Sleep is one of the main keys to many health benefits including good processing, attention, behavior, mood, immune system and longevity. According to WebMD, "children who are overweight and don't get enough sleep may have a harder time learning, and those with learning difficulties may be at higher risk for obesity and sleep problems, new research suggests." The following article interested me, not because I am a fan of synthetic Melatonin, which I am not, but because I firmly believe in the health benefits that your own naturally produced Melatonin can do for you. Melatonin is a hormone produced when we sleep and develops in darkness, but many people are not doing the right things to produce natural Melatonin, thus their sleep is interrupted and not the best quality which can effect everything in their day. I know many things people can do to improve their sleep environment and hygiene to produce that natural Melatonin, which would have the same health benefits. For those suffering with insomnia or broken sleep, I say sleep induced with a supplement is better than no sleep at all, but going as natural as you can is a good thing too. So read the article and then go below it to see my take and my suggestions to help you get to better health, school days, success and longevity through better sleep.
6 Hidden Health Benefits of Melatonin
Maylin Rodriguez Paez RN
While your body is asleep, it’s raging an internal war. Melatonin, which we often refer to as the “sleep hormone”, serves as a useful ally.
The multi-faceted nature of melatonin is for the most part unknown. Currently, there is research suggesting it may protect, and even treat, certain diseases.
Below we’ve described some of the lesser-known benefits of this widely used supplement.
1.) Melatonin is a Powerful Antioxidant
Did you know that melatonin is a powerful antioxidant? In fact, it’s about twice more potent than vitamin E, and it’s superior to glutathione and vitamin C in reducing oxidative damage.1-2
Studies indicate melatonin protects multiple organs against free radical damage, including the kidneys, brain, pancreas, and eyes.3-6
2.) Melatonin Combats Obesity
The link between poor sleep and obesity is no longer a mystery. Melatonin, interestingly enough, is thought to play a role.
In animal studies, melatonin was found to suppress abdominal fat, plasma leptin (a hunger hormone), while also reducing weight and food intake.7
In addition, melatonin activates brown fat, which causes the body to burn fat rather than to store it. 8
3.) Melatonin Prevents Migraines
The cause of migraines has continued to baffle scientists. There is some information suggesting the Pineal gland may play a role in the condition.9 Interestingly, this is the same gland that produces Melatonin.
Research shows melatonin helps to alleviate migraine pain and reduce the frequency of headaches.10
In one particular study,more than two thirds of migraine patients using melatonin experienced at least a 50% reduction in the number of headaches per month.11
4.) Melatonin Protects Your Bones
Preserving bone mass and strength should be a priority for all aging people, and melatonin could potentially help.
According to a recent study, Melatonin was found to improve bone strength and thickness in aging rats.12 Several studies revealed that Melatonin increases Osteocalcin, a bone-building hormone.13
5.) Melatonin Has Anti-Cancer Benefits
Melatonin supports the role of your immune system. That’s probably why it has notable anti-cancer effects.
According to a review of eight clinical trials, Melatonin taken along with conventional treatments was shown to significantly increase the one-year survival rate of cancer patients.
Benefits were seen for breast, colorectal, brain, and lung cancers.14
6.) Melatonin Protects Your Brain
Melatonin demonstrates its power especially in the brain, where it combats neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies indicate that melatonin protects against beta amyloid plaque, one of the underlying causes of Alzheimer's disease.15
In addition it slows the cognitive decline associated with the condition.16
The Bottom Line
Even if you’re not having trouble sleeping, supplementing with melatonin may not be a bad idea, especially considering all of its newly emerging benefits.
Thinking of trying it? A good starting dose ranges between 300 mcg to 3 mg daily.
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8 Things that Can Interrupt or Help Sleep and Natural Melatonin Production for a Better Day
The following are all short excerpts from my ebook called "Surviving the School Year Naturally With Dr. Sherri". More information is available on all of this there.
FACT: Any light in the room while sleeping will produce sleep problems. Our eyes and brain are designed to respond to light. To the brain, light means day and dark means night. Light means awake and dark means asleep. Your brain produces Melatonin in response to darkness to create sleep. Any light interfering with that will stop the creation of Melatonin. One of the first things I ask any parent who works with me about attention, behavior or processing problems, is what the child’s room looks like at night. The majority of them tell me that there is always some form of light in the room.
2) Are Sleep Clothes Interfering in Your Child’s Sleep?
SLEEP TIP: What does your child wear to bed? Is it too hot? Too cold? Does it have tags that scratch? If your child is being bothered by clothing at night, you can bet he or she is not getting enough deep sleep. The best way to find out is to ask the child about what his clothing at night feels like. What he likes and what he does not like.
3) Room Temperature
SLEEP TIP: Room temperature. A room that is too hot or too cold can interrupt sleep.
4) Electronic Gadgets
Do you allow your kids or yourself to use your hand held electronic, tablet or laptop right up until sleep? If you do, you should not question why it is hard for you to get to sleep and why it might be hard for you to wake up rested and ready to go the next morning.
The bright light on those gadgets tells your brain that it is daytime and time to be wide awake and alert. It competes with Melatonin production and keeps you awake. It can take hours for that process to stop and Melatonin to begin production. I find it interesting that insomnia is such a common complaint these days as our computers have become small enough to take into our beds with us.
5) Allergies and breathing problems
Our daughter had a sleepover party for her birthday and her cousin came to be part of the party. When the festivities had died down and girls were drifting off, I heard a loud, grating sound from the room in which they were sleeping. I went in there to find our cousin snoring so loud she could be taking the paint off the walls. We mentioned it to her mom and a short time later, tonsils and adenoids out and problem solved.
My point here is that if a child cannot breath right while sleeping, deep sleep is impossible.
6) Natural sunlight during the day
In order for our brains to produce the Melatonin we need for good sleep in a natural way, we need bright sunlight for part of that day. Dr. Joseph Mercola says, "Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces Melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can’t appreciate he difference and will not optimize your Melatonin production."
Additionally, indoor lighting like fluorescent can also decrease your Melatonin production and interfere with sleep.
Dr. Mercola says, "Exposure to Outdoor Light Is Critical for Maintaining Your Master Clock
Most people in Western societies spend the larger portion of each day indoors, which essentially puts you in a state of "light deficiency." In terms of light intensity, outdoor light is far more intense than indoor light. Light intensity is measured in lux units, and on any given day, the outdoor lux units will be around 100,000 at noon. Indoors, the typical average is somewhere between 100 to 2,000 lux units—basically two orders of magnitude less.
"We're not getting enough bright light exposure during the day, and then in the evening, we're getting too much artificial light exposure. Both of those have the consequence of causing our rhythms to get out of sync," Pardi says."
7) Exercise during the day
It makes sense to me that if your exercise during the day, you tire yourself out so you sleep better at night. Turns out, I am right about it, but it actually goes further than that. The moderate physical activity actually creates the Melatonin needed to sleep and also may be protective against breast cancer.
According to Science Daily: "Moderate physical activity, which is believed to help reduce the risk of breast cancer, may do so because it increases production of a hormone believed to have protective effects against the disease, a Canadian research team has learned.
Researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital's Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute in Toronto have completed a study of how light and other factors, such as physical activity, influence the production of melatonin -- a hormone released mainly at night in the absence of light and believed to protect against breast cancer. The findings of the study have been published in the December 1, 2005 edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology."
8) Foods that produce Melatonin
If you want Melatonin, probably a good idea to stay away from high sugar drinks and energy food at night.
My grandmother used to make us cups of heated milk before bed. It is a great memory, but as I look back with the knowledge I have gathered, I realize she had a motive. Heated milk creates Tryptophan in the milk which creates Melatonin and sleep. Thus a peaceful night for Grandma and good sleep for the youngins!
An unusual drink that packs a sleep punch…
Have you ever tried Kefir? I have to admit that I have not drank it up until recently and once I did, I was hooked. It is a fermented dairy drink that comes in strawberry, strawberry banana, blueberry, raspberry and plain. Think yogurt, but like a smoothie milkshake with 10 cultures in it so it is probiotic and good for digestion.
The hard learning part for me, though was that I started drinking it in the morning. For about 2 weeks, I thought I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I ate breakfast and could not see straight for the rest of the day. I felt so tired. So I looked it up, thinking that maybe I had an allergy to it or something. Turns out that the cultures feed on the sugar or lactose and the by product is Melatonin. So, I switched to drinking it as my before bed snack and wow, what a great thing! Like slipping ya a Mickey at the end of the night. Perfect blend of carbs, fat and protein along with probiotic cultures and Melatonin. Slept like a baby and all refreshed in the morning.
The company that produces this product is called Lifeway and they also have kid oriented products as well, although our kids do drink Kefir. If you have a milk allergy, ask your Doc before doing this, but for us, it was a nice way to end the day and make sure that sleep was deep so the next day could be a good one.
So you see that there are a lot of things you can do to improve your own natural Melatonin production and through that, improve lots of things in your life: your learning, attention, behavior, mood, success level, productivity, health and longevity.
Let me know how it goes for you if you make any of these changes.
Dr. Sherri's Blog
How have you helped your child's processing today?