Low dopamine levels can cause symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and mood swings. Steps like regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and more can help increase dopamine levels.

Dopamine gets a lot of well-deserved attention. This neurotransmitter influences many areas of the brain, including most of the physiological functions of the central nervous system.

It plays a role in everything from memory and attention to mood, motivation, and the “rewards” your brain gets when you do something positive.

Healthy dopamine levels can motivate you to do things that keep you alive, such as eating regularly. It also plays a role in feelings of happiness and satisfaction.

If dopamine levels are too low or high, it can change your behavior and make it hard to function day to day.

Imbalanced dopamine levels are found among several mental health conditions, including ADHD and schizophrenia. Low dopamine levels are also a symptom of certain neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

There are ways to increase dopamine levels, especially when you’re aware of the symptoms of low dopamine.

You can increase dopamine through your daily habits. But you may still need help from traditional treatments, such as medication or supplements, to fully restore your dopamine levels.

Here are some strategies you can try to restore dopamine naturally.

Eat your protein

Your body uses various amino acids to make dopamine, primarily in the brain but in other areas of the body, too.

Eating foods rich in the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine gives your body the building blocks to make dopamine.

Foods high in protein are great sources of these particular amino acids. This includes:

  • eggs
  • beef
  • legumes
  • turkey
  • soy

Help your gut health with probiotics

While scientists haven’t found a direct link between dopamine levels and gut health, healthy bacteria in the gut have been connected to better mental health, according to research from 2017.

Additionally, the brain isn’t the only place that makes dopamine or that has dopamine receptors.

Research from 2021 found that dopamine receptors are also located in the gut and kidneys. Keeping this area of the body healthy and balanced gives dopamine production and receptors a chance to work properly.

Probiotics support a healthy gut biome, though specific probiotics are identified as helping specific illnesses, according to a 2017 review.

Instead, they’re used for overall gut health, giving your body a better chance to work properly.

You can add probiotic foods such as yogurt or other fermented foods to your diet. You can also consume probiotics in supplement form.

Get seven to nine hours of sleep

Your circadian rhythms — behaviors that repeat regularly within a 24-hour cycle — control your sleep-wake cycle. Dopamine plays a role in that cycle, according to a 2021 review article.

Higher dopamine levels in the morning make you feel awake and alert. But if you don’t get enough sleep, your body’s systems can become imbalanced, including your dopamine levels.

In a 2012 study, researchers found that sleep deprivation influenced how dopamine receptors function. A 2015 study had similar findings that sleep deprivation changed dopamine levels and how dopamine receptors worked.

Getting a full 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day supports your circadian rhythms. It gives your body the best chance of functioning at peak efficiency, including making and using dopamine as intended.

Listen to music

In a 2019 study, images taken of the brain while listening to music have shown the brain’s reward center buzzing with activity.

Theories abound as to why, but there’s evidence that dopamine’s role in learning and memory activates the brain when listening to music.

As you listen, your brain looks for and finds familiar patterns in the melodies. When the brain finds those patterns, it gets rewarded with dopamine.

Get some exercise

Exercise releases feel-good endorphins, but it’s also been shown to affect dopamine levels for the better.

A 2019 study found that exercise increased dopamine levels in people with Parkinson’s disease. Low dopamine levels and Parkinson’s disease often go hand in hand, so regular exercise can be an integral part of treatment.

An 8-week exercise program was enough to increase the response of dopamine receptors in people who used methamphetamine in a 2016 study. Methamphetamine use can make receptors less active, so adding exercise to treatment can increase the body’s response to dopamine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate-level exercise each week. Try to get at least that much to support healthy dopamine levels.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps send messages throughout the body, mostly the brain. It’s made in several regions of the brain, but according to a 2018 review, it plays a pivotal role in most of the functions of the central nervous system with slightly less influence over the peripheral nervous system.

Changes in dopamine levels have been linked to neurological and mental health conditions, such as:

In schizophrenia, low or high dopamine can influence the condition.

Dopamine is credited with making you feel good, but it does more than that. It connects actions that keep you alive, such as eating or escaping from danger, with feelings that make you want to repeat those actions.

For example, it’s a powerful motivator in the fight, flight, or freeze response. This important neurotransmitter influences everything from your sense of motivation and ability to learn to the speed and smoothness of physical movement.

There are several factors that can affect dopamine levels. Daily habits such as diet and exercise influence dopamine levels. Neurological conditions such as Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease can also affect dopamine levels.

Low or high dopamine levels are common with several mental health conditions. It’s not clear whether dopamine levels contribute to the development of the condition or the other way around. But some common contributors to low dopamine include:

A 2017 review suggests that schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease are associated with low dopamine levels, and symptoms of both can often be found among those with low dopamine.

Common symptoms include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • fatigue
  • low motivation
  • hallucinations
  • mood swings
  • difficulty concentrating or learning
  • low sex drive

Dopamine is linked to several mental health conditions.

A 2018 review showed that people with schizophrenia have particularly thick dopamine receptors, which could alter dopamine’s ability to send the right signals at the right times.

Low motivation, social withdrawal, and memory problems are all symptoms of schizophrenia, and they’re associated with a lack of dopamine.

ADHD, a fairly common mental health condition, has symptoms that include a lack of impulse control, hyperactive movement, and inattention — all of which are behaviors in which dopamine plays a part.

Addiction is another area where dopamine potentially plays a role. People with addictions tend to show changes in certain types of dopamine receptors, whether it’s an addiction to alcohol or drugs.

According to a 2020 review, dopamine reinforces learning behaviors. For example, dopamine can make you feel good when you drink or overeat, teaching you to repeat the behavior even if it isn’t good for your health.

The long-term effects of low dopamine revolve around the side effects of the symptoms. For example, poor sleep can affect appetite, emotional regulation, and weight management, while mood swings can interfere with your personal and professional relationships.

Low dopamine levels can be a precursor to Parkinson’s disease long before other symptoms arise. But there’s no evidence that low dopamine causes Parkinson’s disease.

The two are intimately linked, but for now, experts aren’t sure why dopamine levels drop so significantly with Parkinson’s disease.

Psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia are connected to dopamine levels. But high and low dopamine can influence how the condition manifests.

Hallucinations are more common with high dopamine levels, while symptoms such as lack of motivation and social isolation are more common with low dopamine levels.

Many antipsychotic medications work by affecting dopamine levels, making understanding this neurotransmitter an important part of seeking and accessing effective long-term treatment.

Low dopamine levels influence many daily activities, including having the motivation to go about your daily tasks. It can also hurt your memory and concentration as well as get in the way of healthy personal and professional relationships.

Addiction, schizophrenia, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease are some of the most common conditions with links to dopamine issues.

But there are natural ways to restore dopamine levels. Getting adequate sleep, eating enough protein, exercising regularly, and using probiotics are simple ways to help your dopamine levels.

If you suspect low or high dopamine levels could be disrupting your life, consider talking with a healthcare or mental health professional. They can help with diagnosis, treatment, and resources.

If you’re unsure where to start, you can check out Psych Central’s hub on finding mental health support.