The Importance of Melatonin for Overall Health & Fitness September 17, 2015 15:29
Let’s face it we all want to be fit. During our waking hours, supplements such as protein shakes and metabolism boosters can help us reach our fitness goals but what about the other 33% of our lives? Sleep plays a huge part in how our bodies function because that’s when it has the chance to repair itself.
Almost half of us don’t get enough sleep or have restless nights, leaving us with sub-optimal recovery time. Normally we think that after a hard workout, training session, long hike or bike ride, the strenuous activity itself would ensure we get a good night sleep. That does not always happen. These activities deplete our bodies greatly and in order to gain the benefits of and from our hard work at being fit and staying in shape, we need to get regular and optimal sleep. For many of us, 7-9 hrs of sleep is very important not just for recovery, but for the entire human body.
Melatonin regulates every aspect of human physiology. This is especially important for sleep and wake cycles, energy levels, hormone release, brain growth, muscle growth, recovery from training, and body fat. Research shows that this activity involves daily expression of over 20% of your total genome, making melatonin the largest single control system in the human body.
More and more research is showing that disrupting the melatonin rhythm even by restricting sleep to six hours a night, impairs learning, memory, glucose metabolism, immune function, appetite regulation, and athletic training. Keep in mind that athletic training is not just restricted to the elite athletes. This applies to the fitness competitor, the body builder, the weekend warrior, gym goer, boot camp participant, weight-loss challenge goals to name just a few.
When sleep is reduced, athletic performance is not only reduced, but it can often be devastated. Furthermore, with reduced sleep, inflammation and the risks of injury and illness are greatly increased. Low melatonin levels compounded with poor sleep is a recipe for increased inflammation and disrupted and disordered hormonal rhythms, which also lower the body’s immune system.
Let’s not forget body fat. Many of us wanting to be fit including athletes all want lower body fat. Athletes are always balancing muscle and fat. Keep in mind that muscle is working tissue, fat is not. Muscle is more dense than fat. Muscles takes up less surface area (hence the lean and ripped look), whereas fat is soft and takes up a lot of space and just hangs. Gain fat, and the extra dead weight reduces performance and your fitness and activity levels.
Melatonin is best known for its effectiveness as a sleep aid and regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Generally, melatonin is used for difficulty falling asleep, waking in the night, and improving overall sleep quality. Melatonin is particularly beneficial to help to overcome jetlag (especially when travelling eastbound over more that 2 time zones) and for shift workers with altered sleep schedules. A new understand is now emerging that greater health benefits of melatonin supplementation are associated with increased duration of REM and deep sleep, crucial for nightly repair, regeneration and detoxification.
Beyond sleep, research (over 6000 studies) shows that melatonin benefits are profound and far reaching. Known as the body’s most efficient free-radical scavenger with an impressive ability to control oxidative damage, melatonin has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune properties. These properties function as brain, heart, neurological, cognitive and cancer protection through the reduction of trauma from brain injury; preventing heart muscle damage; neuroprotection; increasing cognitive functioning; and offering cancer support and reducing the toxic effects of chemotherapy.
Consider Melatonin for These Health Benefits:
Resetting the body’s sleep-wake cycles, increasing REM and total sleep time and improving sleep quality
- Difficulty falling asleep (insomnia, delayed sleep phase syndrome)
- Waking in the night
- Shift work and late night/altered sleep schedules
- Jet lag
Powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and the body’s the most efficient free-radical scavenger.
- Cancer prevention and control
- Reduce side effects from chemotherapy (low platelet counts, neurotoxicity, cardiotoxicity, and mouth sores)
- Enhance effectiveness of standard therapy for cancer
- Protects shift-workers from known increased cancer risks
Brain Health, Neuroprotection and Healthy Cognitive Function
- Prevent neurodegenerative diseases
- Improve mild cognitive impairment, learning and memory (Alzheimer’s and dementia)
- Protect against brain injury (stroke or trauma)
- Calcification of the pineal gland - offsets age-related diminished pineal-derived melatonin availability
- Optimize brain cognitive function during natural aging process
- Depression-related sleep disturbances
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Immune and Inflammation Support
- Powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
- Stimulate immune system
- Improved wound healing
- Cardioprotection (angina, heart attack risk)
- Reduce night-time hypertension (cardiovascular risk factor)
- GI tract protection
- Alleviates gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Reduces functional dyspepsia symptoms
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Headaches – cluster headaches, migraines
Only about half the population gets desired sleep results with 1-3-5 mg dosage of melatonin and almost everyone is melatonin ‘deficient’, according to Harlan Lahti, Pharmacist. In the older population, melatonin production decreases due to pineal calcification and decreased pineal-derived melatonin availability.
High dose melatonin supplementation in sublingual form is both safe and significantly increases duration of REM and deep sleep for greater repair, regeneration and detoxification during sleep. When melatonin is coupled with vitamin B6, melatonin biosynthesis, secretion and absorption is enhanced. For people who ‘don’t tolerate’ melatonin (ex. restlessness, too stimulating, sleep initially worsens), Mr. Lahti’s advice is to persist for about a week with 10 mg of melatonin taken with 1 tsp (5g) of L-Glycine powder. As a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, L-Glycine cools the core temperature of the body down for sleep preparation and allows the body to better tolerate melatonin supplementation.
Why Consider Supplementing Melatonin:
- Artificial Light - extension of daylight hours through indoor lighting suppresses production of melatonin
- Aging - decreased melatonin production occurs during aging due to pineal calcification
- Electrosmog - computers, laptops, tablets, television, and electrosmog suppress melatonin production
- Shift work - disrupts circadian cycle of melatonin and is linked to immune dysfunction and increased cancer rates
- Jet lag - jet lag and late night schedules disrupt circadian cycle of melatonin
- Non-addictive – safely resets circadian rhythms and natural sleep patterns, improving overall sleep quality
- No ‘Hangover’ – unlike other types of sleep aids, melatonin does not produce a ‘hang-over’ feeling in the morning
- Strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties - the most effective free radical scavenging ability in the body, for brain, heart, cancer and neurological protection.
Melatonin is at the forefront of cancer immunotherapy: providing immune boost properties, working with anti-tumor systems, improving tumour killing power of cytokine interleukin-2, and decreasing adverse side effects of chemotherapy and radiation including low platelet count, neurotoxicity, cardiotoxicity and mouth sores. Dosage recommendations often are as high as 50mg daily.
The All-Important Sleep Protocol:
- Melatonin + B6 10mg dosage for adults: take one tablet before or at bedtime.
- Melatonin relies on environmental light cues, with darkness as the trigger to increase production. Therefore, one hour before bed: no electronics should be used (this includes computers, tv, or cell phone), all lights should be dimmed, no exposure to bright light (ex. don’t turn on bathroom light to brush teeth).
- For the best results with Melatonin, the bedroom should be pitch-black throughout the night with no ambient light emission (ex. from alarm clocks, street lights etc).