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Sleep and Melatonin

Do you have troubles falling or staying asleep? Do you feel unrested in the morning? Sleep is probably one of the more difficult things I treat because really good sleep is dependent on balancing hormones, emotions, diet and nervous system. In this article we are going to focus on hormones, specifically Melatonin.

For those of you wondering why we sleep… here are some reasons:

  • We repair, process, and strengthen the body only when sleeping

  • Sleep helps us to solidify and consolidate memories: bits and pieces of information are transferred from more tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory—a process called "consolidation."

  • grows muscles and repair tissue

  • synthesize hormones

Unfortunately if you are not sleeping then you cannot heal the body, which leads to a continual deficit. This means supplements, nutrition and herbs will not work as optimally in a sleep deprived body vs a well rested body.

Many people have heard of Melatonin, a hormone found in the body, that is suppose to help with sleep. It is produced in the pineal gland in the brain mostly, along with the GI system and the heart. It has a short half life, only 30-60 min, and is cleared by the liver. Therefore a good company will create a sustained long lasting form of melatonin.

Melatonin works with the body’s natural rhythms and regulates sleep-wake cycles. Darkness causes the body to produce more melatonin, which signals the body to prepare for sleep. Light decreases melatonin production and signals the body to prepare for being awake. Generally melatonin can be detected for around 12 hours, and is barely detectable in the day.

What can melatonin be used for:

  • Inability to fall asleep or disturbed sleep. I find personally melatonin puts people in a deeper sleep phase. It can sometimes help with the "falling asleep" process, but not always.

  • People use melatonin to adjust the body's internal clock. It is used for jet lag, for adjusting sleep-wake cycles in people whose daily work schedule changes, shift-work, and for helping blind people establish a day and night cycle.

  • An interesting note: Melatonin made from serotonin, and can be converted back to serotonin therefore preventing depression and anxiety.

  • Any illness where the body can’t shut down to repair itself such as; ADHD, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia. Restless leg syndrome, IBS to name a few.

  • Developmental disorders such as; autism, cerebral palsy

  • Intellectual disabilities such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

  • Has been shown to help with seasonal affective disorder.

  • It is also used to calm people before they are given anesthesia for surgery.

  • Can protect against sunburn when applied to the skin as a cream

Remember poor sleep usually is an imbalance of emotions, hormones, diet, and nervous system. Melatonin can help the hormonal side for sure, however please talk to your ND as dosages are usually a lot lower than you think, and melatonin can affect certain medications. Consider consistent healthy sleep routines and addressing stuck emotions in the body and diet. For the most part I have found if these emotions are not addressed, then many other tools will not work for sleep.

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