Insufficient sleep is a big problem for many families. When you’re lacking rest, it sets off a cascade of health issues, dampens your mood, and makes it challenging for you to perform your best. And if it’s your child who’s having sleep issues, this can be even more concerning because it can affect their growth and development. So I understand why melatonin is a popular supplement in the medicine cabinets of families these days. The problem is, there are some risks to using melatonin. People also misunderstand how it works with the body and so isn’t applicable for all situations. More importantly, there are safer and more effective alternatives to melatonin for deep sleep that many people are missing!
Read on or watch the video below to learn why I’m concerned about the overuse of melatonin and the alternative solutions I suggest you try. Deeper sleep is on the way!
I’ve talked about natural sleep support many times in this blog already (scroll down to see the list).
I realized last week when talking with a client that I did not address the issue with melatonin in those posts & videos. So the focus of this one will be to talk about why taking melatonin is not a great idea, in my opinion. I want to encourage you to try other supplements and methods instead that are alternatives to melatonin.
Why You Should Consider NOT Taking Melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the pineal gland that triggers your body to rest.
Think about that for a moment…
You can actually buy a powerful human hormone at the grocery store that can seriously alter the way your body functions.
You can’t buy estrogen or testosterone or thyroid hormones at the store – you need to be seen by a medical doctor and given a prescription for them. So it’s a little weird that melatonin is readily available for everyone and no one is concerned about the risks.
What are the risks with taking extra melatonin?
- Replacing this hormone long term (more than 2-3 weeks) can disrupt your body’s feedback loop, making it produce even less melatonin since you’re supplementing (meaning it can worsen insomnia!). This actually happens with most hormone replacement – estrogen & thyroid included.
- It can negatively affect your fertility. Melatonin is recognized in Europe and in places with longer, darker winters as a form of contraception! This study explains: “A prolonged release of melatonin from the pineal gland via the retina-pineal nervous pathway during the longer nighttime in winter operates as a signal to inactivate the hypothalamic gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) pulse generator. Specifically, darkness activates the pathway. while light suppresses it. This process occurs in most mammals that are seasonal breeders.” Humans may have evolved to not be as affected by this trigger, or having a lot of artificial light around us counters it. But if you are supplementing with too much melatonin, it may signal to the body to inactivate GnRH generator, negatively affecting your sex hormones and fertility. Strongly consider against with kids, since we don’t know the long term affects!
- Possible other side effects: Dizziness, daytime drowsiness, and stomach cramps may occur.
- Negative drug interactions: Melatonin doesn’t mix well with birth control pills, alcohol, caffeine, and many pharmaceutical drugs.
- Doesn’t address the root of sleep issues, and is interfering with your body’s communication with the heart & mind.
If these concern you, no worries! You don’t need to take it! There are so many other alternatives to melatonin that can actually help you sleep better and they’re completely safe and effective.
Natural Alternatives To Melatonin For Deeper Sleep
There are many reasons people have a hard time falling to sleep and staying asleep. Again, melatonin can only address the timing of when you rest and doesn’t actually induce sleep. If you’re wanting to get to the root of sleep issues, you need to address:
- Stress reduction – Melatonin works on your circadian rhythm in conjunction with cortisol. So if you’re stressed out and still have a surge of cortisol at night, that’s the reason why melatonin may not be present enough to get you to sleep. Instead of giving the body extra melatonin, the focus should be on lower cortisol levels! Get yourself in a parasympathetic state and you’ll naturally have enough melatonin to help you shut down at night. This can be done effectively with conscious relaxation, mindfulness techniques, yoga and self care practices, essential oils, herbal medicine, self massage, and more.
- Magnesium supplementation – Magnesium deficiency is a problem for most people. It’s not present enough in the soil compared to historic levels. Magnesium deficiency can be induced by stress, and not be available as much on certain diets. Blood work rarely shows magnesium deficiency because the body will take magnesium from the rest of the body to regulate blood levels. The bottom line: you need to supplement with it in your diet. However, it’s also helpful to absorb it topically too! Try therapeutic epsom salt baths or using a topical magnesium cream.
- Relieving tension – Make sure your body is not in pain or it can keep you awake! Gentle stretching, doing yoga or qigong can help you fully let go.
- Getting enough exercise – Your body should feel exhausted at night, using up any excess energy. Make sure you’ve exercised enough. This includes sex before sleep!
- Stop consuming food & information – Your body needs time to digest both food and information. Create more time in your day to process thoughts. Otherwise your body will have a hard time sleeping (can show as crazy dreams & restlessness too).
- Adjust your emotions and attitude – In Chinese Medicine we say that the mind needs to rest in the heart before you can sleep. This refers not just to pensiveness, but also dealing with intense emotions. Strong feelings will keep you awake too. Consider processing them with a journaling session or meditation practice before you sleep. Try to clear your heart so you are in a state of equanimity and you are at peace with the way the day went.
- Balance hormones – Not just melatonin & cortisol, but estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and thyroid hormones. They ALL play a role in how well you sleep. Seek the guidance of a health care practitioner to help you with this.
- Investigate food intolerances – If your body can’t digest a substance well, it will disrupt your sleep! You can get food allergy tests, but they are known for being inaccurate and “intolerance” is different from “allergy”. The best way to determine if you have a food intolerance is to do an elimination diet.
- Adjust circadian rhythm – Get proper sunshine and darkness exposure to trigger the body when to be active and when to rest (this is what melatonin helps with, though it’s always best to address it naturally!)
More Wisdom On Sleep
Once you discover where you’re body is having a hard time, then you know which alternatives to melatonin to try and where to focus your treatment. The following blog posts and videos can help:
I hope you found this articles on alternatives to melatonin interesting!
Let me know if you need further guidance and support! I would love to help you personally with my online or in-person services.
Sleep is my jam! I know I can help you feel better! Well wishes to you my friend…