Melatonin Recommended as First Choice Sleep Aid for Individuals Over 55 yr.
Source: Frontiers of Endocrinology Journal (2019)
Lifestyle Medicine Update (August 4, 2021)
If you suffer from insomnia or interrupted sleep problems, you may be interested in the research published in the journal, Frontiers of Endocrinology in 2019. This paper reviewed the role of melatonin in brain function and the prevention of brain degeneration, and it also cited the recommendation from the British Association of Psychopharmacology, which reads,” A consensus of the British Association of Psychopharmacology on evidence-based treatment for insomnia concluded that melatonin is the first-choice treatment when a hypnotic (sleeping aid) is indicated in patients over 55 years.” (1) To put this into context, about 4% of all adults and 10% of those over 65 years of age in this country regularly take prescription sleeping medications prescribed by their doctor for insomnia and sleep problems. But some alarming studies in recent years have suggested that sleeping medications are associated with an increased risk for unsteadiness leading to falls and fractures. In fact, research from Dalhousie University suggested that one-third of hip fractures in people 85 and older may be attributed to the use of prescription sleeping pills. (2) Sleep medication use is also associated with increased risk of pneumonia, memory problems, dependence, and withdrawal problems, according to the same Dalhousie University report, published in 2021. (2) In 2012 and 2018 we had previously seen published reports in medical journals showing that compared to individuals who did not use prescription sleep medications, individuals using these drugs showed a significantly increased risk of cancer, premature death, serious infections (especially upper respiratory tract infections) mood disorders, accidental injuries, suicides, and homicides. (3, 4)
By contrast, the natural agent melatonin, which has been shown to help individuals get to sleep more quickly and provide a deep, restorative sleep, has been shown to be very safe and non-toxic. (1) Melatonin not only helps to improve sleep quality but also shows promise in helping to block steps in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and possibly Lou Gehrig’s disease – three very common problems that can develop as people age. (1, 5, 6, 7) Melatonin also modulates immune function, helping to prevent or reverse the decline in immunity seen in aging (8,9) Some recent studies have shown that melatonin can also reverse mild cognitive impairment – the first step in the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and has been used to improve cognition and sleep patterns in early-stage Alzheimer’s disease patients. (1) Melatonin is also a brain antioxidant, protecting the brain from free radical damage. (1) As well, melatonin shows impressive findings as a natural agent that may help prevent breast and prostate cancer, as well as some other cancers. Most recently it has been used as an adjunct in breast cancer patients undergoing medical treatment. (10, 11). As well, one study showed that melatonin helped to reduce the progression of macular degeneration of the eye – the leading cause of blindness in individuals older than 55 and may help those who suffer from ringing in the ears (tinnitus) fall asleep more easily. (12)
As a sleep aid, I personally like to take low-dose melatonin in a supplement that also contains three other natural agents that include GABA, 5-HTP, and Bacopa monnieri. In short, studies show that the supplements GABA and 5-HTP (5- hydroxytryptophan) work together to improve sleep quality and can counter caffeine-induced insomnia problems, where having caffeine too late in the day can make it hard to fall asleep. (13) Bacopa monnieri is a natural plant-based agent used in the Indian Medical System, which is proven to reverse early-stage memory loss, but it also works with melatonin to protect the brain against free radical damage and other processes that lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. As we age these nutrients become increasingly important to brain health and the prevention of brain degeneration, according to many published studies. (1, 14) So, as an alternative to prescription sleep medications, the use of a combined formula of melatonin, GABA, 5-HTP, and Bacopa monnieri, maybe a wiser, safer, and more natural choice, according to emerging published research and clinical trials.
I have included the references for this information in the text below
1. 2019 Update Melatonin and Neurodegeneration(Frontiers of Endocrinology) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2019.00480/full
2. Dalhousie University – Dal News) https://www.dal.ca/news/2021/01/25/researchers-takes-aim-at-highest-rates-of-sleeping-pill-reliance.html
8. Lordan R et al. Dietary Supplements and Nutraceuticals Under Investigation for Covid-19 Prevention and Treatment. National Institutes of Health Preprint Pilot. Feb 3, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7872359/
11. Li Y et al. Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Oncotarget Journal, 2017, vol 8, No 24: 39896-39921 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5503661/
12. How to Optimize Sleep: The Sleep Foundation https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/healthy-sleep-tips
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,
Dr. James Meschino
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.