Is serotonin deficiency causing your insomnia?
Updated: Mar 23
Serotonin is our “happy” neurotransmitter because it helps us enjoy life. Many of my clients are deficient in serotonin and it’s affecting their sleep and mood. Lack of serotonin is also thought to contribute to depression, which is why SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are commonly prescribed for depression.
If you have depression, you may have been told that it’s causing your insomnia. Instead, I think that one of the same reasons you don't enjoy life is the same reason you don’t sleep well: lack of serotonin. And the reason you don’t have enough serotonin is because your body isn’t healthy.
Serotonin deficiency directly affects sleep because your body is supposed to convert serotonin to melatonin, which regulates your sleep cycle.
Symptoms of serotonin deficiency:
Loss of pleasure in hobbies and interests
Feeling of inner rage and anger
Feelings of depression
Difficulty finding joy from life pleasures
Depression when it’s cloudy or there’s lack of sunlight
Loss of enthusiasm for favorite activities
Not enjoying favorite foods
Not enjoying friendships or relationships
Unable to fall into deep restful sleep
Causes of serotonin deficiency
1. Lack of good gut bacteria
This is the most common cause of neurotransmitter deficiencies because the bacteria in our gut make up to 90% of our neurotransmitters. Most of my clients with serotonin deficiency are severely lacking in probiotics. Taking probiotics is key but you also want to address any pathogens in the gut as well because they kill off the good bacteria. And you want to create an environment where the good guys can thrive so that means repairing the gut lining and avoiding foods you’re sensitive to.
When your body is constantly stressed, over time your adrenal glands don't have the resources they need to make cortisol and other stress hormones. (“Adrenal fatigue” is a misnomer because there’s usually nothing wrong with the adrenal glands themselves.) You need enough of the adrenal hormones cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine to convert serotonin to melatonin.
3. Low estrogen
Estrogen increases the sensitivity of serotonin receptors so sufficient estrogen is essential for getting the benefits of serotonin. If estrogen is depleted, it’s usually from ongoing, chronic stress (or from birth control). If your body has to constantly make cortisol to deal with stress, then it takes those resources away from making sex hormones (our bodies always prioritize survival over reproduction!). Nutrition and supplements for serotonin may not help when estrogen is low.
4. High blood sugar or insulin will decrease tryptophan transport across the blood-brain barrier. Tryptophan converts to 5-HTP which converts to serotonin.
5. Nutrient deficiencies
The conversion of tryptophan to 5-HTP to serotonin needs iron, magnesium and B vitamins. If your gut isn’t healthy and you aren’t absorbing nutrients from food properly or if your liver is overburdened and is using all of your B vitamins, then your body won’t have the nutrients it needs to make serotonin. Also, SSRIs, estrogen replacement therapy, birth control, H. Pylori and low stomach acid, alcohol all deplete the nutrients needed to make serotonin.
One of the tests that’s part of the Complete Sleep Solution is called a Neuro Focus panel. It looks at 7 different neurotransmitters, including serotonin. With this test, we can see exactly what’s affecting your sleep and mood and start supporting it immediately so that you sleep and feel better as soon as possible. Then the other tests that look at gut health, hormones balance, adrenal health and more will show why serotonin is low so we can work on those things in the long-term so that you don’t have to supplement forever.
Our goal is for you to feel improvements as quickly as possible while also working on restoring your health so you can sleep better permanently and enjoy better health for the rest of your life. Book a free consultation to make sure we’re a good fit to work together. Whether we decide to work together or not, you’ll know the next step that makes sense for you to sleep better soon.