Are You Sleeping Enough? Experiments in Sleep and Supplements

I’ve had this weird insomnia thing for the last week.

I think it was due to the fact that my circadian rhythm never caught up as I flew over here from the US a few weeks ago.

Another issue is how screwed up my travel schedule is.  Between waking up at weird hours for flights, and going out every night, my body has no clue when it should be sleeping or awake.

So I was having these weird issues where I would either be up until 7-8AM, and then sleep the day away, or I would be tired as hell, but right as I would doze off, my body would shudder and I would wake back up.

So weird.

The other side of this is that I recently tried out the new iPhone app called Sleep Cycle.

Let me just say I was VERY skeptical that this thing would work.

Basically you set it by the side of your bed, and using the accelerometer in the iPhone, it can tell if you are in a deep sleep or not based on how much you toss and turn while sleeping.

So, as skeptical as I was, I tried it out.  And it worked fairly well.  The moments where I felt awake, and had the opportunity to check the clock, correlate to the most movement on the graph.

Let me show you the first 2 days I used this cool app.

As you can see, on the first day I had 2 fairly long sleep cycles.  Nice.

Day2 was a little more sporadic but still had a decent sleep.

The next 2 days were much more erratic.  Check it.

The third day wasn’t horrible, but day 4 I didn’t sleep AT ALL.

Something needed to be done.

Now, I’ve never taken a sleeping pill or anything before, and I am always very apprehensive when it comes to dependencies and drugs, but I had remembered Tyler talk about Melatonin, and how it is a natural hormone that we release about half an hour before bed, helping you fall asleep.

Here’s a little wikipedia description:

Melatonin, also known chemically as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, is a naturally occurring compound found in animals, plants, and microbes.  In animals, circulating levels of the hormone melatonin vary in a daily cycle, thereby allowing the entrainment of the circadian rhythms of several biological functions.

There seems to be little to no side effects from taking this natural supplement, and it may also be a good antioxidant source as well.

So I went out, and luckily here in Amsterdam they seem to have everything, and bought some 100mcg pills of Melatonin.

The guy behind the counter said these were pretty weak, and when I look online I’ve seen them as high as 5mg.

About 30 minutes before bed I took 2 of these bad boys, and I’ll just let the picture do the talking…

Ahh, nice sleep all night with no interruptions.

I feel more relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to rock!

I’m not sure how often I’ll be supplementing with melatonin, I think it is great for switching up your long term circadian rhythm if you are traveling, or if you are having trouble sleeping, but like I said before, I already take 10 or so supplements, and don’t want to add any unnecessary extras to the regimen.

But the proof is in the pudding, this stuff works, and I’m happy I’ve found it.

I’ll try it again a few times and get back to you about long term results.

What are your experiences with melatonin?  Any side effects?  How often do you take it?

12 replies
  1. Tom
    Tom says:

    I predict this will be one of your most popular posts in your blog even though it doesn’t have much to do with pickup. Check the traffic in a few months

  2. Pilgrimage2012
    Pilgrimage2012 says:

    Sweeeet. Love the app, learned a lot about my sleep.

    Like bedtime reading on a laptop screen vs reading a real book. Also noticed the
    huge difference in sleep quality depending on whether it’s in brightness or in complete darkness.

  3. Rob
    Rob says:

    The one time I took melatonin I woke up to go to class the next day, but still felt very sluggish and mentally asleep until about 5 PM. There’s no doubt in my mind about its efficacy in getting you to sleep deeply, but maybe you have to devote a significant amount of time to sleeping if you take it.

  4. ZFX
    ZFX says:

    I recon the guy above’s right on the money.

    what’s up anyway, just checking out your blog, first time here. It’s looking good dude. Very slick layout.


  5. markzor
    markzor says:

    Melatonine is made from serotonin which is made from 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan).

    Never judge something as “good” only because it’s a “natural” or “produced by your own body”.

    The danger of taking supplements that your body produces for itself, is that in the long run, you teach your body it needs to produce less, because it gets it’s stuff for an external source.

    That’s why the first times will work better than the later times. Because your body produces less.. that is, if you don’t avoid dependency!

    Key to avoiding dependency on a supplement your body produces on it’s own is to “cycle” it. This means that you use it for a period of time, and then stop with it. These periods of abstaination teach your body it should produce again, and keeps the production going.

    So if you only use it to get in a good circadian rhythm again after a jet lag, your fine.

    Also, melatonine has a fairly short half-life. The half-life is the time in which 50% of the drug is absorbed by the body. It’s half-life is less then an hour (unless you have time-release capsules) which means you have to take it shortly before going to sleep. It also means that is works very short, and that it is not effective in the end of the night.

    This is why I heard somebody prefer 5-HTP. Which is a precursor (Serotonin is not an option because it does not cross the blood-brain barrier!). This gets eventually converted to melatonine, and has a longer half-life, which makes it longer effective. So you have less trouble sleeping the entire night! However, because 5-HTP is a precursor, it has a lot more “side-effects”. It is often used for its anti-depressive properties. You should not take this with vitamin B (B6), because then the 5-HTP gets converted in the blood (instead of the brain) to serotonin, which leads to undesired effects.

    For example, serotonin is associted with deep sleep (while dreaming is associated with acethylchocline). So taking 5-HTP actually gives you more deep sleep. (To which your body responds with a REM-rebound: more dream-sleep when the 5-HTP wears off. It’s the same effect as with alcohol. Because of it’s toxic effects you end up having a deep sleep, which triggers more dream sleep later in the night or the next day, to make up for the lost dream sleep when processing the toxics)

    I would not recommend 5-HTP, but I am just saying that it’s out there and that I heard about it.

    Conclusion: Don’t take melatonin all the time, but cycle it. It’s effects are fast, so take it short before bedtime. It effects also wear off fast, so you might have trouble sleeping later in the night. If you don’t like melatonin or have problems sleeping the ENTIRE night, then you might have a look at 5-HTP which essentially works on the same mechanism.

    Also, a regular eating and waking pattern help, just as a good dark room, no eating and exercise 2 hours prior slepe, and exercise during the day. Google “sleep hygene” for more tips on this subject.

  6. Turok
    Turok says:

    I was taught by a pretty smart dude that in the presence of sunlight, an enzyme activates to convert melatonin to seratonin – seratonin then stimulating your amygdala to make you feel awake. In the absence of sunlight this enzyme is inactive and melatonin is the dominant form. He said the melatonin market is bullshit because its actually the absence of seratonin that leads to sleep, not melatonin. IDK though because i’ve got results with it too. Maybe its just the placebo effect – stressing sleep keeps you up, thinking you got the wonder drug helps you relax into the sleep your body naturally needs. IDK though i’m about to pop some right now. Further empirical data is needed…

  7. Jack Hammer
    Jack Hammer says:

    I work graveyards at a hospital. I come home, try to fall asleep before 8am, to turn around and be back there 7 hours later. It’s hard to get good sleep, even on days off. I’ve been taking melatonin pretty much everyday for the past 3 years. Is this a good thing? I suppose not, but it helps, as opposed to lying there waiting to fall asleep, feeling stressed in hopes of getting enough before being back at work.

    Been doing the Ultramind vitamins checklist. I feel my energy levels and overall mood has improved. Less dependent on stimulants to feel better.

  8. Matt
    Matt says:

    I wrote a little bit about sleep myself (it’s in my website link). Thought your application was really cool though. I might have to try that. I too use Melitonin. Have had no side effects and use it off and on for about 3 – 4 months now. Just been working so hard I cannot sleep anymore. I work pretty much around the clock.

    Thanks for the article!


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