Melatonin, Researchers Raise Up Arms in Confusion

I like reading scientific research articles. (Self professed Geek, I know I have already admitted this)

I love the internet and how it fulfills my quest to understand my own body. And I love how the more I read, the more I realize we are way too complicated for anyone to ever understand.  The thing is, people are all similar, but also unique in the we metabolize vitamins, minerals, hormones, neurotransmitters, etc.

I had a sleepy morning. Like I woke up at 7am, got kids to school, and promptly *when back to sleep until 11am. (I know this should be *went, but leaving it as *when as an example of my sleepy brain typing a rhyming word – aren’t brains fun?)  A 3 hour morning nap. After 8 hours in bed, I think sleeping. I had oatmeal this morning with cranberries and my protein granola on top (as much protein as an egg – the box says). I thought I was OK. It was only like 1/2 cup of oatmeal and I had the protein with it. I’m pretty sure it was not a hypoglycemic reaction, I didn’t have the cold and crash, just never really woke up this morning in the first place. I forgot to make one kid’s lunch, and sent another out without a hat, and about 20 other foggy head examples I won’t bore anyone with, mostly because I can’t recall them right now. When I think of this morning, it hurts a bit, like trying to recall kindergarten instead of a few hours ago.

Anyways, so I googled “Oatmeal makes me sleepy”, half jokingly, and found out that oatmeal has a fairly high level of melatonin. Hmmm. Here’s a list of other foods that do too.  from

(Note all foods vary, and some of these have tryptophan, which your body converts to serotonin, and then into melatonin – nothing here is simple or straightforward, and I get a different chart at every site I visit)

Leafy Greens
Rich in many vitamins and minerals—including calcium, these are essential for
producing sleep hormones. Reach for kale, collard greens, spinach, romaine or swiss
chard if you want to get some shut eye. Kale chips make a great salty bed time snack.
SaviSeeds (What the heck are these? Ugh, another google search needed now)
SaviSeeds (sacha inchi) are rich in magnesium and tryptophan, these seeds help boost
serotonin levels in the brain, lulling you to sleep. Walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds
and sunflower seeds also contain the high levels of the natural sedative. Grab a handful
of caramelized SaviSeeds before bed—the carbohydrate helps speed up the absorption
of tryptophan.
Bananas are praised for their high levels of potassium, a mineral that is essential to a
having a deep night’s sleep. Bananas also contain tryptophan and magnesium, and
when combined with SaviSeeds in a parfait, they make the perfect night cap!

Research has shown that popular grape varietals used to make wine contain high levels of
melatonin. It is best to choose fruit over wine since alcohol can make it harder for you to
stay asleep throughout the night. Look for these grape varietals in specialty grocery stores.

Tart Cherries
Another rich source of melatonin, recent studies found that regularly drinking tart cherry
juice or eating cherries may help people with insomnia regulate their sleep cycles for
better overall sleep. Tart cherries are available year-round as dried, frozen and in juice
form. Make tart cherry balls as a snack, or drink a cup of juice before heading to bed.

Not just a morning food, oats are another great source of melatonin which can help to
regulate the body’s sleep/wake cycle. Steelcut, instant or old-fashioned oats will do the
trick—look for raw oats whenever possible. If you need a snack before bed, have a small
bowl of oatmeal or an oat ball


Functions of melatonin

As well as controlling sleep, melatonin can also affect other systems in the body:

  1. It can have an effect on the female reproductive hormones. It helps determine when menstruation begins, how often and long each period occurs, and when menopause begins.
  2. There is some evidence to suggest that melatonin has some antioxidant effects, and may strengthen the immune system.
  3. It can stimulate the cells, osteoblasts, which promote bone growth. Since older people have lower levels of melatonin, the question has arisen as to whether treating people with melatonin could help treat osteoporosis.
  4. It causes the release of the hormone ADH (anti-diuretic hormone/ vasopressin) which increases the absorption of water from the kidneys to the bloodstream, which means lower levels of urine are produced at night time. In individuals who have lower levels of melatonin, this may be a factor causing bedwetting, or needing to go to the toilet at night.

Here’s how we form melatonin and how some vitamins can interfere or support this process:




And this is interesting too, a chart of melatonin levels vs our age:



If you made it this far, you must quite geeky too and actually enjoy this stuff, so here is a great study done that completely shows nothing conclusive, except that melatonin varies in strange ways when you add coffee.

(Read the entire study here:

Excerpt: In addition to wine, remarkably high melatonin concentrations have been detected in coffee beans as was outlined previously (2935). Although a cup of coffee is estimated to contain even as much as 40 µg of melatonin, corresponding the nocturnal endogenous production, the general effect in the circulating melatonin concentration may differ, since coffee contains caffeine which may reduce endogenous nocturnal melatonin levels. Results in clinical studies are conflicting. In two short-term studies, a single dose of 200 mg caffeine capsules decreased nighttime melatonin secretion, whereas a significant increase of 32% was observed in another study (4648). In still another study, subjects were administered repeated 400 mg doses of caffeine capsules at 1-week intervals. Analysis yielded a slight trend of 7% reduction of nighttime melatonin levels in healthy young adults (49). When caffeine was administered to study subjects via coffee, reduction of more than 50% was found in nighttime 6-SMT excretion compared with decaffeinated coffee in another small study (50).

Caffeine has both the stimulatory and inhibitory mechanisms affecting the levels of melatonin. Which of these dominate in normal healthy subjects is not clear since hypothesis of mechanisms have been tested mostly in vitro and by using animal models. Caffeine may alter the expression level of clock genes either up-regulating or down-regulating clock gene amplitudes (5152). Caffeine acts as an adenosine receptor antagonist. Adenosine increases intracellular cAMP levels via adenosine receptor, which increases the production of AANAT, the rate limiting enzyme in melatonin synthesis (53). Thus as adeosine receptors are blocked by caffeine, the synthesis of melatonin decreases. In addition caffeine may also reduce the break-down of melatonin. Caffeine and melatonin compete for the same metabolizing liver cytochrome P450 enzymes, resulting in higher serum levels of melatonin after large doses of caffeine (4854).

There are significant differences in before mentioned studies in their designs, in timing and dosing of caffeine as well as sampling and analyzing melatonin and its metabolite. In addition, subjects were either sleep-deprived or not, which greatly modify synthesis of melatonin and can at least partly explain the differences. If study subjects include both males and females, it may also have an influence on the results, since menstruation has been reported to modify such levels, while oral contraceptives have been found to increase nighttime melatonin levels due to inhibiting catalyzing enzymes in the liver (5558)


All that just to explain why I may be trying my oatmeal at night instead. 



7 thoughts on “Melatonin, Researchers Raise Up Arms in Confusion

  1. R2B, This is kind of off topic for your post, but somehow related. I’ve been reading about your sleep issues and things in your former posts. Have you ever heard of adrenal fatigue syndrome? I’ve recently been researching it (it was suggested to me that I have it) and when I read some of the symptoms it reminded me of you. It may be completely off base and could have nothing to do with how your feeling, but I thought I would suggest it as a possibility.

    • Thank you, I have heard about adrenal fatigue, I was actually discussing that recently with my Sis-in-law, and I certainly think it is possible. I have had such high stress, on high alert most of my life. Hopefully the healthy changes I am making, more exercise, less sugar, less caffeine, less alcohol, and most of all, more peace, joy and love – all will help, no matter which diagnosis impairs my sleep. I’ve been very unhealthy for quite some time, and have only just begun my journey to better health and taking care of myself.

  2. Of course, there’s the question of who funds the research. 🙂

    Fascinating stuff.

    We are working in the same area of our lives but going about it differently and what do you know: It’s working for both of us. All those years of the narcs telling us the only way was their way… Okay, so I’m a little snarky. 🙂

    I hope the change in oatmeal time helps you!

    • It’s okay, I’m a little snarky too. 🙂 Yes, fascinating how we can each come up with our own way, and none of them is the narcs way, and somehow we’re all right and not them. My world has completely turned upside down this past year, encountered a few earthquakes too.

  3. I recently started exercising more and taking Alteril before bed (it contains melatonin and valerian) and I sleep so much better than I had been. I should add I also don’t drink alcohol (anymore — I’m an alcoholic plus it really messes up my sleep cycles) and I cut out most of my caffeine.

    Now if I could just figure out the pinched nerves in my sick that make my arms fall asleep in he middle of the night, I’ll be great!

    • Thanks for the Alteril tip, I’ve been asking my doctor if I should try something, and she said not yet, working on the other things you mentioned first, exercise and diet. I am so happy to hear you are sleeping better and found something that works for you! Ouch, I know a bit about pinched nerves. For me, it helps to ice the area before bedtime, and sometimes I sleep on a cold pack (I have these nice soft clay hot/cold packs) when my legs are twitching. Caltrate at bedtime seems to help too, the calcium /magnesium combo.

  4. “. If study subjects include both males and females, it may also have an influence on the results, since menstruation has been reported to modify such levels, while oral contraceptives have been found to increase nighttime melatonin levels due to inhibiting catalyzing enzymes in the liver (55–58)”

    This is why women are getting screwed and defrauded by the science and medicine industry. I shouldn’t have had to read this on a blog. It should be common knowledge that women are excluded from medical studies and so called “science” is ignoring its own rules such as not making generalizations like “healthy adults” when you only used “young males.”

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