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An amino acid in avocados could interfere with sleep, but it’s important to consider it in context

Tim Nelson
November 01, 2018

There are a lot of things that can keep a person up at night. Work-related stress. An awkward comment you made at a party four years ago. The fact that bees are dying at an alarming rate. In these anxious times, it’s a wonder that anyone gets a decent night’s sleep.


Well, things are about to get worse, because it turns out that even trendy superfoods could bear some responsibility for our sleep deprivation. That’s right: According to a nutritionist, the avocado is one of several foods whose dietary properties can trick your brain into keeping you up at night.

“Aubergines, avocado, nuts and soy sauce all contain an amino acid called tyramine,” Rob Hobson tells the UK outlet Express. “This amino acid may inhibit sleep as it causes the release of a hormone called norepinephrine that stimulates the brain.”

Norepinephrine is functionally a stress hormone that plays a role in gearing the brain and body for action. Its concentration in the brain and body is at its highest during intense fight-or-flight situations, so you wouldn’t want coursing through you as you’re climbing into bed.

As with all nutritional advice one gleans from the internet, you might want to take this avocado news with a grain of sea salt. In a vacuum, norepinephrine-releasing tryamine isn’t something you’d want to dose yourself with before bed. But nutritionist Melissa Brunetti says that avocados are also full of tryptophan, which could counteract tryamine’s effect. The amino acid we associate with passing out on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner is a precursor to feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin and sleep/wake regulating hormone melatonin, two chemicals that could certainly promote peaceful rest.

So is avocado a dangerous late-night snack? Maybe, maybe not. It’s just as likely as anything that poor regulation of your blood sugar is keeping you up. Then again, the debt you’ve taken on as a result of your crippling avocado toast addiction might be the reason for your sleeplessness.  

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