I just read an article in the April, 2016 issue of Psychology Today about Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) being much more helpful to people than previously thought. When it comes to Melatonin and sleep, I knew that Melatonin regulated one’s circadian rhythm (internal body clock that is synchronized to light/dark cycles and other environmental cues), but I didn’t know about it’s other benefits.
Some of the following information is from Psychology Today’s April, 2016 edition, University of Maryland Medical Center’s website and other websites.
What is It and How Does It Work?
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the Pineal Gland that regulates sleep. It has long been used instead of counting sheep. When the Melatonin system is working well, it’s level rises at night to facilitate falling asleep. The level stays high during the night so that we stay asleep. As morning comes, the level of Melatonin drops so that we can wake up for the day.
Many things can effect one’s level of Melatonin including:
- High stress levels
- Traveling between time zones
- Night shift work
- Blue Light (as in computer and smart phone screen time in the two hours before bed)
Melatonin – Exciting New Information About the Benefits
According to research, in addition to sleep, Melatonin may:
- Decrease neurodegeneration (nerve decline) caused by amyloid beta and tau proteins. Damage caused by amyloid beta and tau proteins is found in people with Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Lower risk of stroke.
- Help with depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
- Minimize inflammation (including from traumatic brain injury) and oxidative stress (which effects one’s potential to develop cancer). It may help strengthen the immune system. It is a potent antioxidant.
- Aid in timing the release of female reproductive hormones.
How to Beneficially Increase Melatonin Levels in Our Bodies
- Several sources mention tart cherries as containing the highest amount of Melatonin. For a chart of food with Melatonin, click on: Immune Health Science.
- In addition, according to the Natural Society, the following foods help boost Melatonin:
- Sweet corn
- Blue lights, such as those given off by smartphones and tablets, suppress Melatonin production, thereby, potentially affecting one’s sleep. Turn off the computer and cell phone at least 2 hours before bedtime.
- Melatonin passes through the blood-brain barrier which boosts it’s effectiveness.
Supplements and Melatonin
As with all supplements, they are unregulated and may not always reliably contain the claimed ingredients. Dosing can be a problem as many over the counter supplements contain more Melatonin than the body uses. Talk to someone you trust working in the vitamin and supplement department in your local health food store. If possible, look for supplements that are GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified.
The best approach of Melatonin supplementation is to begin with very low doses. Different people have different responses, so start the dose below the amount that our bodies normally produce (< 0.3 mg per day). You should use the lowest amount possible to achieve the desired effect. Your health care practitioner can help you determine the most appropriate dose for your condition(s).
- University of Maryland Medical Center’s website: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/melatonin
- Mayo Clinic’s rating of Melatonin research for different issues: http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/melatonin/evidence/hrb-20059770
As with any medication or supplement, check with your health professionals to see if Melatonin is a good idea for you. It could have interactions with medication or other supplements you are taking.