Hey, it’s Dr. Steph Pinnow, your chiropractor for sleep with Noble Choice Chiropractic in Sun Prairie WI. In this video, we’re talking about melatonin and the misconceptions.
So before we talk about melatonin and what exactly it does, I just wanna be very clear about what it is. So melatonin is actually a hormone that your body naturally produces at night. The way it works is when the sun goes down, darkness falls, your body naturally produces more melatonin.
It’s going to keep producing melatonin until the early hours of the morning, when it eventually decreases. That’s when your body knows how to wake up. So I’ve got a nice chart here, a graph if you will, of what exactly the cycle of melatonin looks like. So you could see noon to six, very low levels. When night falls, it’s time to go to bed, it increases, and then it decreases, waking you back up.
You’ll notice that I did not say that melatonin helps you sleep. Melatonin has everything to do with the timing of sleep and nothing to do with how well you’re sleeping. So here’s an analogy for you: Picture a track race. You’ve got the runners all lined up, ready to go. And then you’ve got the official who has the gun who starts the race.
Melatonin is the official firing the gun, telling the race when to start, telling you when to go to sleep. And the runners in the race are actually the ones that have to do with sleep and sleep quality and generating sleep. Melatonin, again, specifically only for the timing of sleep and telling you when to sleep.
So that being said, melatonin is not a sleep aid. A lot of people use it as a sleep aid, thinking that it’s going to help with the generation of sleep. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have a placebo effect. It does for some people, but primarily it’s used for the timing.
So a couple things about melatonin. I will again pull out my little bottle here. When we talk about getting it in the bottled form, it is not a regulated supplement. What that means is there’s been studies that show that for example, if this is three milligrams of melatonin, there’s been plenty of studies that once they actually test the substance, find out that there’s maybe 83% less than three milligrams, or 478% more than three milligrams. It’s not regulated when you buy it over the counter. You really have no idea how much melatonin you’re actually getting.
All right. I wanna talk really quickly about jet lag. Melatonin for most normal healthy people doesn’t have any effect on their sleep. However, if you are a jet lagged individual, that’s where melatonin can help. For example, sometimes our kids, and I’m looking over there ’cause my daughter’s here, will be given some melatonin when we travel into a different time zone, because we need them to know it’s time to sleep now, not based on the time zone that we came from.
So the thing with jet lag is when you fly to a different time zone, your body, the part of the brain that actually tells you when to sleep and produces the melatonin, will eventually catch up to the new time zone based on when sunrise and sunset are, but it can only re-adjust about an hour per day.
So let’s say you’re flying to London, which is maybe an eight hour difference from here in Wisconsin. It’s gonna take you eight days to naturally re-adjust. That’s when people are taking melatonin to help with that change. So the other part you might notice about traveling is that it always seems to be harder to travel eastward rather than westward. This is because the body has an easier time staying up later going towards the west, versus forcing yourself to fall asleep earlier.
Along with jet lag, that’s when we started thinking about the people flying our planes, so the air cabin crews. There’s been a couple studies about pilots and air cabin crews with some detrimental effects of jet lag. So the first result that they have found is that there tends to be a decrease or a shrinking of the brain where the learning and the memory portions of your brain are.
The second alarming result is that short term memory is also impaired. A third thing that different studies have shown is that air cabin crew tend to have higher incidences of cancer and type two diabetes than the normal population. So it’s not really any surprise that those people would want to use melatonin to sleep.
All right, so I hope you learned a couple things about melatonin. I hope you know that it really, again, has to do with the timing of sleep and not a sleep aid. And there’s lots of other information here on our website about how you can help improve your sleep.
We’ll talk to you next time. Thanks.