How Peptide Treatment Can Improve Sleep, According to Research

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If you’ve had your eye on new sleep treatments, as well as potential solutions to a host of health problems from skin issues to inflammation, you’ve likely heard of peptides. But what the heck IS a peptide, and what can it do for you?

Peptides are strings of molecules, which are called amino acids. These make up the “building blocks” of proteins, WebMD reports, and they contribute to major bodily functions, from liver to hormones to insulin. Now, experts are looking to peptides to improve your sleep as well. Oxytocin itself, known as “nature’s medicine” as it promotes healing, is a peptide. (1)

“If your sleep is lacking two or more nights a week, this may be a justification for dismissing something that could be chronic,” says Dr. Suzanne J. Ferree, founder of Vine Medical Associates and the Cellular Medicine Institute and expert in cellular, longevity and performance medicine in a press email. “Oxytocin increases parasympathetic (relaxation) activity during sleep, and improves measures of sleep apnea. Oxytocin reduces time to sleep onset, increases sleep efficiency, and the percentage of time spent in REM sleep.” She is also the author of a book on the subject, Counterclockwise: Using Peptides to Renew, Rejuvenate, and Rediscover.

Oxytocin is also responsible for growth, healing, and resilience, all of which are largely connected to quality sleep.

Peptide treatment contains amino acids which can help with a variety of health issues, including weight management and diabetes. Because of their smaller size, peptides can be more easily absorbed by the body. According to a 2022 study, more than 80 therapeutic peptides are available in the market for various conditions. (2) Also, according to Medical News Today and the National Institutes of Health, peptides may also be capable of reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and improving immune function. (3, 4)

This isn’t the first time researchers have considered how peptides might improve sleep. A 2023 study found that collagen peptide supplementation reduces sleep fragmentation when taken before bed. (5) A 2021 study found that orexins play a role in sleep quality. (6) Orexins are peptides that help in the regulation of wakefulness. If orexin levels are disrupted, sleep disorders, like insomnia, can occur. An older 2006 study supports this as well, showing that scientists have been considering the impacts of peptides for decades. (6) But, they’ve only recently gained popularity and a bit more traction in their potential uses.

Another peptide that aids with sleep is the growth-hormone replacing hormone (GHRH). This peptide helps regulate growth hormones from the pituitary gland and a 2019 study found that GHRH can improve sleep quality for individuals with sleep disorders. (7)

Some also consider plant protein a peptide, and one that some research has linked with improved sleep — so a before-bed plant protein smoothie might not only be filling, but beneficial for sleep quality too. 

If you are just getting started in exploring how else amino acids impact our bodies, whether you are using them for sleep or other issues, look no further than the wide variety of foods you might already eat, from eggs and dairy to beef, Cleveland Clinic reports. Beyond using foods for peptides, you can ask your physician about using supplements as well, considering alongside your medical team the pros and cons of peptide used for sleep. With a little research, and some introspection on what your body needs next, peptides might hold promise for your health woes, including sleep.

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Sources
  • 1. Carter CS, Kenkel WM, MacLean EL, Wilson SR, Perkeybile AM, Yee JR, Ferris CF, Nazarloo HP, Porges SW, Davis JM, Connelly JJ, Kingsbury MA. Is Oxytocin “Nature’s Medicine”? Pharmacol Rev. 2020 Oct;72(4):829-861. doi: 10.1124/pr.120.019398. PMID: 32912963; PMCID: PMC7495339.

  • 2. Wang L, Wang N, Zhang W, Cheng X, Yan Z, Shao G, Wang X, Wang R, Fu C. Therapeutic peptides: current applications and future directions. Signal Transduct Target Ther. 2022 Feb 14;7(1):48. doi: 10.1038/s41392-022-00904-4. PMID: 35165272; PMCID: PMC8844085.

  • 3. Leonard, Jayne; “What to know about peptides for health,” Medical News Today; https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326701; August 16, 2023.

  • 4. Chakrabarti S, Guha S, Majumder K. Food-Derived Bioactive Peptides in Human Health: Challenges and Opportunities. Nutrients. 2018 Nov 12;10(11):1738. doi: 10.3390/nu10111738. PMID: 30424533; PMCID: PMC6265732.

  • 5. Thomas, C., Kingshott, R.N., Allott, K.M. et al. Collagen peptide supplementation before bedtime reduces sleep fragmentation and improves cognitive function in physically active males with sleep complaints. Eur J Nutr 63, 323–335 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-023-03267-w

  • 6. Janet M. Mullington, Tony J. Cunningham, Monika Haack, Huan Yang, 2021. “Causes and Consequences of Chronic Sleep Deficiency and the Role of Orexin”, The Orexin System. Basic Science and Role in Sleep Pathology, Michel A. Steiner, Masashi Yanagisawa, Martine Clozel

  • 7. Gohil A, Eugster E. Growth Hormone Deficiency and Excessive Sleepiness: A Case Report and Review of the Literature. Pediatr Endocrinol Rev. 2019 Sep;17(1):41-46. doi: 10.17458/per.vol17.2019.ge.ghdeficiencyandsleepiness. PMID: 31599135; PMCID: PMC7262958.

Alexandra Frost

Alexandra Frost

Alexandra Frost is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist, content marketing writer, copywriter, and editor focusing on health and wellness, parenting, real estate, business, education, and lifestyle. Away from the keyboard, Alex is also mom to her four sons under age 7, who keep things chaotic, fun, and interesting. For over a decade she has been helping publications and companies connect with readers and bring high-quality information and research to them in a relatable voice.  She has been published in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Glamour, Shape, Today's Parent, Reader's Digest, Parents, Women's Health, and Insider.

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