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Reconsider Taking Melatonin: 3 Sleep Aid Alternatives

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Reconsider Taking Melatonin: 3 Sleep Aid Alternatives – Thomas DeLauer

I hate to be a Debbie Downer here, but today I’m going to rain on your melatonin parade. What I want to do here is help you understand the ins and outs of melatonin, how it works within your body, and if you truly need to be taking an exogenous form of melatonin. So let’s talk about what’s actually happening within the body.

First off, melatonin’s a naturally occurring hormone. So whenever the sun starts to go down, the temperature starts to cool, generally speaking, you produce melatonin and induces sleep and induces your brain to go into the right waves so that you start getting relaxed and start falling asleep. So of course in traditional nature, as soon as we start to see something that works to help us fall asleep, most companies want to bottle it and sell it to you. So that’s exactly what’s going on with melatonin. We’re looking at a supplement that still is a hormone, a hormone that is triggering us to fall asleep.

So that’s exactly what melatonin is, but let’s talk about what’s actually happening inside your body a little bit more. You see, there’s a lot of evidence that’s now helping us understand that melatonin could have some long term effects in a negative way on our sleep, and we also have to understand that melatonin is a hormone that is only available over the counter in the United States.

Other places in the world don’t even allow you to take melatonin, and if you can get your hands on it, it’s usually through a bunch of different loopholes in the first place. So obviously that’s something to be a little bit concerned about in the first place, when we’re talking about a hormone that’s pretty tightly regulated. So what we have to look at is what happens within the body.

First off is a negative feedback loop. You see what a negative feedback loop is, is when the body starts to see something coming in from an exogenous source, so it slows down the natural production of it. See, within our brain, we have a specific region known as the suprachiasmatic nuclei. The suprachiasmatic nuclei has a bunch of neurons, tens of thousands of neurons on the left, and the right hemispheres of what’s called the hypothalamus portion of the brain, and these neurons send signals back and forth to what’s called the pineal gland.

So this is a cycle right then and there, but what happens is inside these neurons, we have receptors for melatonin and up until recently we didn’t even know that these receptors existed, but now that we know they exist, we know that melatonin has a specific cycle where it goes from the suprachiasmatic nuclei, bounces back to the pineal gland and back to the suprachiasmatic nuclei. So what happens is if we inject a bunch of melatonin in the equation by taking a supplement, we are having a huge surge of it and we’re essentially burning out those receptors.

Or we’re at least convincing those receptors that we have enough melatonin naturally that we don’t need to be producing it any more. Basically, you’re becoming dependent on it.


1) Melatonin, the Hormone of Darkness: From Sleep Promotion to EbolaTreatment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4334454/
2) Vriend J and Reiter RJ. (n.d.). Melatonin feedback on clock genes: a theory involving the proteasome. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25369242
3) Rest easy: MIT study confirms melatonin’s value as sleep aid. (2005, March 1). Retrieved from http://news.mit.edu/2005/melatonin
4) The Dark Side of Melatonin. (2017, December 6). Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/van-winkles/the-dark-side-of-melatoni_b_8855998.html
5) Side Effects of Melatonin: What Are the Risks? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/melatonin-side-effects#section5
6) How Magnesium Can Help You Sleep. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-and-sleep#section2
7) What is L-theanine and how does it affect your sleep? (2017, October 5). Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-is-l-theanine-and-how-does-it-affect-your-sleep_us_59d64009e4b03384c43e587f
8) The Sleep-Promoting and Hypothermic Effects of Glycine are Mediated by NMDA Receptors in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4397399/
9) Bannai M and Kawai N. (n.d.). New therapeutic strategy for amino acid medicine: glycine improves the quality of sleep. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22293292
10) Choosing The Best Temperature For Sleep. (2013, October 9). Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-christopher-winter/best-temperature-for-sleep_b_3705049.html

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