Source: Best Health magazine, October 2015
If you’re not already taking a melatonin supplement, perhaps you should be. Melatonin, a hormone released from the pineal gland at night when levels of light drop, actually prepares the brain and body for sleep. Adequate hours of good-quality sleep are essential for our whole body health. But not all of us are producing enough melatonin to actually get a good night’s sleep.
Numerous factors contribute to low or mistimed melatonin production and poor sleep. There is a natural decline as we age, making restful sleep more difficult in older individuals. Stress causes a significant inhibition of melatonin production and, as lack of sleep increases cortisol, a vicious cycle of sleeplessness and anxiety is created.
Melatonin production is also inhibited by most pharmaceutical sleeping pills, antihistamines, beta blockers, Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Enter melatonin supplements. Studies reveal that supplementation can help promote healthy sleep patterns by reducing sleep latency (time needed to fall asleep), and improving sleep efficiency and total sleep duration, regardless of the cause of insomnia. Melatonin is extremely safe and effective for adults, as well as kids over four, in appropriate doses (0.5 to 10 milligrams, depending on age), with no reported addictive qualities.
Supplementation can sometimes cause vivid dreams in those with untreated high cortisol levels, but this can be solved by reducing the dose from three milligrams to one milligram, then slowly building back up, while implementing stress-management techniques and treating elevated cortisol levels.
There have been concerns about the widespread use of melatonin and its safety. But numerous studies and reports from associations such as the National Sleep Foundation and The Canadian Sleep Society have demonstrated that there have been no proven cases of toxicity or overdose with melatonin supplementation.
And its importance extends beyond sleep: Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that crosses the blood-brain barrier, increasing energy output from our mitochondria and protecting the brain from certain aspects of aging, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and stroke. Melatonin also has several cancer-fighting effects. It increases apoptosis (self-destruction of abnormal cells), prevents replication of cancerous cells and interferes with estrogen binding to cancerous cells. It’s such a key player that the World Health Organization has declared low melatonin to be a potent carcinogen.
In such a fast-paced society, good-quality, stage-four delta wave sleep has never been more important to help the body heal and protect and maintain our health. Sleep is nature’s best medicine and the one thing we simply cannot sacrifice.