Contributor: Health is Wealth Group
Prescription sleeping tablets contain high doses of synthetic melatonin. But are these effective sleep aids? Nutrition experts Chloe Cunningham and Alexandra Neilan from Utmost Me’s Wellness Board explain the science behind why they are not the answer to a good night’s sleep and how all-natural sleep supplements are a better alternative.
YOUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHM AND MELATONIN
The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock that follows a cycle of about 24 hours. It responds to cues from light and darkness, meal times and even social interaction. The internal clock can be remarkably reliable. The moment that you wake up just before your alarm clock? That is your circadian rhythm. Melatonin production corresponds with the sleep part of the circadian rhythm – it is essentially sleep’s ‘facilitator’.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T TAKE PRESCRIPTION TABLETS
As nutritional therapists at Health is Wealth Group, we believe that you should provide the body with everything that it needs so that it can function by itself. This starts with addressing the root cause of a problem. If you are having an issue with sleep, taking synthetic melatonin-based tablets is not a long-term solution. Try asking yourself instead: Do I have a hormonal imbalance? Have I got the correct nutrients needed to produce melatonin?
SIGNAL VS SUBSTANCE
As Matthew Walker, author of ‘Why We Sleep’, describes it: “One way to think of melatonin is a little bit like the starting official in the 100-metre race at the Olympics. Like the official, melatonin actually organises the great sleep race and then begins the race. But they do not participate in the race itself.” It is not involved in the generation of sleep; it simply signals to the body to begin the process.
UNNATURAL MELATONIN CAN WORSEN SLEEP PROBLEMS
Melatonin is essential for regulating sleep but remember – it cannot sustain it. This is why melatonin sleeping tablets can actually be counterproductive as they will reset the amount of adenosine that builds up in the brain leading to sleep. Much like melatonin, adenosine is a chemical in the body that triggers sleepiness. Many sleeping pills simply act as a sedative, thus preventing deep sleep.
Too much melatonin may lead to feelings of drowsiness as the functions that generate sleep are triggered. Headaches, dizziness and nausea are common side effects of taking too much melatonin. Anxiety and depression are both side effects commonly associated with hormonal imbalance; which when consuming a synthetic hormone, can occur.
LEGAL VS ILLEGAL
It is worth noting here that whilst it isn’t illegal to buy melatonin from the US, it is illegal to sell it over the counter in the UK. That says a lot!
SO, WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?
In our expert opinion, effective over the counter (OTC), natural sleep aids would contain ingredients to support the body’s own natural production of sleep. Magnesium is important for sleep because it nourishes the nervous system and is used to calm both the mind and the muscles. 5HTP helps to regulate the body’s wake/sleep cycles and the internal body clock because it is a precursor to melatonin. L-Tryptophan is an amino acid that can act as a mood regulator due to its role in the production of 5HTP. Eating foods rich in tryptophan can have natural calming effects, helping to induce sleep and prevent anxiety.
WHY NATURAL SOURCES OF MELATONIN ARE BETTER
Many foods contain natural sources of melatonin and we recommend that these should be eaten or supplemented to naturally improve your melatonin levels. Grape skin and Montmorency cherries are rich melatonin sources and promote better sleep.
Modern farming methods and consequent poor soil quality mean that it is not always easy to get vitamins and minerals from food alone and we recommend taking supplements to boost any nutritional deficiencies in the body to compliment a healthy diet.
WHAT WE RECOMMEND
We recommend Neuro Rest by Utmost Me because it’s a great blend of sleep enhancing ingredients. It supports the body in its own production of melatonin as well as using natural forms. It contains nutrients that calm both the mind and the body to naturally aid effective sleep.
Bio: Health is Wealth are Nutrition and Corporate Wellness Experts. They are also on the Wellness Board at Utmost Me.