve their overall quality of sleep, glycine may be high on the list of supplements worth taking. Using a wearable sleep tracker will help you analyze the differences between your sleep patterns with and without glycine.
Before choosing to incorporate glycine into your life, however, it pays to speak with a medical professional. Because the effects of glycine influence each of us differently, ensuring glycine is right for you is of the utmost importance.
If you do incorporate glycine into your life, we hope your nights be filled with restful, healthy sleep.