If health coaching clients say, “I’m having a hard time falling asleep,” or “I just toss and turn at night,” there are a few ways health coaches can offer support. For sleep issues, information about melatonin can help.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that plays a critical role in maintaining not only a good night’s sleep but also overall health. This pivotal hormone regulates our sleep-wake cycle. However, it also offers various other health benefits beyond ensuring restful slumber.
Here is a general guide to the many benefits of melatonin, how clients can get it naturally, and general uses for this hormone. What’s more, below is a list of potential side effects of melatonin that clients should discuss with their physician.
Benefits of Melatonin
Regulating Sleep-Wake Cycles
Melatonin is primarily known for its role in regulating the body’s internal clock. Produced by the pineal gland of the brain in response to darkness, it signals to the body that it’s time to sleep. This critical component of your circadian rhythm regulates your sleep-wake cycle.
Improved Sleep Quality
Melatonin can enhance the quality of sleep, making it particularly helpful for individuals who struggle with sleep disorders, such as insomnia. It helps reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and may increase overall sleep duration. Many who suffer from jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, or anxiety take it as a supplement to help with these issues.
Beyond its sleep-regulating functions, it also acts as a potent antioxidant. It scavenges harmful free radicals, protecting cells “against nitrooxidative stress and reducing inflammation.” This indicates that it “could have significant potential to improve public health,” according to studies.
Immune System Support
Some research suggests that melatonin may have immune-enhancing effects. Studies show that in immunosuppressed conditions, it provides “a more effective early immune response against external stressors, such as viruses and parasites.”
Melatonin plays a role in protecting the central nervous system. There’s emerging evidence that it may help reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline by preserving neuronal function and reducing inflammation in the brain. However, more studies are needed.
Sources of Melatonin:
Melatonin is naturally produced in the pineal gland when the body is exposed to darkness. This production typically begins in the evening, signaling to the body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. However, exposure to bright light, especially from screens, can disrupt its production. This is one reason why it is recommended to avoid screens before sleeping.
While melatonin is found in trace amounts in certain foods like cherries, grapes, and walnuts, it is unlikely that dietary intake alone will provide sufficient amounts for sleep regulation. There is currently no recommended dietary allowance for it. However, these foods may still be a part of a sleep-supportive diet.
Melatonin supplements are widely available and can be used to address sleep difficulties. Those with irregular sleep schedules, such as shift workers, or individuals experiencing jet lag, can benefit from them. However, there is limited information on the long-term safety of supplementation. While these supplements are generally considered safe, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider if you have specific health conditions or take other medications.
General Use of Melatonin
If someone is suffering from occasional insomnia, melatonin can aid with sleep initiation. However, its effectiveness in treating chronic insomnia is still a topic of debate. Other interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, are often preferred as the initial treatment for insomnia.
When using supplements to combat jet lag, the timing of supplementation is crucial. Taking it at the right time in your destination’s time zone can help your body adjust more quickly to the new schedule. The appropriate dosage and timing of melatonin supplementation can vary.
Many people with ADHD have a hard time falling asleep, especially if they are taking stimulants. A recent study shows that adults with ADHD tend to have a delay in their circadian rhythm. Melatonin can help naturally trigger the sleep cycle.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that occurs seasonally, often in the fall and winter months when daylight hours are shorter. Melatonin has been explored as a potential treatment for SAD, as it can help regulate circadian rhythms disrupted by reduced exposure to natural light.
- Potential Side Effects: In adults, supplements may lead to mild side effects like headache, dizziness, nausea, and drowsiness. Long-term side effects remain unclear due to limited research.
- Interactions with Medications: Melatonin can interact with various medications, including anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, and blood pressure drugs. Combining it with alcohol or smoking may also reduce its effectiveness.
- Children: Melatonin supplements can be considered for short-term use in children with sleep disturbances, but it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health warns that since it is a hormone, using supplements may potentially affect aspects of hormonal development, but the evidence is still unclear.
Melatonin is a fascinating hormone with a vital role in regulating our sleep patterns. It can be a useful tool in addressing sleep-related issues for health coaching clients. However, in some cases, especially with children, it should be used with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
If you’re a health coach, are you having conversations with clients about sleep? Helping people get a good night’s rest can be one of your most important roles. Understanding these facts about melatonin can help your clients make informed decisions about its use and its potential benefits for their sleep and overall well-being.
If you’re struggling with sleep issues, consider working with a functional medicine health coach. They will provide crucial support and education so that you can awaken feeling well-rested and energized.
- About Melatonin – The National Health Service (UK)
- Melatonin: What You Need to Know – National Institute for Complementary and Integrative Health
- Melatonin for Sleep – John Hopkins