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Nutrition may improve sleep patterns on people diagnosed with Autism

Autism and sleep

The hormone responsible for wake and sleep patterns is called melatonin, and studies have shown forty to eighty percent of people diagnosed with autism have a dysfunctional regulation of Central Circadian rhythm - a process responsible for the secretion of melatonin. But how to fix it?


New research has found that melatonin-containing foods may provide dietary melatonin, which is regulated by the circadian rhythm through the communication between the brain’s hypothalamus and pineal gland.

To boost melatonin it's important to understand that production is dependant on an amino acid called tryptophan. This amino acid is known to be deficient in people diagnosed with autism.

Low levels of tryptophan in the body may lead to the worsening of autistic symptoms such as mild depression and increased irritability. The reason for this is that tryptophan is also responsible for the production of serotonin (a neurotransmitter), which if secreted irregularly, has been linked with various neurological disorders.

Given the dependency of serotonin and melatonin production on tryptophan, people diagnosed with autism or who are suffering from sleeping related disorders, should boost nutritional consumption of foods that are rich in melatonin, tryptophan and serotonin regulators.

Natural ways to improve sleep of people diagnosed with autism or suffering from other sleep disorders

1) Increase the consumption of tropical fruits

A study of 12 healthy male volunteers took either juice extracted from one kilogram of orange or pineapple or two whole bananas, with a 1-wk washout period between the fruit or fruit juices.

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The highest serum melatonin concentration was observed after 120 min of the fruit consumption. All the fruits in this experiment were observed to increase melatonin levels in the subjects. But the highest increase was found with the consumption of pinneaple, followed by orange and banana.

2) Increased consumption of grains and other carbohydrates

An animal clinical trial has found that there is a Correlation between brain tryptophan and plasma neutral amino acid levels following food consumption. This study found that while Carbohydrate ingestion raises brain tryptophan by elevating plasma tryptophan, and depressing the plasma levels of the competing neutral amino acids; protein consumption prevents an increase in brain tryptophan by raising the plasma concentrations of the competing amino acids more than of tryptophan.

A recent research has shed a light on the nutritional value of certain grains and it observed that rice bean and red bean are high in tryptophan.

Nuts contain all major macronutrients: protein, carbohydrate, and fat. The total protein content is relatively high, which makes them a good source of plant protein.

3) Regulate serotonin

Studies have suggested that exposure to bright light is a second possible approach to increasing serotonin without drugs. Interestingly, an analysis on the level of concentration of serotonin on certain foods, has found that pineapple and banana have high levels of it.

There have been reports that St John’s wort herb also helps regulate serotonin levels. But to use any herb it is important to consult a professional herbalist in order to find out whether there are interactions or undesirable side effects.