L-theanine is a psychoactive amino acid that exists in tea. It is regarded by many as a nootropic, along with caffeine, another brain-boosting substance which occurs naturally in tea (Camellia sinensis), including black, white, and green tea, especially matcha green tea.
L-theanine starts to act quickly once ingested; 1 hour is what it takes to reach feel its effects. It is also rapidly eliminated by the body, and by the time effects are felt, half or more of the substance may have already been eliminated by the body. This is in contrast to caffeine, which also begins to act 1 hour following ingestion, but with caffeine elimination half-life is shorter: 3-7 hours for adults. (Which is why you shouldn’t drink caffeine at least 7 hours before bedtime.)
L-theanine has been reported to raise levels of brain serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, with possible improvement in specific memory and learning tasks.
While l-theanine may work synergistically with caffeine as a nootropic (“smart drug”), boosting mood and cognitive performance, you may want to take it on its own at times, without the caffeine, especially right before bedtime or during the night.
Why would you want to use it during the night? Let’s start with going over l-theanine’s effects.
After ingesting tea or a supplement, l-theanine is absorbed in the small intestine. It can then cross the blood–brain barrier intact, making it a psychoactive substance.
Large studies in humans have not been undertaken; however, several smaller-scale studies have shown increased alpha wave generation, lowered anxiety, and benefits to sleep quality in people with ADHD.
In one study, alpha waves, which are associated with a state of relaxation, were observed in the brains of human volunteers 40 minutes after taking 50-200 mg l-theanine, without any drowsiness or sedation. However, the research was made on behalf of the producers of SunTheanine, a brand…
Another study showed that l-theanine could have anti-stress effects, but it was a very limited study (only 12 participants).
A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, balanced crossover study found that when l-theanine (250 mg) is added to caffeine (150 mg), the following effects are observed relative to ingesting the caffeine alone:
- Improved rapid visual information processing accuracy and mental fatigue ratings
- Faster simple reaction time
- Faster numeric working memory reaction time
- Improved sentence verification accuracy
- ‘Headache’ and ‘tired’ ratings were reduced and ‘alert’ ratings increased
- Faster delayed word recognition reaction time
Lucid Dreaming and Astral Projection
If l-theanine can aid in relaxation and make you alert without causing drowsiness and fatigue, then it could potentially be used in inducing lucid dreams via the WILD technique and other altered states of consciousness, such as astral projection, which require a deep state of relaxation and alertness.
Indeed, many peddlers of l-theanine promise that it has the power of “inducing lucid dreaming” and that it is a “GREAT supplement for lucid dreaming.”
Let’s see if there’s any evidence to support this claim.
Other than the little research there is about l-theanine, we also have some anecdotal evidence of effects. Here are some examples:
3 mg melatonin and 200 mg l-theanine 1 hour before bed resulted in the following report: “I found very easy to go deeper in relaxation and almost instantly had some visual patterns in front of me.”
Many people shared their experience with l-theanine and other dream supplements on Reddit. One person had several lucid dreams, practicing the WBTB Technique, but besides 300 mg l-theanine, he also took 100 mg 5-HTP, 4 mg galantamine, 250 mg choline, and 4,000 mg l-glutamine. And on another occasion substituting the 5-HTP for 200 mg vitamin B6.
Another person reports:
I take between 200-400mg (sometimes 800-1000) before sleeping. I’ve been able to reach very deep meditation through using Theanine and can often astral project. For me L-Theanine induces a sort of sleep paralysis (that I often get anyway) and from this state I’m able to astral project or sometimes lucid dream. Using Theanine for meditation before going to sleep really helps me lucid dream too.
Some people also claim that it helps them recall their dreams and makes their dreams more vivid and intense. If it’s true, then it probably only works for naps because of its short elimination half-life.
What Does the Science Say?
While I couldn’t find any studies about l-theanine and lucid dreams, scientific evidence does show that l-theanine (even in the form of 2 cups of green tea), may shift the brain to alpha waves, allowing you to deeply relax and to easily enter a meditative state of consciousness similar to that which Buddhist monks develop after years of meditation.
It is also worthwhile to mention that green tea has been used down the ages by Buddhist monks to remain alert during meditation.
Dose and Usage
The safe dose of l-theanine when taken as a supplement is 50-250 mg, with a maximum of 1,200 mg daily.
If l-theanine indeed promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety, then it is best to take it before sleep.
Taking GABA with l-theanine may provide further benefits, such as improved sleep quality and duration.
A dose of l-theanine equivalent of eight cups of back tea improves cognitive and neurophysiological measures of selective attention, to a degree that is comparable with that of caffeine. But taking 200 mg l-theanine with 160 mg “caffeine seems to have additive effects on attention.” (Source)
L-theanine (400 mg) may improve the sleep quality of boys diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In another study, l-theanine increased the sleep efficiency for participants with ADHD. Moreover, improvements in sleep-onset latency and total sleep duration were reported.
Some researchers argue that l-theanine works as a sleep aid by virtue of its relaxant/anxiolytic properties. They conclude that “l-theanine promotes relaxation without drowsiness. Unlike conventional sleep inducers, l-theanine is not a sedative but promotes good quality of sleep through anxiolysis. This review suggests that l-theanine is a safe natural sleep aid.”
L-Theanine as a Lucid Dreaming / Astral Projection Supplement
When used a lucid dream supplement, take it before going for a nap or during WBTB technique (wake up before your actual wake up time, spend some time awake, take l-theanine, and go back to sleep for at least an hour and a half.
Some people believe that l-theanine when taken before bed has an aftereffect, causing vivid and clear dreams. If it’s true, this might explain some anecdotal claims of increased dream recall when using l-theanine at night.
When used as an astral projection supplement or to relax during the day, take it about 30-45 minutes before commencing your relaxation.
In Conclusion: L-theanine Sleep & Dreams
Overall, l-theanine is a safe supplement, which may improve sleep, reduce stress, and promote relaxation. It may also have an effect on dreams, making it both a sleep supplement and a dream supplement. It may be used as part of a lucid dreaming and astral projection relaxation practices or before going to sleep at night.
Of course, you can always try a cup of Japanese matcha green tea instead, though the l-theanine levels you would receive will be markedly lower and you would also get caffeine, which is wake-promoting. Thus, tea may be less valuable for lucid dreaming, at least for those people for whom caffeine prevents sleep…
But for use during the day, there are not many drinks as healthy as a cup of tea.