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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2002 Nov;27(5):843-51.

Mid-morning tryptophan depletion delays REM sleep onset in healthy subjects.

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AP-HP, Centre d'Investigation Clinique, Fédération des Pathologies du Sommeil et UPRES EA 2397, Paris, France.


Because serotonin is involved in the diachronic regulation of sleep, we tested the effect of a midmorning rapid deficiency in the serotonin precursor tryptophan on the next night's sleep. After a 48-h low-protein diet, 17 healthy volunteers received either a tryptophan-free mixture of amino acids or a placebo at 10:30 A.M., in a randomized double-blind cross-over design, resulting in a 77% decrease and 41% decrease of serum tryptophan at 3:30 P.M. and 9:30 P.M., respectively. Urinary sulfatoxy-melatonin excretion and mood were unaffected by the rapid tryptophan depletion (RTD), but rapid eye movement (REM) sleep latency increased by 21 min (from 91.5 +/- 4.5 min to 112.2 +/- 6.9 min), sleep fragmentation 58%, and REM density of the first REM sleep period doubled. The results show that midmorning RTD delays REM sleep latency during following night-time sleep, whereas evening RTD shortens REM sleep latency in previous studies, and suggest that the serotonin control of REM sleep latency is upregulated.

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