If sleep is an issue for you, the likely cause is low melatonin. Read the list below and count how many of the issues pertain to you:
TOTAL it up and Warning score: > 3
Melatonin is released from the pineal gland, and it regulates your 24-hour cycle. It normally increases after darkness falls, making you feel drowsy. Acting as a hormone, melatonin influences the function of your nervous, glandular (endocrine) and immune systems. The highest production of melatonin is typically between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., while you are asleep in the dark. But exposure to light—even the small amount from your digital alarm clock—or to electromagnetic radiation (from digital alarm clocks, TVs, heating pads or electric blankets if within two and a half feet, or roughly a metre, of you) disrupts this process. Your levels of melatonin will be lower if you take Aspirin or ibuprofen regularly, consume caffeinated products, drink alcohol or smoke.
Melatonin is an antioxidant that maintains youthfulness, improves sleep, perks up libido and boosts energy and resistance to infections. It influences your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, as well as your sleep quality. It also indirectly influences your body composition by its relationship with growth hormone. Melatonin naturally tends to decline with aging and menopause, so supplements can be helpful if you are over 40, regardless of whether you experience sleep problems.
Melatonin helps turn on the nighttime repair processes by allowing our body temperature to cool. Once we have cooled down, growth hormone is released and begins to work its magic on our bone, skin, and muscle cells—repairing and rebuilding us while we sleep. As an added bonus, it lowers cortisol and protects us from the harmful effects of stress. Because of these effects of melatonin on growth hormone and cortisol, it helps our metabolic rate by preserving muscle tissue.
Since melatonin is made from serotonin, when melatonin levels go up, serotonin levels go down. For example, melatonin levels are known to increase in the winter when we have less exposure to sunlight. This is most likely the cause of seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder, or SAD). A common symptom of SAD is increased carbohydrate cravings and weight gain. Yet, when we eat more carbohydrates, it shifts the body towards making more serotonin than melatonin. This could be helpful if done in moderation, but we usually overeat comfort foods that pump up serotonin (chips, cookies, pretzels, candy, etc.) and end up feeling fat, fuzzy and even more depressed.
Anyone with a sleep issue should take 0.5–3 milligrams of a melatonin supplement daily at bedtime to aid sleep. (exception those taking immunosuppressive drugs, and anyone less than 40 years old should check with their doctor as they should be producing their own melatonin if they are following The Homone Diet rules for sleeping – including sleeping naked (yes, Natasha’s favorite rule).
Quick Summary – Foods or Specific Habits to Increase Melatonin:
• Sleep in total darkness.
• Expose yourself to bright light immediately upon rising and during the day.
• Keep the lights dim after dinner.
• Consume protein, particularly sources that contain the tryptophan needed to make melatonin, such as cherry juice, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
Other natural sleep remedies can be used to suit your specific sleep concerns—such as early-morning waking, waking between 2 and 4 a.m., tension or body pain that disrupts your sleep or a busy mind. Regardless of your pattern of disruption, you may want to try one or more of these:
Relora or Clear Balance Stress Modifying Formula
This contains Relora, my favourite choice for years in my practice for chronic stress and sleep disruption. And boy, does it work! A mixture of tree extracts from Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense, Relora is medically proven to reduce stress and anxiety. It’s often the best option for patients who tend to wake up throughout the night, for highly stressed individuals and for menopausal women with hot flashes that cause sleep disruption. Relora can significantly reduce cortisol and raise the anti-aging, anti-stress hormone DHEA within only two weeks of use. Usually two capsules are taken before bed and one in the morning to ease the effects of stress and improve rest. Alternatively, all three may be taken at night. This product works very well when combined with melatonin.
This simple mineral works so well that I once had a patient question whether I had given him a drug for his sleep. Magnesium calms your nervous system, induces relaxation, reduces blood pressure, decreases cravings, aids PMS tension, increases energy during the day and treats and prevents constipation and muscle cramps. As a bonus, it also reduces sugar cravings and aids insulin sensitivity. It’s truly one of nature’s “wonder drugs.” The most common dose is 200 to 800 milligrams at night—beginning at 200 and increasing the dosage until bowel tolerance is reached (i.e., the point at which you develop loose stools). Topical magnesium chloride gel can also be an excellent way to increase your magnesium stores, improve sleep and calm your nervous system when applied to each limb at bedtime. It can also be applied after showering or bathing.
Ayurvedic practitioners use this dietary supplement to enhance mental and physical performance, improve learning ability and decrease stress and fatigue. Ashwagandha is a general tonic that can be used in stressful situations, especially for insomnia or restlessness or when you are feeling overworked. Studies have indicated that ashwagandha offers anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer,
anti-stress, antioxidant and immune-modulating and rejuvenating properties. The typical dosage is 500 to 1,000 milligrams twice daily. Capsules should be standardized to 1.5 percent withanolides per dose.
Gamma-aminobutyric Acid (GABA)
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, a brain chemical that has a calming effect. It’s well suited to individuals who experience anxiety, muscle tension or pain. Standard dose is 500 to 1,000 milligrams before bed. Alternatively, you can take GABA 20 minutes before your evening meal. The standard dose of 500 milligrams twice daily can be increased to a maximum of three times daily if needed, but this higher dosage should not be exceeded. You may choose 500 milligram GABA capsules from a manufacturer of your choice, or you may also consider Clear Calm GABA Enhancing Formula.
Clear Mood (contains 5-HTP)
A derivative of tryptophan that also contributes to the creation of serotonin, 5-HTP has been found to be more effective than tryptophan in treating sleep loss related to depression, anxiety and fibromyalgia. If you tend to wake in the early morning, no matter how late you go to bed, this is an important choice for you. It also appears to increase REM sleep and decrease the amount of time required to fall asleep and the number of nighttime awakenings. An effective dose is 50 to 400 milligrams a day, divided throughout the day and before bed. Clear Mood Serotonin Support Formula works very well because it also contains the vitamin cofactors needed for the production of serotonin, along with 75 milligrams of 5-HTP per capsule. It needs to be taken for at least four to six weeks before reaching full effectiveness.
You can look for a formula like Clear Cortisol that contains Relora, Sensoril (an optimized ashwagandha that helps improve resistance towards stress) and Suntheanine, a pure form of L-theanine that naturally stimulates activity in the brain known as alpha waves and is associated with a relaxed but alert mental state. This combo is an excellent choice if you have both body and mind stress, a busy mind at night or are waking throughout the night. Clear Cortisol will have the same calming effects for your mind and body as daily mindfulness meditation. The usual dose is two capsules.