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Optimizing Sleep with Alpha-lactalbumin 

Alpha-lactalbumin | Man laying down in bed to rest

Sleep is a critical part of our daily routine. We spend about a third of our time doing it and it’s as essential as food and water. Getting sufficient quality and quantity of sleep impacts our day-to-day performance, as well as our long-term health.  

The amount of sleep we need and get reduces with age, from most of a newborn’s day spent with eyes closed, through around 10 hours in preschool and school age, to 7-9 hours for most adults (see figure 1). Older adults tend to need less sleep at around 7-8 hours. However, many adults are not getting their optimal amount and quality of sleep. Between our non-stop world, increasing demands on our time and increased stress and anxiety, it’s no surprise that 50-70million Americans are reported to have sleep or wakefulness disorders (NIH, 2023). It’s even been reported that “undiagnosed sleep apnea alone is estimated to cost the [US] Nation $150 billion annually”. Athletic populations may have a higher level of sleep disturbances due to travel, late night competitions and training commitments.  

Sleep impacts our daily functioning, including reaction time, memory, mood, and physical performance. It is also known to be strongly associated with long term health, with less than 7 hours and more than 9 hours in middle-age being correlated with dementia risk from 70 years of age (Sabia et al, 2023). The same level of under-or over-sleeping has also been reported to potentially increase the risk of metabolic syndrome in young adults aged 18-24 years old (Nutrients | Free Full-Text | The Relationship between Sleep Duration and Metabolic Syndrome Severity Scores in Emerging Adults ( This may be through the known impact of sleep on metabolic systems, including blood pressure, glucose homeostasis, and hormone regulation.  

Figure 1. Recommended hours of sleep per day by age group 

Tryptophan’s Influence on Sleep 

As an essential amino acid, tryptophan is required in the diet since the human body cannot make it. Tryptophan, one of the amino acids in the diet that can cross the blood-brain barrier, is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the body that influences the sleep-wake cycle, mood, cognitive function and much more. This neurotransmitter is then converted into the hormone, melatonin (see figure 2). The uptake of tryptophan into the brain is also influenced by the level of other amino acids in the diet.  

Figure 2. Tryptophan’s path to enhancing melatonin

Some foods are richer in tryptophan, as highlighted below. Amongst some of the highest dietary sources is the whey protein fraction, alpha-lactalbumin.   

Figure 3. TRP per serving

Alpha-lactalbumin for enhanced sleep and overnight recovery 

Alpha-lactalbumin and tryptophan have been tested for various measures of overnight recovery, sleep quality and quantity, morning wakefulness and cognitive performance. Essentially, it’s been tested to see if it improves sleep and favorably impacts performance the following day.  

Some early work from Hartmann et al (1979) tested 250mg, 500mg or 1g tryptophan supplementation 20minutes before bedtime in those with longer sleep latencies (the time taken to fall asleep) of more than 30minutes. They found that supplementation with 250mg of tryptophan tended to reduce sleep latency and significantly increased the minutes in slow wave sleep.  

Markus et al (2005) found that evening alpha-lactalbumin intake caused a 130% increase in Trp:LNAA before bedtime, and “modestly but significantly reduced sleepiness and improved brain-sustained attention processes the following morning”. Furthermore, in poor sleepers, this was accompanied by improved behavioral performance.  

More recent work looked at whether supplementing semi-professional female rugby union players 2 hours before bed with for the duration of the season impacted any measures of sleep, including total sleep time, sleep efficiency, sleep onset latency and wake after sleep onset (Gratwicke et al, 2023). Alpha was found to reduce sleep onset latency compared to placebo, in particular during bye weeks (weeks with no competition) and during weeks of away games.  

While MacInnes et al did not see an effect of acute alpha-lactalbumin intake in elite or serious recreational cyclist on either sleep quality or performance, this may have been due to the short intervention period.  

Alpha-lactalbumin – more than just a source of tryptophan  

Alpha-lac is the second most abundant fraction in whey protein and, as we know, whey protein has an unrivalled essential and branched-chain amino acid composition, being one of the highest sources of leucine available. While alpha does provide additional leucine compared to a standard whey, this invaluable array of amino acids gives something extra special – high quality protein the muscles and body thrive on.  

While casein or milk protein is most commonly used in overnight recovery products, whey protein was recently shown to be as effective as caseinate for muscle protein synthesis when taken prior to bedtime (Trommelen et al, 2023).  

NutriPRO™ Alpha  

Milk Specialties relentless quest for optimal ingredient solutions led to the addition of alpha-lactalbumin to our portfolio. With a number of product offerings available for multiple applications, please contact us to learn more about how to utilize our ingredient expertise for your products.  


CDC, Sleep and Sleep Disorders, 2023 

Chaudhry et al. Nutrients. 2023;15(4):1046 

Gratwicke et al. Biol Sport. 2023;40(2):449-455 

Hartmann and Spinweber. J Nerv Mental Dis. 1979; 167(8) 

MacInnis et al. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2020;30(3):197-202 

Markus et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81(5):1026-1033 

NIH, Sleep Science and Sleep Disorders, 2023 

Sabia et al. Nat Commun. 2021;12(1):2289 

Trommelen et al. Sports Med. 2023;10.1007/s40279-023-01822-3.  

Upcycling Whey is a Win-Win

Supporting Small to Medium Sized Cheesemakers 

As the demand for artisanal and specialty cheeses continues to rise, so does the need for supporting small to medium-sized cheesemakers. These cheesemakers often face the challenge of what to do with the whey, a co-product of the cheese-making process. Whey is a valuable dairy ingredient that can be used in a variety of ways, but many cheesemakers struggle to find a cost-effective way to process and utilize it. That’s where dairy ingredient processors can help.

Dairy ingredient processors are companies that specialize in processing whey and other dairy co-products into usable ingredients for the food industry. They offer a range of services, including whey protein concentrate production, lactose processing, and whey permeate production. By partnering with these processors, small to medium-sized cheesemakers can upcycle their whey into a valuable asset, rather than a waste product.

One of the main benefits of working with a dairy ingredient processor is that they can provide a home for the cheesemaker’s whey. Instead of disposing of the whey, which can be costly and environmentally harmful, the processor can take it off the cheesemaker’s hands and turn it into a useful ingredient. This not only helps the cheesemaker save money on waste disposal costs but also reduces their environmental impact.

Worker separating curd from whey in tank at cheese factory, closeup

Upcycling Co-product of Cheesemaking

If a dairy processor did not take the whey, the cheesemaker would need to find another way to dispose of it. Whey contains nutrients and other substances that can be harmful to the environment if not properly handled. Some cheesemakers may dispose of whey in landfills, which can have negative environmental impacts such as methane emissions and leachate contamination. In addition to environmental concerns, disposing of whey can also be costly for cheesemakers. They may need to pay for transportation and disposal fees, which can add up over time.

Overall, not taking the whey could lead to negative environmental impacts and increased costs for cheesemakers. That’s why partnering with a dairy ingredient processor can be a beneficial solution for both the cheesemaker and the environment. The processor can take the whey off the cheesemaker’s hands and upcycle it into a valuable ingredient, reducing waste and providing a return for the cheesemaker.

Partnering with Cheesemakers

Dairy processors can work with cheesemakers to co-invest in whey processing equipment, which can be located on-site at the cheesemaking facility or at a central processing location. By investing in equipment that can condense and dry whey, cheesemakers can reduce the volume and weight of the product, making it more cost-effective to transport and in the end take more trucks off the road.

In addition, condensing the whey can also make it easier for cheesemakers and dairy processors to store and use the product. The condensed whey can be stored in a smaller space and has a longer shelf life than raw whey.

Overall, partnering and co-investing in whey processing equipment can have multiple benefits for cheesemakers and dairy processors. It can help reduce transportation costs, greenhouse gas emissions, and improve the efficiency of whey utilization. By working together, cheesemakers and dairy processors can create a more sustainable and profitable future for the industry.


In conclusion, partnering with a dairy ingredient processor can be a win-win situation for small to medium-sized cheesemakers. By providing a home and return for whey, processors can help cheesemakers turn a waste product into a valuable asset. As the demand for specialty and artisanal cheeses continues to grow, it’s important to support these small and medium-sized producers, and dairy ingredient processors can play a vital role in helping them succeed.