Ep. 032 – Sleep Aids: Melatonin

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Good morning and welcome to Episode 032 of the Train Your Brain Podcast with Dr. Michael Trayford. Every Monday we produce a 30-minute episode. Tuesday through Sunday we produce episodes with five-minute tips. Every episode of the Train Your Brain Podcast features a tip, so you can receive pointers 365 days a year that will help enhance the performance of your brain!

In Episode 032, Dr. Trayford reminds us that the ideal for each one of us is not be dependent upon sleep aids. Be careful about the overuse of sleep aids.

If you have any concerns regarding the information and applications discussed in this podcast, please consult your physician and a doctor who is experienced in functional neurology. Michael Trayford DC, DACNB is available for consultation by calling (828) 708-5274. Thanks for listening.

We’ll talk about different sleep aids as we go on. Melatonin is one of the sleep aids that tends to be at the top of a lot of people’s lists. Have you heard of melatonin Jason?

Jason: Oh yeah, quite a few times.

Melatonin is something that a lot of people use in addition to or in place of the typical sleep medications like Ambien and Lorazepam, which we’ve talked about in the past.

Melatonin is actually a hormone and it’s made by the pineal gland in the brain. Which is a small little pea size gland in the back, top part of the brain stem. It really help regular our sleep or more specifically it helps to regulate our own internal clock.

It helps work with the sleep-wake cycle and light cycles or light-dark cycles that cause us to become tired and cause us to become awake. Basically light affects how much melatonin your body produces.

Now with people having altered sleep schedule, with people using technology that triggers their brain into thinking it’s light outside like we’ve talked about.

When this happens the pineal gland gets confused. It doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. We should have increasing boosts of melatonin as we’re getting closer to sleep and less of it when we’re in our wakeful states. So what happens is these types of things get a bit distorted, as we talked about through technology, stress, travel. Jet lag has everything to do with how much melatonin is produced in your body and also sleep problems like insomnia.

When people can’t establish normal sleep-wake cycles or they have trouble getting to sleep or maintaining sleep, melatonin levels are off. Now does that mean everybody should take melatonin?

The general and obvious answer to that is no.

Now the challenge is that sleep is critically important to our survival and it’s also critically important to the way our brain functions. So we need sleep. The challenge is that sleep is one of those areas where people start to use something that helps them get to sleep, they use it all the time.

Whether it’s a drug, whether it’s a supplement or whether it’s something else that we’ll talk about as time goes on. There are safer and more healthy ways to help get to sleep without creating that psychological dependence that something like melatonin can create. So there are very few instances where people do need to regulate this type of hormone artificially. And it works for them and they do have to be on it long term.

But by and large, these should be more short term quick fixes to help people get back on track. And then hopefully not get to the point where it becomes a crutch that enables them to get to sleep and then when they don’t take it they can’t get to sleep.

So if people are traveling and they do have that jetlag, then maybe that melatonin might be able to help with that. If they’re experiencing a bout of insomnia due to stress or something like that, then the melatonin might be effective.

The bottom line is that you really want to talk about these concerns with your physician and also consult a physician knowledgeable in functional neurology.
Because there’s a lot more to it than taking that quick supplement that you think is going to help you without any side effects. Because long term there will be implications and side effects that will need to be addressed.

And bottom line is that you want to be able to sleep on your own if at all possible. And we’ll talk about other applications as we go along to help develop better sleep habits and manage stress before sleep and all those kinds of things so you don’t have to be reliant on that particular sleep aid that you might be taking.

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