Updated: Oct 9, 2018
Melatonin is known as the sleep hormone, but it’s so much more than that. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, it supports adrenal function, controls output for growth hormone and sex hormones, and more recently has been shown to support cellular mitochondria (the battery pack of the cell.)
Melatonin regulates our sleep / wake cycle to tell our body when it’s time to sleep, and help keep us asleep through the night. Our pineal gland in the brain responds to darkness by producing Melatonin, and the highest levels will occur a few hours after sleep. Because Melatonin is suppressed by the blue light spectrum, screens and lights after dark, will tell our body it isn’t time for sleep and keep us awake. This doesn’t just apply to your eyes, your skin also senses light which is why it’s important to sleep in a completely dark room. Melatonin supplementation is commonly used for insomnia and jet lag treatment, to help overcome dysregulation of the sleep wake cycle in different time zones.
Gut health is pivotal for great overall wellness, but especially for good Melatonin production given that an estimated 75% of melatonin is made in the gut. A very small percentage of Melatonin is produced at night in the pineal gland, the majority is produced in the cells of the digestive mucosa, hence why low Melatonin levels and poor sleep quality are key signs of inadequate gut health.
In the gastrointestinal tract, Melatonin assists with digestion and elimination, relaxes the smooth muscles in the gut, helps protect the upper GI tract mucosal cells in reflux and increases mucosal blood flow in irritable bowel syndrome. As a result it’s been used as an adjunct to treatment for IBS, Crohn’s disease, and other gut related disorders.
Melatonin has a powerful role in cellular health and it’s speculated that many of the beneficial consequences of Melatonin supplementation are due to the positive effects on the Mitochondria in the cells. Melatonin helps in preventing mitochondrial impairment, energy failure, and increasing programmed cellular death of oxidatively-damaged mitochondria. This is important news for anti aging and cellular longevity!
Most people suffer from low Melatonin and common signs and symptoms are insomnia, inability to sleep through the night, gut distress. Melatonin declines with age, poor gut health and excessive exposure to blue light which means there is a lot you can do to preserve your Melatonin production!
Sleep in a darkroom
Avoid screens before bed or use blue blocking glasses, nightshift mode, f.lux,
Try iphone screen overlay with red colour – iphone general settings – accessibility – display accommodations – colour filters (and then create a shortcut to turn it on and off easily)
Check in with your gut health with a functional practitioner
Eat more healthy carbs before bed to boost Tryptophan levels which is a the precursor to Melatonin.
Supplement with 3mg, 30 mins before bed. Not a long term strategy!
We have been wearing blue blockers and supplementing with Melatonin for years and both will make a huge difference in the quality of your sleep, and your quality of life!