A Dr. Momma Minute:
Sleep is important for everyone but most people do not know that melatonin plays a large role in our sleep cycles. I have shared posts discussing how poor sleep affects kids that I have treated in my practice. Many studies have confirmed mental health and physical health are harmed by poor sleep. It is important to understand the melatonin secrets that may impact your life.
Thousands (or maybe millions) of people use melatonin to help them or their kids fall asleep. But do you know what melatonin actually does? How it impacts the body?
When I ask people what melatonin is, I commonly hear that it is a type of vitamin, but usually, I hear that it is a natural way to fall asleep.
Let me hop up on my soapbox for a minute and highlight that every time you hear the word “natural”, it does NOT mean safe. Most things that we put into our bodies have consequences and you should know what they are.
Let me share a few quick melatonin secrets you may not know.
- It is a hormone that interacts with a part of our brain to regulate sleep.
- Our bodies DO naturally make melatonin, but the amount made can be reduced by many different things.
- Melatonin is released by the brain in response to changes in light.
- Darkness causes the body to produce more melatonin, which then tells the body to get ready for sleep.
- It helps regulate the body’s internal clock, signaling when it is time to go to sleep and when to wake up
- This is a reason that when people work at night and sleep during the day, their body functions can feel out of whack. Our brains like to sleep when it is dark out!
- Exposure to light at night tends to suppress the body’s natural melatonin production and disrupts sleep.
- This includes light from computers, televisions, and your kids many electronic devices!
- It is easy to buy melatonin at most stores in a wide range of doses from 1 mg to 10 mg. So how much should you take?
- The National Sleep Foundation recommends a dosage of between 0.2 mg and 5 mg for adults, which it is best to take 1 hour before going to bed.
- So why the heck does every store on earth sell those 10mg tablets?
- Such a high dose should be reserved for people with other medical conditions that warrant this therapy. And then, it is a great idea to be monitored by a physician
- There are many reasons for poor sleep and increasing the dose of melatonin is not the answer.
- One of my social media colleagues, Dr. Melissa Welby recently published an excellent article which explains how some people use too much melatonin and worsen their sleep disorder.
Now for the reason that I wanted to share these melatonin secrets.
Hint: It has nothing to do with sleep!
Recently, my dog started to lose hair on his ears and chest. He is a mini Dachshund, so his thin hair was super noticeable because of that monstrous chest bone! Because balding is common in humans, it did not seem like a big deal to me…I mean, my hubby is bald. I just shrugged and said oh well.
But my daughter wasn’t having it. She researched online, and Dr. Vet Google told her that dog baldness was commonly treated with melatonin. So, after we selected from a variety of tasty dog flavors Amazon “Primed” it to us. We started giving the recommended 3 mg twice daily and did that for 2 months. And all hair has grown back. Whaaat?
Two final take-home messages:
- Knowing that melatonin is a hormone, we are personally now facing questions about the need to wean off the medication or just stop it. So, we will need to discuss with our veterinarian. And I will need to hang my head low as I confess to doing exactly what I tell my patients not to do. Bad doctor!
- This is commonly what happens when people treat themselves with Dr. Google.
- Just because you can buy it over the counter does not mean you fully understand the dose and potential complications.
- And the last nugget I will leave you with…If this dose of melatonin grew back my dog’s hair, what is happening to the people who are taking 5-10 mg of melatonin daily? Just asking. And you should ask, too.
My minutes are now up and it’s time for you to get back to living your best life. Until next time…
As always, much love for supporting my work. I will be adding many more posts to highlight parenting and healthcare tips, so be sure to consider subscribing to my podcast or to my blog to avoid missing a post…or a Dr. Momma Minute!
Dr. Melissa Welby shares her melatonin secrets…