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L-Tryptophan: A Possible Natural Hypnotic Substance

Ernest Hartmann, MD
JAMA. 1974;230(12):1680-1681. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03240120048022.
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Millions of persons take something to help them sleep, whether it be one of the traditional hypnotics, a shot of alcohol, a glass of milk, or one of the modern and supposedly proved pharmacological agents.

Recently, all-night polygraphic studies enabling the identification of the "infrastructure" of sleep have allowed a more detailed look at what occurs in the brain and body during a night of sleep with and without medication. One disturbing finding has been that whereas most hypnotic medications do indeed produce behavioral "sleep," they almost always distort the normal fine structure or architecture of sleep. This is true, unfortunately, of the benzodiazepines as well as of the barbiturates.

Although there are no hard data indicating that these alterations are detrimental, enough anecdotal evidence exists of a "drugged" or "groggy" feeling in the morning after taking sleeping pills to make one suspect that the altered drug-induced sleep may not


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