Is Melatonin Right for You?Jul 22, 2021
Through our many years of working with patients and in recent years working with executives, employees, and athletes on managing their sleep issues, discussions on the use of melatonin to help them sleep better have increased exponentially. This is supported by the fact that sales of melatonin from 2018 to 2020 have almost doubled from $436M to $820M. Why are people turning to melatonin to improve their sleep? Are consumers using it appropriately? How does it work? Let’s explore these questions.
You have certainly heard interviews, listened to podcasts and read articles about sleep problems and how to resolve them. Amongst those discussions and articles, we are sure they have talked about how melatonin can be a great option. So, we want to share a bit of information to help you understand how you can decide if melatonin is right for you in your sleep and health journey.
Let us start by telling you a brief story about how melatonin could be effective in helping someone with sleep problems. Hailey Johnson is a 32 year-old marketing manager at a medium-sized tech company in Silicon Valley. Hailey loves living and working in the Bay area, but she is struggling to maintain her energy level and is too tired during the day to really enjoy her time at work and at play. She knows that her challenges in falling asleep at night are affecting this, but she is not sure what to do. She needs to get up at 6 am in order be at her yoga class on time, pick-up a quick breakfast after class and still get to work by 9 am. She goes to bed at 10:30 pm in order to get enough sleep, but she cannot fall asleep until after midnight. She sleeps well once she falls asleep, but she feels exhausted in the morning when her alarm goes off. The yoga class helps, but she is “dragging” during the day.
Many of you may be experiencing similar challenges. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) survey of Americans shows that you are not alone. The survey revealed that 43% of adults reported rarely or never getting a good night’s sleep and the pandemic has raised that number dramatically. According to a recent British Sleep Society report, 3 out of 4 people in the United Kingdom had a change in their sleep (increased sleep problems) during the pandemic.
What about Melatonin?
Melatonin is essentially the “hormonal signal of darkness”. It is naturally produced by the pineal gland at the base of the brain when it becomes dark outside. It signals the body and brain that it is time to transition toward sleep. Therefore, melatonin is a key hormone for maintaining the rhythm of your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. However, if your natural rhythm does not fit in your lifestyle, like Hailey’s situation, then it may be helpful to use a melatonin supplement to shift your natural rhythm and improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. But it is important to understand that melatonin is NOT a sleeping pill. It is a timing hormone. It may help you to shift or reinforce the timing of your sleep to match your lifestyle and life schedule.
It is not an effective supplement for poor sleep due to an overactive mind, restlessness, sleep apnea, etc.
For Hailey, who was struggling with a circadian delay issue, she wanted to get her 7.5-8 hours of sleep by going to bed at 10:30 pm, but her biological rhythm was naturally set for her to fall asleep at 12:30 am and since she had to wake-up at 6 am she was only getting 5.5 hours of sleep and felt lousy all day. Using a high-quality melatonin-containing supplement, like the formulation in Mantra Labs REST, about 1 hour before her proposed bedtime (for Hailey about 9:30 pm) will help Hailey shift her sleep to a healthier time within her lifestyle. The companion products of RISE and GO, taken during the day, will also support a healthy 24-hour circadian rhythm.
Melatonin is also a powerful immune booster that works as an antioxidant and can reduce inflammation. Melatonin has been shown in research studies to reduce the severity of influenza and in new studies it even lowers the symptoms of COVID-19. It also has strong neuroprotective properties to support the health of your brain and nervous system.
Important: Another key factor in shifting your biological rhythm to fit your lifestyle and to get the healthy sleep you desire is sunlight in the morning. Bright light in the morning immediately after waking by taking a 30-60 minute walk outside in the sunlight or using a 10,000 lux light box will set your body’s natural rhythm for the day and help you fall asleep at the appropriate time at night.
Is Melatonin right for you?
If you are experiencing sleep problems, similar to Hailey, in which:
- You go to bed at the time you want, but your mind won’t shut down and you cannot fall asleep
- Yet you can fall asleep later in the night
- And you sleep relatively well once you fall asleep
- But you need to wake-up to an alarm and you are not rested
You may be struggling with a delay in your circadian rhythm.
Your natural circadian rhythm would have you going to bed later and sleeping later. But if your life schedule requires you to be at work, school or other activities earlier, then you may want to shift your rhythm to a schedule that works in your lifestyle. As in Hailey’s situation, we recommend using the REST supplement about 3 hours before your current bedtime or 1 hour before your proposed bedtime. Over a period of weeks to months you will likely experience an improved ability to fall asleep at a time in the evening that is right for your schedule.
Dr. Jonathan Parker
Dr. Michael Howell
Co-founders of Sleep Performance Institute
NOTE: If you are struggling with a sleep challenge, it is important to take a journey of self-discovery to explore the nature of your personal circadian rhythm and how it may affect your sleep quality. Trouble falling asleep? Trouble staying asleep? Not waking up refreshed in the morning? Each individual has unique sleep and needs a customized strategy to help them sleep better. The SPI Sleep Journey App, available in the Apple App Store, can help. It can help you discover and master great sleep.
The information in this blog is not providing you a diagnosis or treatment for your sleep problem and it is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your sleep, health or a medical condition. SPI recommends that prior to pursuing any suggestions made in this post, you review all information regarding any health issue, sleep problem, or treatment with your physician.
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