Are you using melatonin for sleep? Why? You want to fall asleep, stay asleep, maintain deep and REM states, and wake rested. That’s all. You’re not asking for much. The issue is we all know how hard this can be. You may have issues in only one area but that’s pretty doubtful. When there is one sleeping issue, there are many typically. It’s a domino effect. Perhaps you fall asleep, stay asleep but don’t get much deep or REM sleep and absolutely don’t wake rested.
Taking melatonin for sleep does help some but not others. How can this be? As with most things in life, there are many factors at play. Let’s focus on an easy one which you can hit on right away by making some lifestyle changes.
How to Make Your Own Melatonin for Sleep
You have an internal factory which makes your own melatonin. The issue is that factory can easily be disrupted by:
- high protein diet
- heavy metals
- genetic polymorphisms (SNPs)
- low carb diet
- nutrient deficiency
- methylation dysfunction
- mouth breathing
- sleep apnea
That’s a pretty extensive list but I’ve left out a big one.
You have to turn off your lights and screens or your body won’t be triggered to make melatonin. A key initial stimulus for melatonin production is the onset of darkness. Without darkness, forget about it.
Key to Light Reduction to make your own Melatonin for Sleep:
- Turn off the lights
- Use low blue light bulbs
- Use blue light blocking glasses
- Blue light filter apps for your phone, computer, tablet
- Don’t watch TV or play video games within a couple hours of bed
Get your Blue Light Blocking Glasses
I bought these for my three boys. They look good, fit comfortably and work well. The issue is they are glasses. Easy to lose and break. They also come in handy when the Nerf guns are out.
Get your Low Blue Light Bulbs
Reading before bed is relaxing and enjoyable. The issue is the blue light. Book lights definitely are bright and do not filter the blue light. Thus, you are not making melatonin for sleep. The next closest thing to a book light is to use a reading lamp and replace the bulb with a low blue light emitting light bulb. This is what I’ve done in my bedroom. The light they emit is soft, functional and protects my melatonin. I turn these on when I start preparing for sleep – brushing my teeth, putting clothes away and reading. You can also install these low blue light bulbs in areas where you spend your evenings – not just a reading lamp. Perhaps you have a dedicated switch in your bathroom where you can install these as well.
Get Your F.lux App
This is a free app which you can download onto your computer, tablet, Kindle, iPAD or other electronic devices. Highly recommended. This is a screenshot of my f.lux app on my laptop which I am using now. Let’s face it. The evening is a good time to catch up on things and I often (cough) do some work in the evenings before bed – typically research or responding to comments as these are enjoyable for me. I do try to stay out of my inbox and Facebook. At times I will watch a video but I find that even with the f.lux app, my sleep is poor so I’ve cut this out tremendously – not completely – but close.
Use Your Phone’s Built in Blue Light Filter
This is found when you slide your finger from the bottom of the screen towards the top. Swipe up. I typically keep this set to ‘Night Shift: On’ all day. Keep in mind that when you are taking photos or looking at them, it can make them look ‘odd’. So if you’re taking important photos, perhaps turn it off so you can see what you are taking. I hear that the F.lux app is actually better than the built in Night Shift mode on phones. I have not looked into it. Having this feature shown to your kids is important as we know how much they are on it. Not to mention the Airplane mode for sleeping – that is an absolute MUST.
We’re still not done. There is yet another one that is often not honored.
Your body is on a clock whether you like it or not. In fact, there are CLOCK genes which regulate key functions all day and all night keeping you functioning. If you are waking or going to bed at random hours, you will not be producing sufficient melatonin for sleep as your genes are confused. Naturally, the sun sets and rises at pretty consistent times with just mild adjustments – a few minutes variation. Now if you’re going to bed or waking a couple hours variation at a whack, than how can your genes know when to start making your melatonin for sleep? They will try but you’re confusing them.
Key: Get on a schedule so your melatonin-producing genes are on schedule.
My current schedule is not as structured as it could be. I typically am in bed by 10 pm and sleeping by 11 pm. I wake usually around 7 to 7:30 AM. I want to shift to 10 pm sleeping and 6 am waking. I’ll get there. Mentally it is tough for me – I woke up so early on the ranch my whole life and then rowing for UW. I have this ‘resistance’ to waking early which is dumb but we all have our own ‘baggage’ 😉
Some Common Sleep Questions
“Can I just take Melatonin for Sleep?”
This is often asked and yes I guess you could. However, I am a fan of letting your body make what it needs on its own. It knows better than we do. If your body cannot make melatonin because it lacks the nutrients to do so, by taking melatonin, you are not addressing the underlying problem. I’m always a fan of trying to identify the causes of issues and then removing them. Short term, say on flights or time zone changes, yes, taking melatonin can be useful – but a small amount.
Two things I want to add about melatonin:
- If you are trying to conceive a child, do not use melatonin as it may negatively impact your ovulation and thus your fertility.
- If you’re glucose levels are out of whack, melatonin can aggravate them further.
“When I sleep, I have super vivid dreams and wake exhausted.”
If this is you, you are doing well with getting REM sleep but you are not able to hit the Deep Sleep zone. This is much harder to do yet it is very important. One wants to get into deep sleep.
On average, adults spend this amount of time in various stages of sleep:
- Light Sleep: 50% total sleep time. I am average here – about 50%
- REM Sleep: 20% – 25% – decreases as we age. I do well here – averaging 30%+
- Deep Sleep 15% – 20% – decreases as we age. I personally am averaging only 10% currently. I need to work on this.
“How do you know how well you are sleeping?”
I track it. At first, I used Sleep Cycle app on airplane mode. My kids still use this and it works quite well. I wanted something more sophisticated and chose the OURA ring. NOTE: Save 10% on your OURA ring by using code aejjx87 (disclosure I do receive a tiny commission towards another OURA ring but I am more interested in you saving 10%. I’ve no need for another OURA ring.)
Here is my last night’s sleep – and yes, I was working on my computer with the F.lux app prior a bit:
The very bottom of the graph – the dark purple – is deep sleep. Lighter purple is REM sleep. Even lighter purple is lighter sleep and the gray is awake time. As you can see, I slept horribly on Saturday. I don’t recall why. I am recovering from a 5 day conference where I presented for 25+ hours and also wrote an entire book in two months time 😉 Vacation on the horizon!
“I can’t fall asleep or stay asleep. What can I take?”
There are some evenings I am just wired – as are my boys. When this happens, having something to help induce a state of calm and sleepiness is welcomed. I still don’t turn to melatonin for sleep. Why? Because melatonin is not the only problem here. Commonly higher levels of stimulating neurotransmitters like dopamine, glutamate, histamine, norepinephrine and serotonin and higher thereby causing us to not be able to fall asleep easily.
Here is what I use to help reduce stimulating neurotransmitters and increase calming ones:
- Optimal Sleep: combines targeted nutrients to increase rest, relaxation and effective prolonged sleep without feeling hung over the next morning.
- SAMe: helps clear stimulating neurotransmitters while also helps make melatonin for sleep.
Why do I use these two supplements to support sleep?
The nutrients in Optimal Sleep have many functions and are conducive to sleep. It would be ideal to have SAMe in the same formula but it is not possible because SAMe is a delicate compound and must be in an acid-resistance capsule which is also highly protected against humidity. This is why it is packaged separately.
- To help clear dopamine, norepinephrine, histamine and epinephrine I use SAMe. It works like a charm for many folks. I prefer to use 250 mg of SAMe. It’s not a huge amount yet it is enough to clear these out for many people. Magnesium is also needed.
- To help make melatonin for sleep, one has to methylate their serotonin. Thus, by giving SAMe, you can make melatonin from your serotonin. In essence, you are reducing your stimulating serotonin and increasing your calming melatonin in one shot. Again, the same 250 mg of SAMe. Efficient.
- To help reduce stimulating histamine, one has to methylate it. Hmmm. Yes, SAMe again helps reduce histamine.
- To help ensure sufficient melatonin is available, one has to have sufficient serotonin on board. This is not easy for many and why most turn to carbohydrates and binge on them. 5-HTP helps with this. 5-HTP helps make your serotonin along with vitamin B6.
- Cortisol and melatonin counterbalance each other. If cortisol is high, then your melatonin is low and vice versa. So, having high cortisol at night is not good. Phosphatidyl serine helps reduce cortisol – as does meditation and reading. Not playing Call of Duty online with your nemesis.
- Inflammation is present in many of us unfortunately. This increases the elimination of serotonin and also reduces its production. Without serotonin, you have no melatonin. By reducing inflammation, you are conserving your serotonin and increasing your ability to make melatonin. Taking fish oil during the day with meals can be helpful in combating this along with identifying the causes of inflammation of which there are many. Niacin also helps slow neuroinflammation which is pretty cool through the production of NAD (via niacin).
- Riboflavin, vitamin B2, also helps break down various stimulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine and serotonin.
- Glutamate is quite stimulating and often elevated in those who are more irritable, alert, have headaches and are chronically ill. Magnesium and vitamin B6 and niacin – along with fish oil – all support reduction of glutamate in the brain and help promote restful sleep. Glutamate when processed by magnesium and B6 turns into GABA which promotes a sense of calmness.
Here is a diagram showing some of the reasons why Optimal Sleep works. This diagram is taken from the Biopterin Pathway which is available on StrateGene.
As you can see, this individual has some slow COMT genes which make it more difficult to reduce serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. SAMe is needed by the COMT genes and the ASMT gene. Without SAMe, melatonin is not produced. Without vitamin B6 and 5-HTP, there is not enough serotonin to make melatonin. Vitamin B5, known as pantothenic acid, is needed by the AANAT gene and this vitamin is used up heavily during times of stress and anxiety. One should use Pantothenic acid only during the morning and early afternoon hours – not in the evening. So if stressed and anxious, this could be a good additional nutrient to help make your melatonin.
You can find out your unique genetic ability to process neurotransmitters by ordering a 23andMe report and then once you get the raw data from it, ordering a StrateGene report. It will provide information which allows you to understand how your genes work – and provide a ton of insights so you can make strategic decisions which work quickly.
Does Optimal Sleep work?
For many it does. Here is some input from those using it (you can find these reviews – and more – here on the Optimal Sleep page):
“I ordered this a few months ago and ran out. i wasn’t sure it was helping as I already take other meds to sleep. However, after 2 weeks without it I wasn’t sleeping through the night. I reordered it and have again been full of sleepy dreams.”
“My husband and I are both restless sleepers, falling asleep easily but waking often and lying awake way too much in the night. Through the years and on my Dr’s recommendation I have tried “every” natural remedy out there, including the components in this formula. Some help to varying degrees but often cause morning headaches or lingering drowsiness or simply seem to lose effectiveness after a week or two. Optimal Sleep is the first product that works for both of us without any unpleasant side effects. Sleep does not feel heavy or “drugged” at all. If a nighttime noise is heard or a bathroom visit needed there is no problem waking alert enough to see to it but it is SO much easier to get back to sleep now. We both waken feeling simply refreshed and rested. What a relief! Thank you, Dt. Lynch!”
How I use Optimal Sleep and SAMe
I do not take Optimal Sleep every night. I only take it when I feel I am alert and not able to fall asleep. This is about once a week for me and I typically take only 1 to 2 capsules. Very rarely do I take the full 3 capsule serving. My sons, ages 8, 11 and 14, will sometimes ask me, “Dad, I need an Optimal Sleep.” They know as well. For them, I only give them 1 capsule.
If I eat a higher histamine meal or stressed out, I may take a SAMe instead of Optimal Sleep.
I keep both of them in my bathroom along with filtered water.
As long as the lifestyle habits are in play, the need for sleep supplementation goes way down. Stop eating within a couple hours before bed, identify reasons for inflammation, filter blue light, do calming activities and you should be good to go. If that doesn’t suffice, then consider some Optimal Sleep and/or SAMe to help you out.
NOTE: For some, SAMe can be stimulating. If this is the case, your methylation is not working well and is clogged up. By taking niacin – about 50 mg – it should help reverse the stimulating effects the SAMe provided you. If you know you have high homocysteine, then I would not use SAMe.
How is your sleep?
Do you take melatonin for sleep? How does it work for you? What other tricks do you have to help you obtain a great night’s sleep? Share below.
- Melatonin and blood glucose – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4173928/