- The body changes serotonin into melatonin.
- Melatonin is stored in the pineal gland inside the brain.
- The pineal gland releases melatonin only during times when the level of light is low. Practically speaking, this means that melatonin is secreted only at night, while you are asleep. In the morning, when you open your eyes, the presence of light is a sign to your brain to shut down the melatonin production.
Melatonin vs. 5-HTP
5-HTP bypasses the brain’s light-regulation system that controls the secretion of melatonin. 5-HTP results in the increased the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine that stimulate the noradrenergic receptors in the brain. This stimulation directly triggers the production and release of melatonin.
Thus, when you take 5-HTP, it causes the release of melatonin irrespective of how much light is present. The higher levels of melatonin in circulation, helps you to fall asleep and stay asleep better.
People with low melatonin who take 5-HTP at nighttime can enjoy the same sleep enhancing benefits as they will from taking melatonin alone, but they will also be getting the broader spectrum of benefits that comes from increased serotonin levels. (If you take melatonin alone it does not enhance the functions of the serotonin system.)
People who use melatonin as a sleep sedative may find that switching from melatonin to 5-HTP will make it easier to fall asleep and to stay asleep. They will also enjoy healthy and memorable dream periods, and wake up without the morning grogginess that some of them experience with melatonin.