Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Response to Doctor Oz's "Melatonin: Are You Sabotaging Your Sleep?"

Obviously, the lowest amount (dose) of something that works for you is usually best, but that is true more rigidly for substances with a high potential for dangerous side effects - like pharmaceutical drugs - than for natural substances that the body produces and knows how to properly handle.

The sleep aid Melatonin is normally made from the hormone serotonin, which in turn is metabolized from dietary l-tryptophan, an essential amino acid that must be ingested because it can't be synthesized in the body from other substances like the non-essential aminos can. Melatonin is produced at night time, in darkness, so those of us who sit up in bright rooms and/or watch TV or computer screens late at night are suspect of creating a deficiency due to these unnatural habits.

Melatonin is supposed to rule the night while adrenal hormones rule the day. Melatonin actually suppresses the production of stress hormones, allowing us to relax and get a good night's sleep. But the more stress we're under, and the more we deprive ourselves of the proper conditions to synthesize our own melatonin, the less likely we can get a good night's sleep or shut off the flood of stress hormones (like cortisol) that raise our risks of getting chronic diseases, heart attacks and strokes, nervous eating and belly fat, etc. 

There are legitimate reasons to use higher amounts of melatonin than the fraction of a milligram that some suggest. In fact, for certain populations, higher amounts may be necesary to maintain a balanced health status (homeostasis), even for children.

Here are some authoritative references for higher doses of melatonin; not only for sleep, but for other potential health benefits: