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Melatonin: Sleeping Your Way to Better Bones

By Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD

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I’ve written before that adequate rest and sleep have been part of our innate healing process for hundreds of thousands of years. Melatonin, a naturally-occurring hormone that helps you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, is essential to this process. Melatonin makes us less alert and more ready for sleep, which benefits bone by reducing the bone-depleting cortisol and pro-inflammatory responses in our body.

You may not realize that as we get older — after the age of 40 — our bodies naturally make less melatonin.
For the best sleep, melatonin should increase during the evening before bedtime, remain high during the night and then drop when morning comes. When that doesn’t happen, you may not feel sleepy or struggle to fall asleep when you do go to bed.  Supplementing with melatonin can help improve your ability to sleep by acting on the brain receptors that regulate the body’s circadian clock.

Melatonin and age-related bone loss


Given everything we know about the benefits of melatonin, researchers decided to take a look at how using a melatonin supplement might affect the strength of aging bones. Using animal models — whose age was about 60 in human years — the researchers found a significant increase in bone volume, flexibility and density among those receiving melatonin supplements. Also, preliminary human studies suggest that melatonin may enhance osteoblast differentiation and may restore imbalances in bone remodeling. Of course, further studies need to be done, but I am always excited when studies of a natural therapy look promising! 
 
3 tips for getting to sleep

For help with falling asleep, I like to take about a half hour to relax before bedtime. Your individual relaxing time can be anywhere from as little as 15 minutes to up to an hour, so I suggest you experiment to find out the amount of time that works best for you. I also find these tips helpful:

  • Set a nightly time limit for technology use. At times, I certainly am guilty of staying plugged in right up until I close my eyes. But when I avoid this overactivity, I notice the difference almost immediately.
  • Develop a focused, positive intention to sleep through the night, rather than worrying that you won’t be able to fall asleep.  Some women find meditating before bed or deep breathing or listening to a Nidra yoga tape is calming and speeds the transition to sleep.
  • Boost your body’s natural hormones with a Melatonin supplement. If it helps your sleep, I suspect it is also helping your bones!


I hope you are able to feel rested and renewed!

References:

Tresguerres, I, et al., Melatonin dietary supplement as an anti-aging therapy for age-related bone loss. Rejuvenation Research, 2014; 140311120122003 DOI: 10.1089/rej.2013.1542

Witt-Enderby et al., Therapeutic treatments potentially mediated by melatonin receptors: potential clinical uses in the prevention of osteoporosis, cancer and as a adjuvant therapy. Jr. of Pineal Research, Vol 41, #4, Nov. 2006: 297-305

Radio, N M, et al., Melatonin enhances alkaline phosphatase activity in differentiating human adult mesenchymal stem cells grown in osteogenic medium via MT2 melatonin receptors and the MEK/ERK (1/2) signaling cascade.  Jr of Pineal Research, Vo. 40, #4, May 2006:332-342

You can try Dr. Brown’s comprehensive supplements in her at-home bone health program, developed with Women's Health Network. Get her exclusive formulations along with her detailed lifestyle and diet guidance, plus telephone support whenever you need it. Learn more about the Better Bones Health Program.

We created the Better Bones blog as our forum to express opinions and educate the public about natural means of supporting and improving bone health and overall wellness. As part of this forum, we sometimes discuss medical issues and medications, and their effects on bone health in general. However, we cannot advise readers about specific medical issues in this forum. If you wish to obtain advice from Susan E. Brown, PhD, about your specific bone health and nutritional concerns, please visit our Consultations page. Other specific medical questions should be referred to your healthcare provider.

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