The Wellness Revolution
Melatonin: More Than a Natural Sleep Aid
Most individuals are familiar with melatonin as a natural sleep aid, but did you know that the research shows us that melatonin has many more uses beyond difficulty falling asleep?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that keeps our sleeping and waking in sync. It is mostly produced and released from a gland located in the brain called the pineal gland, but melatonin has also been found to be released in several other areas of the body including the digestive tract. Meaning if you suffer from digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s or colitis, or food intolerances your gut health is likely less than optimal and you may not be producing enough melatonin. There are several additional reasons why we might not have enough melatonin within our bodies, these include stress, smoking, exposure to too much light at night and/or not enough light during the day, shift work, and the natural aging process.
When melatonin is used in the form of a supplement it can be helpful with short-term sleep issues such as difficulty falling asleep or insomnia. Some people may feel unsure of using melatonin to regulate their sleep patterns because they worry about becoming dependent on it or perhaps they have tried it in the past and woke up feeling groggy. However, unlike prescription sleep aids, we do not become dependent or reliant on melatonin to fall asleep which makes it a great short term supplement for getting our sleep-wake cycle back on track. Also, when melatonin is used correctly, at right time and proper dosage, there are little to no side effects making it a great alternative to conventional sleep aids.
Aside from improving our sleep, there have been several research studies demonstrating that melatonin can be helpful in a variety of conditions or concerns including jet lag, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), autism in adults and children, smoking cessation, tinnitus (commonly referred to as ringing in the ears), headaches and migraines, strokes and traumatic brain injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, heart conditions such as high blood pressure or poor circulation, several types of cancer, reproductive health concerns including polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, and infertility, and digestive concerns such as irritable bowel.
There are several ways to improve your natural melatonin levels besides supplementing:
- Limiting screen time or wearing blue light blocking glasses. Blue light (the light emitted from screens on phones, computers, TVs, etc.) disrupts the production of melatonin within the body.
- Using dim lighting throughout your home/environment, especially at night. This signals to your body to produce more melatonin.
- Improving your gut health by determining the root cause for dysfunction and fixing it. As previously revealed, the gut or the digestive tract has several receptors that play a role in melatonin production.
- Creating an ideal sleep environment that includes black out curtains and ensuring there are no additional sources of light. Even the smallest amount of light can decrease melatonin production and disturb your sleep.
- Consuming foods that naturally increase your melatonin levels such as eggs, fish, nuts, some mushrooms, and legumes.
If you think supplementing with melatonin may be helpful to you, it’s important to consult a naturopathic doctor to discuss the correct time to take a melatonin supplement and how much you will need. There are different dosages that work best for targeting specific health conditions. Melatonin may also not be an appropriate treatment for every age, the benefits must outweigh the risks when beginning any new treatment, talk to your naturopath to determine if their are any risks for your age group.
Questions? Feel free to reach me by sending a message through our website: www.durhamnaturopath.com
Yours in health,
Dr. Kate Klein, ND
About the Author
Dr. Kate Klein is a licensed naturopathic doctor and clinic director at Your Health Collective, an integrative wellness clinic located in the heart of Ajax. Dr. Klein and her team offer services including, naturopathic medicine, holistic nutrition, acupuncture, osteopathy, and psychotherapy to patients of all ages. Practitioners at Your Health Collective provide a collaborative approach to patient care through a variety of natural treatments and solutions for health concerns ranging from disordered sleep, allergies, fertility, headaches, digestive concerns, and much more. We believe that health is more than just the absence of disease; health is when we function at our best through proper nutrition, exercise, a balanced lifestyle, positive emotions, thoughts and actions. For more information about Dr. Klein, naturopathic medicine, or our clinic please visit: www.yourhealthcollective.ca