Serotonin - a powerful sleep hormone that's found in your gut and brain.
The right amount of serotonin will result in a good mood, decent appetite and quality sleep. Serotonin also influences sleep as well as memory and learning. A child that has not slept well, will battle to concentrate at school. Similarly, an adult that's not getting enough sleep is not going to perform well at work or at home. Too little serotonin is linked to depression, generalised anxiety disorder and social phobia. Too much can result in a range of symptoms: from diarrhea, to convulsions, to death.
It is said that "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach" but it seems that this may be true for men and women alike. Well known as the hormone of happiness and wellness, serotonin's most prominent role is regulating appetite and controlling the smooth muscle of the intestine. So there's a strong link between our gut and our happiness.
The main ingredient needed to make serotonin is the amino acid tryptophan. Unfortunately, while many foods like turkey, corn and bananas contain tryptophan, you probably won't be able to eat your way out of a depression.
You see, animal protein (like meat or eggs or milk) contains all twelve amino acids whilst plant proteins often contain only one or two. This makes animal proteins very helpful for good nutrition as they supply all the building blocks we need. However, tryptophan is only absorbed across the blood-brain barrier if there are no other amino acids competing. Some scientists believe that highly nutritious plant-based proteins foods that are rich in tryptophan like chickpeas and some seeds would help ward off depression, if eaten in isolation. However, there is still plenty of work to be done to prove or disprove this theory.
If there is a shortage in serotonin, most medical doctors choose to use anti-depressants called Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) to deliver the goods. It may take some time to find the right level but SSRIs are well known for making one happier.
In the case of serotonin (and for a good life)...
Eat well, sleep well.
Sleep well, feel well.
Feel good, live longer.