L-tryptophan as a hypnotic in special patients.


Fitten LJ, Profita J, Bidder TG.




J Am Geriatr Soc


The authors briefly review prevalence and current treatment trends of sleep disorders in the elderly, underlining the need for the development of a more suitable hypnotic for this population. The use of L-tryptophan (LT) as a physiologic hypnotic in aged responders is considered and the hypnotic effect of 1- to 4-g bedtime doses on ten male inpatients and outpatients aged 30 to 72 years is evaluated. Results suggest a dramatic and sustained relief of insomnia for 3 weeks in 30 per cent of the patients and the absence of side effects in 90 per cent of those who took the agent. The authors conclude that despite its long therapeutic history, L-tryptophan has not been more successful because only a minority of humans appear to be responsive to its hypnotic actions. They point to the need to replicate their current preliminary observations in a larger controlled geriatric population and to delineate biochemical characteristics of LT responders in order to increase LT sensitivity in some patients and convert nonresponders to responders.