The Way Up rainbow separatorThe Way Up Newsletter
Vol. 7
Are you shuffling or
tap dancing Through life



It is often surprising when my patients bring in articles from the popular press which are replete with misinformation & instill fear. Some of the confused information relates to melatonin. So let's look at it.

Proper production of melatonin is related to both light & dark. For optimum melatonin levels you need at least 30-60 minutes of outdoor light daily, preferably in the a.m. & you need a very dark room at night. Indoor lighting is about 100 lux & outdoors is about 50,000 lux. If there is no way for you to be outside or you live in a dark gloomy climate, full spectrum indoor light can help.. Proper light & dark can improve melatonin production by 50-200%. If you cannot darken your bedroom, use a sleep mask.


Melatonin declines rapidly with aging & levels are generally minimal by age 70.. Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, beta-blocker medications, some anti-depressants, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, & chronic stress deplete melatonin. Chronic stress causes the production of too much cortisol which lowers melatonin. Melatonin can be stress protective by keeping down the hyperproduction of cortisol (the stress hormone) Since melatonin can help control excess cortisol production those with low adrenal function & low cortisol need to be careful about taking too much melatonin. It can make them even more tired. In summary, too little or too much melatonin will impair stress tolerance.


Low melatonin is evidenced by a history of light, anxious, restless sleep, & poor dream recall. Low melatonin levels are found in those with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Reversed levels are found in those who are bipolar. They have low levels at night & high levels in the morning, the reverse of what it should be. The anxiety of PMS or anxiety in general can be associated with low melatonin levels. When I test for melatonin I find low or reversed levels in most of those I test no matter what age they are. Granted, they are being tested because abnormality is suspected. Schizophrenics also tend to have low melatonin. Is this caused by their medications of does it have other implications? Those who suicide in the night have lower levels of melatonin than those dying in the night from other causes. This should be no surprise because low trytophan levels are associated with a higher incidence of suicide & tryptophan is a precursor to melatonin. Low melatonin levels are also found in those with breast & prostate cancer, decreased blood flow in the heart, Alzheimers & other dementias.


We all know about melatonin's benefits for jet lag. The protocol for this can be found at Use the search function to find melatonin to read what to dofor jet lag. It does work! Melatonin is one of the most powerful anti-oxidants in the brain & can be helpful to gradually slow chronic degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinsons. It generally protects against toxin induced free radical damage to any part of the body. It can help with pain reduction. It improves the quality of sleep. It helps to restore more useful metabolism & to reset the metabolic clock disarranged by aging. It has a specific positive effect in repairing capillaries (your smallest blood vessels) Melatonin helps to decrease total & the "bad" LDL cholesterol. It is an immune enhancer & modulator. In cell cultures it slows HIV replication & inhibits breast cancer cell growth. Those with rheumatoid arthritis or autimmune diseases should use melatonin only in very low doses. It extends the life span in animal studies


Other than proper light/dark, the nutrients tryptophan, 5-hydroxytryptophan, pyridoxal-5-phosphate, calcium, magnesium, & niacinamide support melatonin levels.


Melatonin is non toxic as demonstrated by animal & human studies & use. In one experiment a man took 6,600 mg daily for 35 days with no adverse effects. The usual dose is 0.25-3 mg. Though non-toxic, melatonin can have some side effects if you take a dose which is too high for you. If you decrease the dose, the side effects should disappear. The most common side effects would be grogginess, hangover, or headache in the a.m. or intense dreaming. Doses over 10 mg daily can decrease ovarian activity & suppress sex hormone function. However these higher doses also decrease the activity of the estrogen binding receptors in the breast & may be protective against breast cancer & a useful adjunct in treating breast cancer.

It is arguable whether melatonin is technically a hormone, though it has been called such. I won't go into the technical arguments here. However, it is an endogenous modulator & effector substance which helps to regulate the hormones, your metabolism, & your body's biorhythms, as well as numerous other functions. It interacts positively with other hormones so that lower doses may be required. Melatonin helps with the conversion of the inactive thyroid (T4) to the active thyroid (T3). If you are on thyroid & start to regularly take melatonin you may need to adjust your thyroid dosage.


Generally the sublingual form is preferable when used to help with sleep or anxiety. It is faster acting, better absorbed & doesn't remain in the system as long so there is less likelihood of a morning hangover. However I use the regular form for jet lag & when I am treating someone with very low evening & midnight levels. Then I give a regular melatonin at 7-8pm & sublingual at bedtime.


Saliva testing is the current most avaible test. Several labs offer it. I use the one provided by Great Smokies Diagnostic Lab. If you want such a test look at the labs in the links section at can go to their web site. Then you can tell your Dr what you want & where to get it.


Having been in the Alternative Medicine field long before it was popular & accepted, it does my heart good to open a traditional publication,"The Journal Of Depressive Disorders" (Second Quarter l998) & to find the first few pages relating to natural treatments. Data was pooled from 23 randomized trials which compared the benefits of St John's Wort with placebo ( 15 studies) & with standard antidepressants (8 studies). Outpatients with mild to moderately severe depression responded as well to St John's Wort, 300 mg three times daily as to antidepressants. For more comprehensive information on this herbal treament I refer you to Dr Hyla Cass's book, "ST. JOHN'S WORT: Natures Blues Buster". We do have an search on our web site so you can look for any book. Her book is also in our list of recommended books. The second article in this journal revealed a study in which Omega-3 Fatty Acid levels were 40% lower in the red blood cell membranes of depressive patients than in controls. This was particularly so with docosahexanoic acid. (see Cerebral DHA at for details on this) Similiar findings have been noted in schizophrenics. Also smoking lowers omega-3 fatty acids & schizophrenics tend to be heavy smokers.

Goodbye for now!
Priscilla Slagle M.D.

"To see the preciousness of all things, we must bring our full attention to life" ----Jack Kornfield, "A Path With Heart"
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