Online doctors at Just Health Experts have served an amazing role helping individuals remotely. Here’s a response to a frequent inquiry by users of the service.
Sleep and sleep quality are important. It helps the body recover and function properly. It is especially important for memory formation and retention.1 So, it is not surprising that people seek more natural and alternative medicines to help with this process. Natural medicines are gentler on the body and have less side effects.2 We will go into detail about good sleep hygiene and natural supplements that help with sleep troubles.
What are sleep disorders?
Sleep disorders are expensive to treat and maintain.4 For example, the average annual medical cost for a person with a sleep disorder is $2000 more than someone without a sleep disorder. In addition, there are many types of sleep disorders. They include difficulty falling asleep, poor sleep quality, difficulty staying asleep, circadian rhythm disorders, sleep movement disorders, and sleep breathing disorders. These disorders drastically affect the quality of life and can have serious consequences.
Major consequences of sleep disorders are daytime fatigue, cognitive abilities, and learning.4 Furthermore, having poor quality of sleep can lead to mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. In order to address the issues of sleep disorders and prevent the negative effects, many pharmacological treatments have been offered. In addition to pharmacological treatments, basic sleep hygiene is suggested as add-on therapy.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is difficulty sleeping and staying asleep.4 The issues of falling and staying asleep result in poor sleep quality and daytime impairment.7 In other words, daily daytime activities are difficult to perform. Insomnia is an increasing public health issue and the disorder faces many challenges for managing it.
People more prone to experiencing insomnia have poor sleep hygiene, an overactive sympathetic nervous system, hyperarousal, and more stress.4 The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body’s reaction to dangerous or stressful situations. It is also known as the body’s “fight or flight” response.
Sleep hygiene is a lifestyle modification to aid in better quality of sleep.5 Listed below are suggestions to improve sleep.6
- Avoid caffeine: caffeine is a stimulant that keeps people awake. Do not drink caffeine before bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine: nicotine is another type of stimulant that disrupts sleep.
- Exercise: regular exercise improves sleep by its effects on body temperature, arousal, and adenosine levels. However, avoid exercising right before bed.
- Avoid alcohol: alcohol increases arousal and disrupts sleep during the second half of the night. Avoid drinking alcohol 1 to 2 hours before bedtime or completely abstain from it.
- Relax and manage stress: increased stress leads to impaired sleep. Relaxing helps clear the mind and decreases arousal and stimulation.
- Reduce bedroom noise: noise reductions decrease arousal and improves sleep environments
- Have a normal sleeping pattern: have a regular scheduled sleep time to avoid poor sleep. Regular sleeping patterns correlate with the body’s natural circadian rhythm and sleep drive.
- Avoid daytime naps: napping too long (more than 30 minutes) or before bedtime disrupts natural sleep cycles.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is an important neurohormone in the sleep process. It is a chemical compound found in most living organisms. The pineal gland releases the neurohormone into the body. It is also produced by nerve cells.2 In other words, melatonin is made naturally in the body.
Melatonin is created with the natural cycle of light.2 For example, melatonin is not made during the day because it is exposed to blue wavelengths of light. However, during the night, it becomes produced. The process is unblocked by dim light and darkness.
What else does melatonin do?
Melatonin works in a variety of natural processes.3 For example, it helps with various sleep disorders such as sleep-related breathing disorders, excessive need for daytime sleep, circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders, and parasomnias.4 In addition, melatonin is an anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antioxidant agent.3
Melatonin has cell protective effects.3 For example, melatonin blocks the inflammatory signal pathway. Specifically, it blocks both inflammation and inflammation-induced toxin production.
Cancer is the overgrowth of cells. A specific protein that is involved in production of pro-inflammatory molecules that contribute to cell growth is NF-KB.3 Melatonin prevents NF-KB from producing an inflammatory signal. In addition, melatonin aids with apoptosis or cell death. Apoptosis is important for maintaining an appropriate number of cells in the body.
There are many toxins in the body.3 These toxins are reactive oxygen species and free radical intermediates. Melatonin works by detoxifying these substances. Antioxidants also contribute to anti-aging.
How does melatonin help with insomnia?
Melatonin is an alternative approach for addressing insomnia and improving sleep quality.4 As mentioned previously, melatonin works by aiding the body’s natural circadian rhythm. In addition, with older age, melatonin levels decrease and produces more sleep issues. There is no alignment with the body’s natural circadian rhythm.
There are medications for treating insomnia.4 However, these medications pose more issues because of addiction, tolerance, and dependence potential. For example, benzodiazepines and antidepressants are effective, but have many monitoring parameters and high abuse potential. However, melatonin does not have abuse potential and serious side effects. It is a safe and effective over-the-counter medication.
Clinical trials have proved the effectiveness of melatonin for insomnia.4 Specifically, it was beneficial in children, adolescents with depression, women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder, hypertensive patients, and geriatric patients. These studies showed increased total sleep time, improved sleep efficiency, and decreased sleep onset latency. In other words, there was less time trying to fall asleep and more time staying asleep.
Insomnia is a growing public health concern. It affects a wide range of individuals such as children and adults. However, it mainly affects the geriatric population. A major lifestyle modification for treating insomnia is good sleep hygiene. For example, avoiding caffeine before bedtime and managing stress levels are important for a better quality of sleep. A natural approach for treating insomnia is melatonin. Melatonin helps with the body’s circadian rhythm, which regulates sleep cycles. Besides regulating sleep cycles, melatonin is also an anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antioxidant agent. Treating sleep disorders naturally with melatonin showed benefit for improved sleep quality and overall quality of life. For more information about this topic, please visit Nature’s Reveal.
- Donlea, Jeffrey M. “Roles for sleep in memory: insights from the fly.” Current opinion in neurobiology 54 (2019): 120-126. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2018.10.006
- Naiman, Rubin. “Insomnia.” Integrative Medicine, by David Rakel, Elsevier 4th edition (2018): 74-85.
- Majidinia, Maryam et al. “The multiple functions of melatonin in regenerative medicine.” Ageing Research Reviews 45 (2018): 33-52.
- Xie, Zizhen et al. “A review of sleep disorders and melatonin.” Neurological research 39,6 (2017): 559-565. doi:10.1080/01616412.2017.1315864
- Riemann, Dieter. “Sleep hygiene, insomnia and mental health.” Journal of sleep research 27,1 (2018): 3. doi:10.1111/jsr.12661
- Irish, Leah A et al. “The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: A review of empirical evidence.” Sleep medicine reviews 22 (2015): 23-36. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2014.10.001
- Burman, Deepa. “Sleep Disorders: Insomnia.” FP essentials 460 (2017): 22-28.