- What is Melatonin and how does it impact my body?
- I see big displays at the store full of Melatonin, so it has to be safe….right?
- Will I stop making melatonin if I take it?
- Is it safe to give my kids melatonin to sleep better?
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Podcast Episode Transcripts:
Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.
Welcome to the kids sleep show, where we help tired parents from around the world to get their children to fall asleep independently, sleep through the night, and build healthy sleep habits for Life. I’m your host, Courtney Zentz. Now let’s sleep together. Hello, and welcome to this week’s episode. My name is Courtney Zentz, the founder of tiny transitions. And I’m here today to talk to you all about melatonin. It is no secret that when you walk into any big box store today, you see a large display for melatonin. Many people are taking it as adults to help fix their sleep challenges. And many parents are giving it to children to help fix their sleep challenges. And I want to take some time today to help educate you on whether or not you should be using melatonin who the right people are to be taking melatonin and how much if you’re taking it, you should pay attention to on the different bottles. So to begin, I want to start with a little hormone lesson because melatonin is in fact a hormone. And in the United States, it is available over the counter. Because it’s found naturally occurring in foods like cherry juice. Otherwise, hormones are actually regulated. And they’re not something that you could buy over the counter, which is why melatonin in many other countries around the world is actually not something that you can get as readily available as you can here in the state. Your body creates four main hormones throughout the day, or what is referred to as your sleep wake cycles. We’re going to start with the first hormone cortisol, a body’s cortisol levels are naturally the highest between four and six o’clock in the morning. That goes for kids and adults because it’s essentially our morning cup of coffee. That hormone of cortisol is what prepares your body to wake for the day. It works as part of that 24 hour circadian rhythm. When you wake, your cortisol levels will slowly decrease throughout the day. If your body’s clock is optimized, what happens when you wake is your body then starts producing the second hormone known as adenosine. So when you start producing adenosine, that’s going to trigger telling your brain when you should go to sleep, I want to make sure people understand at all ages, your body’s producing adenosine after the first few weeks of life. So when your body is awake, it’s making this hormone and when you sleep, the hormone of adenosine goes down. Now it’s really important when we talk about children because a six month old can really only be awake for about three hours before their adenosine levels peak, meaning that their brain has enough sleep pressure to take a nap. If you ignore that sign, and you try to keep your child awake, your brain responds thinking you’re trying to keep your child awake, and it triggers adrenaline and cortisol. So now you have a baby who’s clearly tired, but the brain thinks you’re actually trying to keep them awake despite they should be napping and triggers the stimulant hormones which can not only make a nap really short, it can make your child fussy, uncomfortable, irritable and a bit stressed out.
So in children, it’s really important that you monitor the awake window that’s age appropriate for your child’s sleep. And I refer to that in the comment section and in the resources section from this video, because if you’re mismanaging your child’s ideal awake times, you’re going to have a lot of trouble trying to get them to settle independently and sleep through the night. Now when it comes to adults, typically for example, I go to bed every night like clockwork, at nine o’clock, I wake up every day like clockwork without an alarm at about five o’clock. So my body has a very strict circadian rhythm. I try to keep it in check, and that helps to regulate my adenosine levels. So adenosine for me is peaking at nine o’clock at night because as an adult, I don’t need to take a nap. And then I lay off of that. Staying awake, I go to bed and then when I wake up in the morning, my cortisol levels high and my adenosine levels are low. So it’s this beautiful balance of up and down with that adenosine throughout the day. So just to recap so far we’ve got first and foremost between four and six in this in the morning is when your cortisol levels are highest. When you’re awake, your adenosine levels are rising. Now you come to bedtime. Melatonin is actually not a hormone to help you sleep despite all of the ads and all of the big box displays that you see at every single store. Melatonin is a hormone that actually prepares your body to sleep. And the best example that I can ever share is something that Matthew Walker talked about in his book, why we sleep. It was a great analogy to say that think of melatonin, like someone running in the 50 yard dash in the Olympics, you’ve got all the runners lined up on the track and field field. And you have the guy that holds the gun that starts the race. That my friends is melatonin. So melatonin is a hormone that prepares your body to go to sleep, your highest levels should be about an hour to two before bedtime is when it starts to produce and then at bedtime, it helps you to fall asleep and settle well through the night. So you’ve got adenosine, melatonin, cortisol, and then adrenaline. Adrenaline is that fight or flight hormone that you know your body prepares when they’re, you know, suddenly jarred, or if a baby gets overtired, and your brain thinks like you’re trying to stay awake. So those are the four main hormones that comprise what is happening in your body’s circadian rhythm. A lot of people supplement melatonin and they don’t actually realize that it can be very dangerous. And if you are not paying attention to what you’re doing are doing it under a doctor’s care for a specific reason, it can cause a lot of issues. And I’ll give you a couple examples. I know a ton of adults that pop melatonin to fall asleep. But the problem is, when you start to analyze the product that you’re taking, you can actually find that the amount of melatonin they tell you is in there, and what the labs tested based on what’s on the label is very much different. You also have to be careful because there are other hormones that your body’s making that melatonin can mess with. And it can cause a whole host of issues that you can have, especially if you’re someone who’s taking anti depressants, if you’re someone who has dementia Restless Leg Syndrome. So as an adult, you have to be very, very careful about melatonin. In children. Melatonin is typically only recommended or should only be recommended when a child has autism spectrum disorder because their body has an inability to produce the right amount of melatonin, or sometimes children with ADHD. Those are both two very specific reasons where melatonin might be useful.
What I have found in my practice is that a lot of children take melatonin, there is no long term research on the effectiveness of what it’s doing. There is no long term research on the impact of what it’s doing. So I would definitely proceed with caution. Very few children should actually be taking melatonin for an issue. Many parents give it because the doctor says hey, just give melatonin well. Unfortunately, pediatricians aren’t really trained on sleep. So that’s a quick bridge to help you feel like you’re going to get some relief. Melatonin will work maybe for a couple days. It’s really useful when you’re traveling from the United States to Italy, for example, and you need to quickly adjust to the bedtime over there. In those short use cases, it can be helpful, but to take it every night to help a child sleep. Not only is it not working because your child’s issues are typically other than their inability to produce melatonin and are solved by myself and my team when we work with all toddlers who we’ve worked with that have taken melatonin when we started, have fixed their sleep and gotten off melatonin when we were finished. Now again, there are always going to be certain circumstances like a child with autism spectrum disorder whose body doesn’t make it. What you have to pay attention to is that taking melatonin long term can actually cause your body to stop producing because your brain looks for melatonin. If it doesn’t find it present. It produces it. But if it does find it present through what you took in a pill it’s going to go oh, well, I don’t need to make it. So you’re really not doing any good for your brain. Because your body’s just gonna say Alright, well, you’ve already got it. So I don’t need to make. So I would encourage you to tread lightly with melatonin if you’re using it with your children. And as a next step, first, speak with your pediatrician. Second, give us a call here at Tiny transitions. We offer preliminary discovery calls we can learn for free all about your child, we can understand why they’re waking. We can help you to understand whether or not it makes sense that you’re using melatonin but in many cases, it’s more about building a good solid sleep hygiene in your child and helping them to understand that they can sleep without it. Many parents challenges are often that their children are overtired, which triggers adrenaline and cortisol. And then your six year old is running around at nine o’clock at night going I’m not tired. I’m not tired. Because they’ve gotten that flood of energy, not because they’re not tired. It’s actually because they’re overtired, and then they typically crash. So melatonin definitely is something you want to be careful of. And I would certainly suggest that you reach out and spend some time with myself or a member of our team on a discovery call if you’re facing sleep challenges. And if you want some additional help guidance and support in coaching. If you are an adult who is struggling with sleep, I would first start with managing your schedule. You should be on a set bedtime and a set wakeup time. Every day as best you can, you also want to make sure you minimize blue light exposure. You also want to make sure that you’re avoiding things like caffeine and sugary drinks, some of those obvious things that you want to take into account as you’re winding down for bedtime. I would also encourage you to speak with potentially a functional nutritionist in your area, because you might actually have a problem with your adrenal function. And if that’s causing your body’s hormones to not be created with balance, you might need to do some basic supplementation of the right things to fix your body’s natural ability to produce those hormones when they should be. So I would encourage you to reach out and connect with us. If you need a recommendation on an amazing functional nutritionist. I have one who also happens to be a past sleep client. Her name is Dr. Katie shear at shear Chiropractic in Godfrey, Illinois. And she is wonderful with solving your adult sleep challenges as it relates to what’s happening functionally inside your body. I hope everyone has a beautiful rest of the day. Thanks so much for tuning in. Until next time, leave the rest to us. Hold on one more thing before you go. As a valued listener of the kids sleep show. I want to help you build a great sleep or not just in the times you’re listening to the show. But all day every day. Every week of the year. I have a new Facebook group called slumber made simple. It’s a place to gather with other parents looking for sleep support, laughs and the latest in sleep research to build a family that is rested and at their best day in and day out. If you want to be part of the community where you can get free sleep support, weekly training sessions, unbelievable content and so much more. Head on over to tiny transitions.com forward slash community that’s tiny transitions.com forward slash community or head over to Facebook and search slumber Made Simple. drop me a note and let me know when you join