You probably already know that melatonin is your sleep hormone, that makes you sleepy at bedtime. But in this video, I’ll reveal a surprising and perhaps even shocking benefit of melatonin that your doctor probably won’t know about.
Hi, I’m Dr. Steven Park, ENT surgeon and sleep medicine doctor, speaker, blogger, podcaster, and author of the Amazon best-selling book, sleep, interrupted.
Everyone knows that melatonin is the nighttime hormone that’s important to help you fall asleep at night. But did you know that melatonin has over 20 other known important health benefits, besides just sleep? In fact, only 5% of melatonin is made in the pineal gland, which is at the base of your brain. In this video, I’ll reveal where else in the body the remaining 95% is made, and I guarantee it will be surprising.
Before I reveal this particular health benefit, let’s review what melatonin is and how it’s made. Your body needs tryptophan to convert it into serotonin, and then into melatonin. From the pineal gland, once there’s no light, melatonin is produced about 2 hours before your natural sleep time, making you drowsy. So if you normally fall asleep around 10 PM, then melatonin starts to go up beginning at 8 PM. However, if you shine any amount of light during this time, melatonin production is delayed. It’s important to note that melatonin from your pineal gland spreads to other parts of your body through the circulatory system.
I remember when Apple’s iPad first came out in 2010, there were lots of stories about people who complained of insomnia since they were using their iPads in bed. So the easiest thing to do to sleep better is to either avoid using anything with a lighted screen or if you have to use your device or computer, use blue-blocking filters or glasses. We know that in particular, it’s the blue spectrum of light that delays melatonin production.
Melatonin has well over 20 different health benefits, besides sleep. Some of these include lower stomach acid, lowering your insulin level, tightening the lower esophageal sphincter preventing acid reflux, and stimulating growth hormone. It can even protect the eyes and the ears.
Just out of curiosity, have you ever taken melatonin to help you fall asleep, and if so, did it help? Please place your answers in the comments area below.
This next benefit of melatonin was quite a surprise to me when I found out about it a while back. In fact, 95% of melatonin is not made in the pineal gland, but throughout all the mitochondria in your cells throughout your body. Mitochondria are the energy-producing organs inside all your body’s cells. It takes glucose and oxygen to make water and ATP, the fuel your body needs to function.
One of the negative side-effects of energy metabolism is that you can make a small number of free radicals, which can damage anything it comes into contact with Your body has a defense mechanism to neutralize these free radicals, but that depends on how healthy your diet is. Also, if you eat unhealthy foods such as processed foods, high amounts of carbohydrates, seed oils, alcohol, and even high fructose corn syrup, you make more of these dangerous free radicals compared with regular glucose.
Now here’s the kicker: Sunlight, especially the near-infrared spectrum, creates a reaction in your mitochondria to produce melatonin, which is a powerful anti-oxidant. This is made inside your cells and is not related to what the pineal gland makes. It triggers the release of glutathione and other important anti-oxidants. I placed a link to a great summary of this concept
I can honestly say that this is just as important as why you eat to get the proper anti-oxidants in your diet. This has huge implications for your health since oxidative stress is a major source of heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and other inflammatory disorders.
This also applies to cancer. Free radicals can damage your mitochondria, which go from using glucose and oxygen for fuel, to using a fermentation process that doesn’t need oxygen anymore. This is much less efficient in creating your ATP packets so you need much more glucose. This stimulates signals to build new vessels and tissues to bring in more food, leading to aggressive tissue growth. I’ll include a link below to a video on the metabolic origins of cancer by Dr. Thomas Seyfried.
So knowing all this, what can you do to improve your health?
You may have guessed by now, there are two simple steps. But for modern people, they may not be so simple:
Turn off or turn down all your lights at night, especially before bedtime, and get exposed to sunlight during the day as much as possible. Only sun exposure will stimulate sub-cellular melatonin to be expressed.
One quick note about vitamin D. The further away from the equator, the more likely you’ll need vitamin D supplements. And your body makes the precursor for vitamin D by being exposed to direct sunlight, mainly with maximum skin exposure to UV B, which is highest in the middle of the day. In contrast, the near-infrared spectrum of sunlight has a much broader peak, so you can get the benefits of NIR exposure early in the morning or late afternoon when UV A is much lower. However, you still need UVB for vitamin D creation.
There are 3 more fascinating points about NIR radiation. This is from a 2-hour medical lecture by Dr. Seheult of Medcram.com. I’ll place the link below. It’s a bit technical but well worth watching.
The first thing is that green plants reflect the NIR radiation back up to you. That’s why there are studies showing that people who are exposed to more green spaces are healthier in general. Now you have a very good reason to go to the park or go hiking or cycling as much as you can.
The second observation is that NIR energy can penetrate your body up to 3 inches in thickness, including your skull, and into your brain. It also penetrates through clothing. The warmth that you feel on a cool day is the effect of NIR warming your body. Take comfort in the fact that you’re generating tons of antioxidants.
The third interesting point is that campfires, fireplaces, and candles emit red and orange colors, which is within the NIR spectrum. This is why spending time with these activities is so calming and relaxing. And you sleep much better as well. This is why I loved to go camping deep in the mountains with my boys when they were younger.
You can find lots more fascinating information about light, circadian rhythm, and melatonin in a 2-hour medical lecture by Dr. Seheult of Medcram.com. I’ll place the link below. It’s a bit technical but well worth watching. There’s another short video by Dr. Berg that summarizes melatonin’s anti-oxidant effect. I’ll place the link below as well.
So to summarize, melatonin made in your pineal gland goes up in response to darkness, helping you fall asleep, whereas sunlight during the daytime creates powerful melatonin antioxidants throughout your entire body.
So knowing all this, it’s important to cut out or cut down any electronic lights close to bedtime. Use your fireplace more. Get incandescent light bulbs. Spend as much time outdoors as possible. Spend a lot more time in parks, mountains, and other green spaces. Use your fireplace or set up campfires a lot more. Use candles more often. There are also a number of NIR lamps for purchase or sauna facilities that are available.
Thanks for watching.
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To find out the Surprising Link Between Vitamin D and the Sleep Neurotransmitter Acetylcholine, click on this video here.
➡️ LINKS MENTIONED IN THE VIDEO
Melatonin stimulates the activity of the detoxifying enzyme glutathione peroxidase in several tissues of chicks
The MOST POWERFUL Antioxidant is Melatonin, NOT Glutathione (Dr. Berg)
Dr. Thomas Seyfried: Cancer as a Mitochondrial Metabolic Disease
Sunlight: Optimize Health and Immunity (Light Therapy and Melatonin) (Medcram Medical Lectures)
The role of mitochondrial DNA mutations and free radicals in disease and aging
The Surprising Link Between Vitamin D and the Sleep Neurotransmitter Acetylcholine (Dr. Park’s interview with Dr. Stasha Gominak)
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This video is for general educational and informational purposes only. It is not to be taken as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your doctor first before making any changes to your health, exercise, nutrition, or dietary regimen.