Now, we will begin discussing the various natural sleep aids, but first I want to point out that I am not opposed to working with a doctor. Just be sure to find one who is not going to lace you with drugs. And, a good rule of thumb is that you should only consider taking things that you would feel safe and comfortable taking indefinitely- even for the rest of your life.  Most  prescription sleeping pills come with the precaution that they are for temporary use, such as 7 to 10 days. But, it’s a joke. Pharmaceutical companies spend millions to acquire new customers- buttering up doctors with trips, seminars, samples, etc. and then advertising directly to consumers in the mainstream media. It is very expensive and if every new customer were to quit after 7 to 10 days, they would never turn a profit. They know full well that people are going to take the drugs for longer- much longer. But, from your standpoint, what is the point of taking the drug for 7 to 10 days? And, what is going to happen when you quit? You are certainly not going to be cured. You are going to revert back to whatever sleeping difficulty you had before- and that’s if you are lucky. That is the best case scenario. It is far more likely that your natural ability to sleep will be worse off for having taken the drug. You will have dug yourself into a deeper hole. So, that is why there is no point in starting with it. There is no good that comes from it.

So, we are going to talk about natural sleep aids, none of which interfere with the natural sleep mechanism. Remember: we are not trying to supplant natural sleep; rather, we are trying to support it. And I feel very good about the following substances for long-term use.

1 Melatonin: This hormone has been available over-the-counter since 1984, and it is still very popular. I am sure there are many millions of people around the world who take melatonin regularly. However, they do not all have sleep problems. Some people take melatonin as an anti-aging hormone to obtain other health benefits. These include cardiovascular protection as melatonin helps to prevent heart disease, cancer protection as melatonin acts like a “smart bomb” against cancer cells, and immune enhancement as melatonin invigorates the immune system. But as regards sleep, melatonin is most definitely not a knockout pill. Melatonin is simply a darkness signaler. It is the chemical signal that darkness is at hand, which tells the body that it is time to turn on the sleep inducing mechanism.  But, you still have to fall asleep yourself the natural way.

Sleep architecture under the influence of supplemental melatonin is practically indistinguishable from natural sleep, and it may be closer to the ideal than the sleep you are presently getting. That’s because sleep architecture tends to deteriorate with age and certainly among those who report difficulty with sleep. And the great blessing is that melatonin, unlike sleep drugs, does not interfere with deep sleep- which is the most restorative phase of sleep. You get good deep sleep on melatonin.

The proof that melatonin is not a knock-out pill is that some people complain that they don’t observe much from it. And it’s no doubt true that the “drowsy” effect of melatonin is small and weak and subtle compared to drugs. And if the person is miles away from the “sleep gate,” melatonin alone is unlikely to work.  And, the magnitude of the induced drowsiness may vary a lot even in one person. Some nights it may seem to work very well and other nights not much or at all. But, I think it would be a real mistake to judge the effectiveness of melatonin over too short a period.  You shouldn’t try it once and quit immediately if it doesn’t seem to have a pronounced effect.  Give it a chance. You may find that, over time, and in the aggregate, it does help to improve your sleep, even if not every single night.

There is a lot of controversy about the proper dosage of melatonin. The most popular dosages are 2 to 3 milligrams.  But, you can also find 1 milligram, and even fractions of a milligram. The smallest dose we offer is  3/4 milligram.  But, there are a lot of critics who say that a fraction of a milligram is all that one should take because it’s enough to reach the normal nightly peak of melatonin. That may be true, but it is also true that melatonin has a very short half-life which has been measured to be as short as 20 minutes! And, it’s because your body breaks it down so fast that multi-milligram doses became popular.

I can’t resolve that controversy for you about dose, but I will point out that some leading complementary doctors, whom I respect, do take and recommend multi-milligram doses of melatonin. And they include our own Dr. Ward Dean, whom I met through VRP. Then there is Dr. Donald Miller, the cardiac surgeon and professor of surgery from Seattle, Washington whom I have written about before on this blog. Then there is Dr. Walter Pierpaoli, and I want to expound about him.

Dr. Walter Pierpaoli, of Italy and Switzerland, is probably the most accomplished melatonin researcher in the world. And more than that, he has probably been taking melatonin for longer than any other person- living or dead. He is the author of the blockbuster book, The Melatonin Miracle, which put melatonin on the map.  Before that, most people had never heard of melatonin, and most doctors had never given it any thought. Today, Dr. Pierpaoli is 77 years old, and he is still very active in research.  And I must say that he looks fantastic. He looks broad and dense through the shoulders and tapered in the torso. He has the proportions of a much younger man.  I watched a 12 minute video of him speaking, in English, which is not his native language, but through the heavy Italian accent, you can understand him.

And what he said was that he is more enthused about melatonin than ever, and he thinks that every adult should take melatonin nightly for health and longevity. But, he thinks it is very important to duplicate the nightly pattern of melatonin secretion which is for melatonin to peak during deep sleep between the hours of 1 and 3 AM.  For that reason, he is opposed to sublingual melatonin because it peaks too soon- before you have even fallen asleep. And he is opposed to time-released melatonin because it’s designed to maintain a plateau of melatonin all through the night. He wants it to peak during deep sleep between 1 and 3 AM because that is the only way that melatonin can synchronize the endocrine system properly.  And what he said has a great bearing on those unfortunate individuals who work the night shift. Some of them will take melatonin before they sleep in the morning to compensate. But according to Dr. Pierpaoli, there is no way it can possibly approximate the ideal. Humans are not meant to be nocturnal. Period.  And that is something I have believed for a long time.

So, Dr. Pierpaoli does not recommend sublingual or time-released melatonin. But what he has done is to put out his own proprietary melatonin, in tablet form, which has just enough excipient in it to delay the release of the melatonin so that if taken before bed in the evening, it produces a nighttime peak between 1 and 3 AM, and then it tapers off rapidly after that, duplicating the natural pattern of melatonin secretion.

And, there are two other things he has added to it.  The first is zinc, and the reason for that is that he believes that failure of zinc nutriture is a cardinal feature of aging.  And he says, “it doesn’t matter how much you eat.” We just do not absorb and utilize our zinc as well as we get older, and it has vast effects, none of them good. Melatonin enhances zinc utilization. Dr. Pierpaoli says that melatonin opens the door for zinc to get into the cells- just as insulin opens the door for glucose and potassium to enter the cells. And that’s why he wants to have plenty of zinc around when melatonin is peaking. And he adds some selenium, presumably because melatonin is also known to increase the antioxidant enzyme known as glutathione peroxidase, which contains selenium.  So, he calls his product MZS for melatonin-zinc-selenium. The dosage of melatonin is 3 mgs, and the cost is only $20 for a two-month supply.

I have decided to try Dr. Pierpaoli’s MZS, and I ordered it from anti-aging systems.com. I’ll give you the link:

http://www.antiaging-systems.com/132-melatonin-zn-se

And if you go to that link, you’ll be able to watch the 12 minute interview of Dr. Pierpaoli discussing melatonin.  See if you are as impressed with him as I am.

That will do it for this entry, but next time, we will move on to the next contender in our sleep aid series. Thanks for staying with me.