How to Sleep - Melatonin
A: Hey! I’m Amelia!
C: I’m Cecilia! This is 1800Dreamzz!
A: That’s Dreamzz with two zz’s.
C: We heard a lot of you have trouble sleeping.
A: Apparently 2 out of 3 of Americans report at least one night a week with poor sleep.
C: And that’s without the help of COVID-19 affecting bedtime. The pandemic has messed up our sleep for a number of reasons.
A: Life changes surrounding the pandemic, anxiety surrounding the pandemic.
C: The list goes on. And we see you!
A: Sleep is so unbelievably important to your overall health, so Cecilia and I have developed this series called How to Sleep.
C: We are digging into your biggest sleep questions each week.
A: If you find this information valuable, share this episode with a friend and leave us a review!
C: And if you’ve got a little extra dollars this month, you can drop them in our virtual tip jar at Buy Me a Coffee or become a monthly donor on our Patreon.
A: All of these are linked in the show notes! Now where are we starting off on today’s episode of How to Sleep?
C: Well, Amelia, we are talking about melatonin!
A: Ooooh yes. Melatonin. So hot right now. What is your experience using melatonin?
C: *riff riff* what about you, Amelia?
A: hella groggy *riff riff*. This is especially important for us to note on an episode like today - Cecilia and I are not medical doctors. Any of the research we present today is for you to digest, pun intended, and if you have problems sleeping, now you know a little more if you want to talk to your doctor about it. So what is melatonin?
C: Okay just off the bat, melatonin is a hormone related to sleep - I will go more into that into a minute, but I wanted to provide some context to the science and history around it.
A: Lay it on me!
C: According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “Melatonin was first isolated in 1958 by American physician Aaron B. Lerner and his colleagues at Yale University School of Medicine. They gave the substance its name on the basis of its ability to lighten skin colour in frogs by reversing the skin-darkening effects of melanocyte-stimulating hormone. Melatonin, a derivative of the amino acid tryptophan, is produced in humans, other mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.”
A: That is super interesting! So how does melatonin affect our sleepy sleep?
C: Well, from our friends at the Mayo Clinic, melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your circadian rhythms, aka when you should be awake vs. asleep. It is produced in and secreted by the pineal (pie-neal) gland in the brain. When it’s dark outside, your brain is triggered to produce more melatonin when it’s dark outside, and to produce less when it’s light outside.
A: Okay so we have a real soft spot for third-shift workers, and this breaks my heart to hear how a person’s biology is like “go to bed and stop working.”
C: Dude. Yes. We will have to put something together for 3rd shift workers because that is a whole population who have to literally work against their biological clocks.
A: 3rd shifters - call us! We want to hear from you!
C: We want to know! Similarly, people with jet lag or people with poor vision may have challenges with melatonin production levels. Now, so this is interesting, like I said earlier, “In vertebrates, melatonin is involved in synchronizing circadian rhythms, including sleep–wake timing and blood pressure regulation.
A: Blood pressure in sleep is a big deal, y’all.
C: This wiki article goes on to say that melatonin is “in control of seasonal rhythmicity including reproduction, fattening, moulting, and hibernation”
A: I need to moult my feathers. But that reminds me of listening to our friends at the Positively Green Podcast. The hosts Kelsey and Suzette recently released an episode about their favorite winter wellness tips for health and vitality!
C: That was a good one! They’re all good, go check them out! We’re linking the episode in the show notes.
A: Absolutely! So one of the tips was to recognize the seasonal fluctuations of our body. Like right now. It’s winter. It’s okay to go into hibernation mode. Suzette was talking about how it kind of goes against nature to be having these New Year’s resolutions to exercise and lose weight when we are literally meant to bulk up and hibernate.
C: *riff riff* It’s important to exercise and particularly to stretch, but there is definitely something to listening to these rhythms year round and to listen to our cave people clocks
A: It is very true! And minus the Neanderthal eyebrow, have you ever seen a cave person without a six pack?
C: Please don’t tell me you’ve had the hots for a caveman.
A: No, but I like a rugged person who could take care of me, and sweep me up into the threshold of our cave. Like I don’t need anyone to take care of me, but I choose to have that. I wonder if cave people had bear skin rugs.
C: You would ask these questions.
A: I don’t think so, I doubt they had the preservatives to keep the skin and fur intact. I also have no idea how they’re made. I hope we don’t get hate mail from animal lovers.
C: Everyone, please let Amelia have her cave person bear skin rug fantasy, okay?
A: Thank you! So! What does it mean to take melatonin?
C: This refers to taking melatonin supplements. You can purchase these over the counter, at least in the United States, and the dosage ranges depending on the manufacturer.
A: What are the pros and cons of taking melatonin?
C: Well, just like other supplements, melatonin supplements are not regulated by the FDA. In the United States, you can purchase them without a prescription. According to sleep god, Matthew Walker, the melatonin concentration relative to what it says on the bottle can be anywhere between 80% less or 460% more. And that there is variability in the same vendor's product since concentration between batches can vary.
Walker goes on to say that it is easy to “overdose” - like to take 5 or 10 milligrams, when the optimal dose is .5 mg to 2 mg.
A: Again, this is information we found, please confirm with your doctor if this makes sense for you. That said, the melatonin I have is 5 mg and I always feel like shit when I sleep and when I wake up. Which begs the question: does melatonin deliver?
C: That really is the question, right? People want to get better sleep so they look to sleep aids like melatonin to fall asleep faster as well as get quality sleep. According to Mayo Clinic Sleep Medicine Specialist Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, the production of melatonin in our bodies is not so much to promote sleep as it is to synchronize our biological clocks. He says taking melatonin can be helpful if you are traveling to time zones that are 5 hours or more away from your normal time zone, but that it’s otherwise not really helpful with sleep disorders.
A: Sooo kind of not really?
C: Well back to Matthew Walker, who agrees that melatonin is there to help you get your clock on track and not to generate sleep or help you stay asleep, he says that the placebo effect is very powerful and if you feel like you are getting quality sleep with the melatonin supplements, it’s fine.
A: Talk to your doctor! We’re running short on time, so what’s just one hot tip to help our listeners sleep if they choose to not go the route of melatonin?
C: This is sort of a boring tip but it bears repeating. So we know that too much technology before bed is not ideal. Honestly that’s probably for a number of reasons, but in this case it’s because melatonin production can be inhibited by blue wave length light, which is why it is suggested to not look at electronics before bed.
A: So turn off the electronics! Or use those blue blockers!
A & C: *riff riff*
A: Well, that’s all we have for today!
C: We hope you enjoyed this episode about children in dreams!
A: And check out our series #howtosleep, last week we covered the sleep aid melatonin and this week we are talking all about weighted blankets!
C: Stay tuned next week for when we talk about being in love and going on dates in dreams!
A: Just in time for Valentine’s Day
C: As well as our next #howtosleep episode on weighted blankets! Don’t forget to send your dreams to us at 1800dreamzz.com (with two zz’s!) And check us out on instagram and facebook. Sleep tight!
A: And remember, don’t let the flying dreams bite! Night night!
2 Minute Neuroscience: Melatonin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpaBMgZG9XQ
Mayo Clinic Minute: Is melatonin the right sleep aid for me? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7CuirsCNSo