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Why Melatonin isn’t Enough


The number of people with problems sleeping is epidemic.  Nearly everyone has some difficulty sleeping at some point in their lives. What I’ve found over the years in my medical practice with patients, in conversations with people around town, and with my research is that when people have difficulty falling asleep the first thing they usually turn to is melatonin. After all, haven’t we all heard, “You got sleep issues, try melatonin.” Here’s the problem with melatonin and why it’s not the total fix.

Our bodies naturally produce melatonin and it’s important. It’s part of our circadian rhythm–part of the day and night cycle of our bodies. When it’s nighttime and it’s time to go to sleep, melatonin starts to be secreted. Melatonin helps signal that it’s time to get ready for sleep. It’s helps put us to sleep.

But as a dietary supplement, melatonin has a few problems. The first is that most products on the market don’t provide the melatonin in a way that mimics our bodies’ natural rhythm. Melatonin secretion from the pineal gland in our brains begins to rise at about 10:00 pm each night. The concentration peaks at about 1:00 am and declines back to its low point by approximately 5:00 am.

The other problem is that melatonin doesn’t stick around very long. The half-life of a chemical, whether it’s a nutrient or a drug, is the amount of time it takes for the body to eliminate 50% of the substance. The half-life of melatonin is only 40 to 50 minutes. That means that in less than an hour, half of the melatonin has been eliminated.

Most of the products on the market are immediate-release capsules or tablets. In these supplements they don’t mimick  the body’s natural rhythms because all the melatonin is released at once. Within two hours you’ve broken down and lost more than 75% of the melatonin. How can that give you a full night’s sleep? The answer is that for most people with whom I spoken, it doesn’t.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve talked to people who take melatonin who still complain that they’re waking up in the middle of the night. That’s because melatonin is involved in helping us fall asleep. As the body eliminates the melatonin their body starts interpreting that it must be daytime and time to wake up.

Normally melatonin concentration peaks at 1:00 am and reaches its low point at 5:00 am. But when a large dose is taken as an immediate-release dietary supplement, the body eliminates it more quickly. For example, at 10:00 pm you take 3 mg of immediate-release melatonin. Since it’s released all at once, the full amount starts breaking down right away. In 45 minutes you’ve eliminated half of it and in an hour and a half you’ve gotten rid of 75% of what was in the dietary supplement. And so on as the night progresses. Quickly the amount of melatonin drops low enough that your body thinks, “Hey, good morning. It’s time to wake up.” And so you do.

That’s because melatonin uniquely helps put us to sleep, but not stay asleep. Other nutrients do that. Additionally, the delivery system is as important as the nutrients, since in a dietary supplement it’s important to release the nutrients in a way that more closely mimics the natural sleep cycle.

To solve this problem, I spent a more than a year researching sleep. Why people don’t sleep well. What science knows about the neurobiology of sleep. How lifestyle, dietary and hormonal factors affect sleep. And which nutrients have been shown in clinical trials to improve sleep.

The result was that I’ve become an expert in sleep science and have been asked to lecture at medical conferences and teach clinicians what I’ve learned. And I created Sleep Relief, because I couldn’t find a product on the market that provided the right combination of nutrients in the right doses, released in the right order. My proprietary formula was manufactured in bi-phasic, time-release tables to give you a synergistic combination of nutrients that promotes healthy sleep all night long.

While Sleep Relief contains a small amount of melatonin, here’s what you won’t find anywhere else. Sleep Relief also has calming amino acids, magnesium and adaptogenic herbs to help your body deal better with stress. These nutrients soothe the nervous system, promote relaxation and feed the biochemical pathways that promote healthy, restful sleep.

Sleep Relief also contains standardized extracts of those herbs because that ensures more consistent high-quality manufacturing and uniformity of the finished product. Additionally, clinical trials typically use the standardized extracts, not the whole herbs. So Sleep Relief’s formula more closely matches what’s seen in clinical trials.

The proprietary formula I created targets the different stages of sleep throughout the night, not just sleep initiation, which is what melatonin effects. And Sleep Relief’s bi-phasic, time-release technology more closely mimics the boby’s natural rhythm to help you fall asleep, stay asleep and wake refreshed. Learn more about Sleep Relief and explore NBI’s sleep resources.

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Drake MJ, Mills IW, Noble JG. Melatonin pharmacotherapy for nocturia in men with benign prostatic enlargement. J Urol. 2004;171(3):1199-1202. [Article]

Gooneratne NS, Edwards AY, Zhou C, Cuellar N, Grandner MA, Barrett JS. Melatonin pharmacokinetics following two different oral surge-sustained release doses in older adults. J Pineal Res. 2012;52(4):437-445. [Article]

Hardeland R. Melatonin in aging and disease -multiple consequences of reduced secretion, options and limits of treatment. Aging Dis. 2012;3(2):194-225. [Article]

Jehan S, Jean-Louis G, Zizi F, et al. Sleep, Melatonin, and the Menopausal Transition: What Are the Links? Sleep Sci. 2017;10(1):11-18. [Article]

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