Everything YOU Need To Know About Melatonin: Beyond A Sleep Aid

Are you aware of the important relationship between brain & nervous system health and the health of our body?

In the Self-Care Goddess Podcast episode #53, Scott Beyer an expert in functional neurology, explains that what affects our brain and nervous system will affect the rest of our body. The overall quality and health of a person and their brain health directly correlates to the life they live. Life is a collection of choices we make in combination with our environment and how this interacts with our body’s unique physiology. In my podcast we talk about the importance of circadian rhythm and its impact on the production of melatonin. We also discuss the various things we can do to activate/ deactivate certain areas of the brain to improve our brain health.

The Importance Of Circadian Rhythm

Circadian rhythm is the natural sleep wake cycle followed by plants, animals and human beings. Most of our body’s organs, genes, homeostatic or regulatory processes follow this 24-hour rhythm. Our gut function, hormones, immune system and energy are all very different depending on the time of the day. Today’s modern lifestyles are completely trashing our circadian rhythm.  80% of protein encoding genes follow a 24-hour rhythm. If we measure the activity levels of this gene it will vary depending on the time of day. This implies that our physiology is radically different from when we are asleep as compare to when we are awake. It is important for these circadian rhythms to be accentuated, meaning when it’s time to go to sleep we should have physiology that is deeply entrenched in sleep physiology resulting in a nice, deep restorative sleep. When we are awake our physiology should be deeply entrenched in awake physiology meaning we should have energy, be alert and focused.

For more information on circadian rhythm listen to the Self-Care Goddess Podcast episode #33 “Open Your Eyes To Light Nutrition” with Roudy Nassif on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.

Melatonin 101

Melatonin is found in every living thing including plants. The most significant role of melatonin even above sleep is that it is nature’s antioxidant. The structure of melatonin has been unchanged for the last 3.5 billion years. Scott points out that if something that has been around for this long unchanged obviously it has an important role in life. He shares an interesting analogy that melatonin to sleep is like the firing gun at the start of a race. When melatonin gets released, it starts a whole sleep cascade in our brain. To fall asleep our brain has to shut off and certain things in our brain have to turn on. Remember Melatonin is critical to helps us sleep and it follows the circadian rhythm.

There are two types of melatonin.

  1. Circulatory Melatonin: Circulatory melatonin is released from the area of our brain called the pineal gland. It gets released into our brain fluid and blood system. It is the hormone of darkness, meaning when we remove the light from the sun, our brain senses that and releases circulatory melatonin that helps us fall asleep. But this only accounts for around 2% of our body’s melatonin production. When we take melatonin exogenously as a supplement, it is a part of circulatory melatonin because it is absorbed through the gut. After the sun goes down, our brain will start releasing circulatory melatonin in small amounts which will prime our brain to start sleeping.
  2. Sub Cellular Melatonin: 98% of melatonin in the body comes in the form of sub cellular melatonin. The sub cellular melatonin is made inside every cell in the body. It has an autocrine effect which means that the hormone that is produced gets used up locally. Sub cellular melatonin accounts for majority of our body’s melatonin production and we get most of this during broad daylight if we’re outside absorbing the sun’s rays. Sub cellular melatonin also has the ability to detoxify a number of free radicals.

Listen to the Self-Care Goddess Podcast episode # 38 “Detox 101: Your Top Questions Answered” with Olga Job on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.

Functions of Melatonin

Melatonin also acts as an antioxidant. It triggers the release and regulates other very powerful antioxidants like glutathione. It helps aid in immune system function. Melatonin is also hugely anti-carcinogenic and regulates a specific cell called natural killer cell. Natural killer cells help get rid of viruses and one of them is cancer. Inside everyone’s body we have 1000s of cancerous cells but our immune system should be able to recognize and destroy the cell before it can start replicating and creating tumors.

Listen to the Self-Care Goddess Podcast episode #46 “10 Cancer Coping Strategies” with Ysabel Viau on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.

Melatonin is also very neuro protective helping with beta amyloid clearance and it dampens a specific immune system cell in the brain called our glial cell where microglia help with metabolic syndrome. It assists in things like insulin resistance, weight loss & diabetes and improves mood. Melatonin helps promote the formation of stem cells. It protects our eyes and skin from UV damage, promotes hair growth, helps with collagen cartilage synthesis, regulates gut motility, intestinal inflammation, ulcer and wound healing and is also preventative in dental caries. Inside our bone, there are two different types of cells (1) osteoclast that destroy bone and (2) osteoblast that build bone. If we have too much of osteoclast which deteriorate bone that can cause osteoporosis. Melatonin inhibits osteoclast activity. Melatonin is an important regulator of a number of key processes via gut regulation

How Does The Light Spectrum Work?

The light spectrum is all the light that the sun emits. It is a huge powerful driver of circadian and melatonin physiology. The sun emits a massive amount of energy constantly. We can see a very tiny part of the light spectrum which are the colors visible to the naked eye. When we look at the ends of the color spectrum there are two kinds of wavelengths that occur outside of what our retinas pick up.

  1. Above the violet called ultraviolet. Ultraviolet provides a lot of energy even though we can’t see it.
  2. Below the red portion of the visible spectrum called infrared.

70% of the photons that the sun releases; is in the form of near infrared. Near infrared is very important because it massively up regulates 98% sub cellular melatonin production and the intensity of light is drives these processes. According to Scott, the best thing that you can do to enhance all the benefits of melatonin is simply get outside multiple times a day. If you want more circulatory melatonin, that prime’s our body for the nighttime part in our circadian rhythm we must remove as much light in the evening as possible. Little neurons in our retina are very sensitive to blue light and in modern lifestyle it is tough to completely get rid of screens / artificial lighting. This is where we can use blue blocking glasses that minimize this exposure so that we can get a ton of melatonin production at night.

Read my recent blog post “10 Ayurveda Tips for a Healthy Gut” on https://savoiaselfcare.com/10-ayurveda-tips-for-a-healthy-gut/

Check out Scott’s non-negotioable self-care habits that nourish his soul.

Take Home Message

Melatonin production at night is a combination of removing light at night and getting tons of light in the throughout the day. I love habit stacking and probably combine my time outside with my walk, workout or yoga. Scott also recommends the happy lamp. It can provide enough Lux intensity to help set our circadian clock. In areas where there is not enough sun light or even on a cloudy day, we can use happy lamps. The best advice in the context of circadian regulation, is to ensure you are reducing screen time at night and dimming as many lights as you can or wear blue blocking glasses when the sun sets. As well as, first thing in the morning try and get broad spectrum sunlight on your face by getting outside, not through a window because energy efficient windows may block out the near infrared. Also get outside multiple times during the day even if it’s 5-10 minutes to feel better. Schedule them into your workday, and practice habit stacking so go for a nature walk, while taking some deep breaths, and soaking up the sun’s rays.

For more information listen to the full podcast episode #53 with Scott Beyer on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.

Connect with Scott here:

Website: www.ibrainandbody.com

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