Every human suffered sleeping issues in his life. May them be extremely long times to sleep, waking up many times or complete insomnia. Plus, most supplements that promise to help with this issue come for a price.
Nope I mean not Whiskey + Benzos.1 Many hard sleeping aids and even lighter ones like alcohol, come with their definite downsides.
Fortunately, there are a few ones around which seem to be pretty safe – one of them is Melatonin*. And this substance is about what I wanna talk with you in today’s infopost!
Melatonin is the main hormone secreted by your Pineal gland. This important gland is found deep within your brain and tightly-knot to sleep and light regulation., as well as bone health and sexual function.
It creates Melatonin up from two substances you might already know: It builds 5-HTP into Serotonin and Serotonin into Melatonin. That’s why its precursor 5-HTP is a common ingredient of sleep-enhancing supplements, when Melatonin is banned or not easily available from a countries legal system. Once created melatonin is quickly brought into your bloodstream where it works its magic – locally as well as within your entire body.2
Melatonin and Sleep Regulation
As mentioned previously – this hormone is tightly-knot to sleep regulation manifold. There are loads of receptors all over your brain for Melatonin, but they’re immensely present in the areas controlling sleep and vision – for example, your eyes and the suprachiasmatic nuclei of your hypothalamus:
Its job is to regulate your circadian rhythm. In English: Melatonin tells your body when it is time to go to bed – exactly when the sun sets and darkness begins to surround you. At this point, melatonin secretion starts, to set you to sleep a few hours after darkness.3
On the contrary, when the sun rises and darkness vanishes, melatonin levels begin to sink drastically. This effect helps to promote you to wake up again after a good night’s rest.
The decrease is also a sign for other bodily mechanisms to start – secretion of insulin and cortisol for example.
What jobs else does Melatonin fulfil?
Bone Health and Body Mass Regulation
There are receptors within your fat tissues, which prevent you from bulking with age. Plus, lack of sleep wreaks havoc onto your appetite in many other ways.
Regarding your bones Melatonin stimulates your bone-building cells, tells your bone-removing cells to make a break, and increases the build-up of collagen.
Melatonin has a very specific receptor within your brain cells through which it acts it’s protecting magic. You could see it best in already damaged brains or brains lacking sleep. In the latter especially the areas responsible for cognition and mood regulation went quickly astray.4
Immune System Function
Melatonin has indirect and direct effect on your Immune System. Indirectly it modulates gastrointestinal functions strongly, by for example producing more mucus to protect your intestines from the aggressive gastric acid. Moreover, it can downregulate certain inflammatory mechanisms.
Directly, it influences a few immune cells and the production of certain immune-reaction producing substances.
By driving your circadian rhythm Melatonin manipulates one very important, central sexual hormone – namely GnRH. This is the boss of most other sexual hormones in humans and indirectly controls all your sexual functions, like ovulation, testosterone production, and sexual drive.
What that means is simply that your sleep-wake cycle controls your sexuality. There could be times of the day or the year people are more willingly to go home with you. Plus, that sleep deprivation will wreak havoc on those.
Why is this natural Cycle nowadays interrupted?
What is the Concern regarding Blue Light?
You see, this hormone is tightly knot to the light which falls, or better said falls not, into your eyeballs. To complicate this topic even further our brilliant body responds differently to varying light sources:
Light can be differentiated into a spectrum. The one which interests us is blue light.
Above that come longer waves such as red light, micro- and radio waves. Below that comes ultraviolet light, as well as the other ionizing radiations.
Blue light inhibits melatonin ramp up within your body. Therefore it strongly inhibits one of your two major sleeping mechanisms.
Why is that so? Because daylight is high in blue light spectrum. Smart bastard our body, isn’t it?
The melatonin mechanism is one of two major mechanisms that lets you transition into dreamland5 Besides melatonin there is sleep pressure, the mechanism caffeine messes around with – you can read more about it here. Generally, it works by accumulating a substance that signals your body fatigue. Sleep recycles this substance – and the longer you stay awake the more of this substance called adenosine accumulates within your neurons. That’s why it is called pressure – this pressure will inevitably win at some point.
Candles and bad-*** bonfires
Let’s get back in time 300 years ago. The only artificial light sources back then were candles – or maybe bad *** bonfires. But everyone who hosted an Easter bonfire knows the hard work that goes into the setup of a merry blaze for just a few hours. So this won’t be an option all year round.
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Plus, fire emits mostly warm light. Do you remember? The light above our blue light spectrum. This spectrum of light doesn’t mess around with our melatonin production. That’s why candles and lightning high in warmer, red light is a great choice of better sleep hygiene to help your body’s natural mechanisms, rather than work against them. That’s where knowing how melatonin works really helps you set your knowledge into action.
The Rise of Artificial Lighting
Alright, let’s jump forward 150 years from there, Marty McFly. In this time period, Benjamin Franklin revolutionized or way of life with his great invention of cheap and widespread artificial lightning.
Unlike candles, most of our artificial light sources are high in blue light:
TV-, Mobile-, Laptopscreens? Check
Lightbulbs and LED’s? Check
That’s why computer work or the occasional evening Netflix binge can hinder you to fall asleep strongly. 6 To counter these quite modern fiend’s of melatonin, sleep hygiene evolved, as a way to work with your inborn mechanisms and not against them.
Is Melatonin safe or could I die painfully by taking Hormones like Melatonin?
Taking hormones always sounds scary – true that. And this skepticism is a great attitude, especially towards new supplements. But thanks to widespread research many of these fears turned out to be untrue. Fortunately, it is none of the risky substances.7
To kill half of all mice with melatonin you would’ve to give them around 400mg/kg of bodyweight. That would equate 7g of Melatonin for an adult – somewhat like 7-10 packages of 100 tabs for a 50/50 chance to have supper with death. 🙄
That said – Melatonin turns out to be very safe. And effective with a sweetspot-dose of around 1-2 mg approximately 30 minutes before sleep. Even further very few people report issues while taking this supplement*. That is unusual. Just think of protein powder and how many report bowel issues by – protein.
Nonetheless, I wouldn’t take it every night – save it for the jetlagged and stressful days. Rather try to fix your evening routine first before relying on a medication to do that job.
What brings me to this resolution is especially the high concentration after taking rather small doses of melatonin. If you’d take 1-1.5mg of it there would be 10-100x the amount of normal dose. It doesn’t show to do any harm – but not finding evidence doesn’t mean there is none. And 10-100x is always a squishy, non-trustworthy answer to come up with.
How should I take Melatonin to help me sleep optimally?
Great thing is that your body doesn’t get used to melatonin. Just think of coffee and how after 2 weeks you can drink double the dose you couldn’t even think of drinking at day one. Quite opposite, melatonin works nearly the same – each day.9
Start with the lowest dose and find your sweet spot. One tip of mine would be to buy a time-releasing melatonin. They keep the levels of melatonin constant within your blood stream and not just simply spike your levels up drastically.
If you crave something fancy I had great results while stressy shifts at the hospital with the combination of 2-3 mg of melatonin with 200mg passionflower extract.*
That’s because there are no receptors which melatonin plays with. And no receptors mean that your body doesn’t respond by simply building more receptors, which makes up the higher resistance to a given substance.