Recent studies in chronobiology have indicated that melatonin supplements can help treat circadian sleep disorders as well as a variety of sleep-related issues. However, not all melatonin supplements are created equal. The way melatonin supplements are metabolized can have a huge effect on physiological levels and effects of this hormone.
Melatonin and the Circadian Rhythm
Melatonin, also known as the “mother hormone of chronobiology”, is a hormone made in the pineal gland due to cues from the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus, which regulates the circadian rhythm. When the retinas stop sensing as much blue wavelength light, the suprachiasmatic nucleus senses this and induces the pineal gland to begin making melatonin. When early morning light is sensed by the retinas, melatonin production is ceased and hormones associated with wakefulness are made instead. This cycle helps to create a circadian rhythm, or 24-hour sleep-wake cycle.
Melatonin has a very short half-life, of about thirty minutes. Because it breaks down so quickly, it must be made continuously throughout the night in order to sustain restful sleep. In people with a healthy circadian rhythm, melatonin levels rise rapidly after dark and plateau throughout the night until early morning. These high levels are essential not just for falling asleep, but for sleeping deeply and restfully. Melatonin levels then drop sharply in the early morning to allow people to wake up in response to increasing light levels.
Melatonin Supplements and Sleep
Studies in circadian biology have shown how important melatonin levels are to maintaining a natural human sleep-wake pattern. In fact, studies have found that many sleep disorders improve significantly with melatonin supplementation. However, some people find that melatonin doesn’t work as dramatically as they expected. They may assume that melatonin is not a useful treatment for their sleep issues when in fact, they could be simply taking the wrong kind of melatonin supplement.
The most common types of melatonin supplements are fast release and slow release. Fast release melatonin causes a sharp spike in melatonin levels that drops off after an hour. People who use this type of melatonin supplement may find that they are immediately sleepy but have trouble remaining asleep or do not get high quality sleep. Slow-release melatonin, on the other hand, takes hours to build up to sleep-inducing levels and then does not wear off in the early morning. People who take slow release melatonin may have trouble falling asleep due to low melatonin levels, followed by difficulty waking up because the levels are unnaturally high.
Timed-Release Melatonin: A Better Option for Maintaining Natural Circadian Rhythms Timed-release melatonin is a supplement that is formulated to be released in amounts that mimic healthy, natural melatonin levels. It is metabolized so that levels rise sharply after the supplement is taken and then remain at a high plateau for several hours. Levels then drop sharply to allow for waking. This mimics the healthy, normal circadian rhythm cycles that are linked to restful sleep.
Research in chronobiology has shown that maintaining melatonin cycles is important not just to restful sleep but to overall health. For this reason, an increasing number of health experts are recommending timed-release melatonin as the ideal melatonin supplement. It more closely correlates to the natural levels of melatonin in a healthy brain. Maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm is important to health, so timed-release melatonin supplements are usually the best option.
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Depression and chronic pain are two common conditions that are also associated with poor sleep quality. While it is often thought that the sleep issues are secondary to these conditions, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Alabama indicates that depression and pain due to osteoarthritis could be the result of poor sleep quality instead of the other way around.
Prior research has shown that people with hip and knee osteoarthritis (OA) are more likely to have insomnia, daytime sleepiness, and depression, than those without OA. The obvious relationship is that the arthritis pain affects sleep and makes people depressed. However, a 2012 study published in the journal SLEEP looked at sleep quality in people who were in chronic pain, including those with osteoarthritis and researchers found:
- The amount of pain that people were in before they went to bed had little to do with how well they slept.
- A person’s sleep quality predicted how much pain they were in the next day. People who slept poorly had more pain the following day.
Other studies have shown that poor sleep quality can trigger inflammatory pathways that make arthritis pain worse, and poor sleep also make people more sensitive to the feeling of pain from any cause.
To better examine the relationship between OA, pain, and depression, 367 patients with OA of the knee from a variety of sources were recruited to participate in a trial. The participants completed a detailed questionnaire that identified overall health, depression, pain, joint function, and sleep quality. One-year follow-up was available for 288 patients.
Analysis of the data collected from the questionnaires indicated that comparing the initial baseline with 1-year follow-up data, sleep disturbance at baseline was linked with increased depression and further loss of joint function, but interestingly not more pain.
Since the questionnaire used in the study was not specifically designed to identify the exact sleep issues in OA patients, further research is needed to more fully pinpoint what is abnormal about OA patients’ sleep. Nonetheless, the conclusion from the study is the disturbance in sleep definitely precedes the depression, loss of joint function, and likely increased pain associated with OA. Hence, the takeaway message is that improving sleep quality is a key goal in preventing the progression of OA as well as the associated depression.
Early on in my clinical practice, I realized that improving my patient’s ability to get a good night’s sleep was usually the quickest way to help them feel better in every way. Over the years I have used a number of natural products that can help to improve sleep quality. The specific product that I now recommend as a first step is the one that I developed: Tranquil Sleep from Natural Factors. This formula provides the combination of melatonin (3 mg), 5-HTP (30 mg), and L-theanine (200 mg) in a great tasting chewable tablet or soft-gelatin capsule. These three ingredients work together to decrease the time required to get to sleep and to decrease the number of nighttime awakenings. Here is a brief description of each ingredient as it relates to improving sleep quality. If you don’t use Tranquil Sleep, you can get the same effect by combining them on your own
Melatonin is the most popular natural aid for improving sleep quality. Supplementation with melatonin has been shown in several studies to be very effective in helping induce and maintain sleep in both children and adults and in both people with normal sleep patterns and those with insomnia. Typical dosage is 3 mg at bedtime.
5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is converted in the brain to serotonin – an important initiator of sleep. It is one step closer to serotonin than l-tryptophan and has shown more consistent results in promoting and maintaining sleep, even though used at lower dosages. One of the key benefits of 5-HTP is its ability to increase REM sleep (typically by about 25%) while increasing deep sleep stages 3 and 4 without lengthening total sleep time. Recommended dosage for improving sleep quality in combination with melatonin is 25 to 50 mg at bedtime.
L-Theanine is a unique amino acid found in green tea. Clinical studies have demonstrated that L-theanine reduces stress, improves the quality of sleep, diminishes the symptoms of the premenstrual syndrome, heightens mental acuity and reduces negative side effects of caffeine. It is an excellent support agent to melatonin and 5-HTP. Recommended dosage is 200 mg at bedtime.
Parmelee PA, Tighe CA, Dautovich ND. Sleep disturbance in Osteoarthritis: Linkages with pain, disability and depressive symptoms. Arthritis Care Res. 2014 Oct 6. doi: 10.1002/acr.22459. [Epub ahead of print]
Dr. Michael Murray
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Contrary to News Headlines, Robin Williams Was on Drugs at the Time of His Death—Antidepressant Drugs
If news headlines were to be believed about the autopsy findings of beloved actor/comedian Robin Williams, who tragically committed suicide nearly two months ago, no drugs were found in his system at the time of his death, as evidenced by headlines from USA Today, NBC News, the BBC and others proclaiming “no alcohol or drugs” were found. These headlines couldn’t be more wrong.
The medical examiner’s report cites an antidepressant drug was in Williams’ system at the time of his death. The particular antidepressant, Mirtazapine, (also known as Remeron) carries 10 international drug regulatory warnings on causing suicidal ideation.
According to the autopsy results, not only was Williams under the influence of antidepressant drugs, but the powerful antipsychotic Seroquel was also found at the scene and appears to have been recently taken by Williams. While toxicology tests apparently were negative for the antipsychotic Seroquel, the fact remains that a bottle of Seroquel prescribed to Williams on August 4th, just seven days prior to Williams’ suicide, was missing 8 pills. The Seroquel instructions advise to take one pill per day as needed. Side effects associated with Seroquel include psychosis, paranoid reactions, delusions, depersonalization and suicide attempt.
The question that has to be asked is why the press continues to promote the idea that no drugs were found in Williams’ system? At what point did mind-altering psychiatric drugs, which have side effects rivaling those of heroin or crack cocaine, stop being called drugs? And for those in the press who did “mention” the fact that Williams was found to have antidepressants in his system, the acknowledgement seems to promote the fact that “therapeutic concentrations” of prescription psychiatric drugs “improved his condition and kept him active until his death.”
This is a highly misleading take on the events leading to Williams tragic suicide, especially in light of the fact that not only was Williams receiving mental health “treatment,” he was under the supervision of a psychiatrist, was not abusing illegal drugs and had not “fallen off the wagon.”
The facts regarding antidepressant drugs are these:
- Food and Drug Administration’s Medwatch Adverse Drug Reports include 470,000 adverse reactions for psychiatric drugs between 2004-2012. The FDA admits only 1% of side effects are ever reported to them, so the actual number of reported side effects is assuredly much higher.
- Mirtazapine (also known as Remeron) carries the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) “Black box” warning for suicidality.
- There are ten warnings of suicide associated with Mirtazapine alone and suicide is among the top 2 side effects reported to the FDA on this particular antidepressant
- The FDA’s MedWatch drug adverse event reporting system recorded 411 attempted and completed suicides associated with the antidepressant Mirtazapine alone (and the FDA estimates only 1% of side effects are ever reported to them)
- 90,000 emergency room visits are attributed to psychiatric drugs each year in the U.S.
- 23,755 suicides are attributed to psychiatric drugs each year in the U.S. alone.
- In addition to suicidal ideation, documented side effects of antidepressants by international drug regulatory agencies include hallucinations, delusions, worsening depression, depersonalization, mania, psychosis, self-harm.
Given the above data, one can only wonder why Williams’ psychiatric drug use has effectively been dismissed by reporting organizations. A careful review of Williams’ psychiatric “non-drug” use paints a very different tragic story.
What was found in Williams’ system were prescription psychiatric drugs with side effects that not only rival illegal street drugs, but also carry the FDA’s “Black box” warnings—the federal agency’s most serious warnings—about increased thoughts of suicide.
The fact is that two of the drugs Williams had been prescribed list suicidal thoughts as possible side effects. The Seroquel he was prescribed (and appears to have taken in the week prior to his suicide), and the antidepressant that was still in his system at the time of his suicide. Moreover, considering the FDA’s Medwatch drug adverse event reporting system recorded 411 attempted and completed suicides associated with the antidepressant Mirtazapine alone (and the FDA estimates only 1% of side effects are ever reported to them), it becomes even more bizarre that the world’s press ignore even the possibility that these drugs could be involved in Williams’ suicide.
The much-loved comedian’s death is a great loss, but the tragedy is further compounded by the mainstream press glossing over the serious and well-known association between suicide and the psychiatric drugs Williams was taking. If only the sentiments from one of Williams’ finest roles in Awakenings had been taken literally in his personal life: “The human spirit is more powerful than any drug and that is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendship, family. These are the things that matter.”
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“Our results clearly show that there is a link between infections of herpes simplex virus and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This also means that we have new opportunities to develop treatment forms to stop the disease,” says Hugo Lövheim, associate professor at the Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation, Geriatric Medicine, Umeå University, who is one of the researchers behind the study.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common among the dementia diseases. In recent years research has increasingly indicated that there is a possible connection between infection with a common herpes virus, herpes simplex virus type 1, and Alzheimer’s disease. A majority of the population carries this virus. After the first infection the body carries the virus throughout your lifetime, and it can reactivate now and then and cause typical mouth ulcer. The hypothesis which links the herpes virus and Alzheimer’s disease is based on that a weakened immune system among the elderly creates opportunities for the virus to spread further to the brain. There this can in turn start the process which results in Alzheimer’s disease.
Hugo Lövheim and Fredrik Elgh, professor at the Department of Virology, have now confirmed this link in two large epidemiological studies. In one study, which is based on the Betula project, a study on aging, memory and dementia, the researchers show that a reactivated herpes infection doubled the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This study had 3,432 participants who were followed for 11.3 years on average. In another study, samples donated to the Medical Biobank at Umeå University from 360 people with Alzheimer’s disease were examined and as many matched people who had not developed dementia. The samples were taken on average 9.6 years before diagnosis. This study showed an approximately doubled risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease if the person was a carrier of the herpes virus.
“Something which makes this hypothesis very interesting is that now herpes infection can in principle be treated with antiviral agents. Therefore within a few years we hope to be able to start studies in which we will also try treating patients to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Hugo Lövheim.
- Hugo Lövheim, Jonathan Gilthorpe, Anders Johansson, Sture Eriksson, Göran Hallmans, Fredrik Elgh. Herpes simplex infection and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease—A nested case-control study. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.jalz.2014.07.157
- Hugo Lövheim, Jonathan Gilthorpe, Rolf Adolfsson, Lars-Göran Nilsson, Fredrik Elgh. Reactivated herpes simplex infection increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.jalz.2014.04.522
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There is an 18 percent chance that a case of the Ebola virus will reach the United States by the end of September, according to a study published on Tuesday in PLOS Currents: Outbreaks.
Despite restrictions reducing travel in and out of the infected countries by 80 percent, the study, which analyzes global flight patterns, suggests that a case of Ebola in the United States is becoming increasingly harder to avoid. It also lists the chance of the virus reaching the United Kingdom as between 25 percent and 28 percent.
The analysis warns that if the current West African outbreak is not contained the likelihood of the virus reaching Europe and the United States will “increase consistently.”
The study lists just a 5 percent chance of Ebola occurring in the United States today, suggesting that the disease is far from contained to countries in West Africa. According to numbers obtained by the World Health Organization, there have been an estimated 3,685 cases and 1,841 deaths from the virus since the outbreak began.
Although two Americans — Dr. Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol — have been treated for Ebola in the United States, both of them contracted the disease while working in Liberia. Doctors suggested that better medical care contributed to their eventual recovery.
A third infected American working in Liberia, Dr. Richard A. Sacra, is on his way to the United States for treatment.
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Dr. Taya Varteresian, a board certified psychiatrist working for the Veterans Administration, is the lead publisher in an article in the journal Current Psychiatry Reports titled: “Natural products and supplements for geriatric depression and cognitive disorders: an evaluation of the research.”
According to the abstract, more and more elderly people are starting to use “Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for late-life mood and cognitive disorders.” This obviously concerns psychiatrists, since their main remedies for “cognitive disorders” are powerful anti-psychotic drugs. They are not trained in natural supplements, therefore they apparently felt the need to educate other psychiatrists about the “side effects and indications for various natural products” so that psychiatrists could “protect their patients.”
Unfortunately, the patients probably need protection against the powerful arsenal of psychiatric drugs more than they do against harmless natural supplements and foods!
This is particularly true regarding anti-psychotic drugs prescribed to veterans, where the rate of suicide is far above the rate among the general population. More service members die by suicide than in combat, with 22 veterans killing themselves every single day. Obviously our pharma-based mental health system is not helping veterans, as suicide is a side effect of many anti-psychotic drugs.
So what are these dangerous supplements and “CAM products” that the field of psychiatry feels the need to warn fellow doctors about? According to the abstract they are: “omega-3 fatty acids, ginkgo biloba, SAMe, St John’s wort, B vitamins and vitamin D, huperzine, caprylidene, and coconut oil.” If these supplements are bringing about positive changes in the lives of elderly folks, it is not surprising that they are competing with Big Pharma drugs, which have a multitude of side effects, and little or no effect on cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, Medicare and insurance companies will cover the toxic drugs, which the medical system admits kill over 100,000 people a year (not including suicides or other secondary deaths), but they will not cover natural products that have few or no side effects, but are often far more effective.
If this list is indicative of natural remedies that are effective and present competition to Big Pharma, it might be well worth the time to do your own research into each one rather than trust a doctor who has been trained by Big Pharma-funded psychiatrists to advise you on natural supplements and foods. The largest criminal convictions in modern times are against the pharmaceutical companies selling these powerful drugs through the pseudo-science of psychiatry, often through deception and “off label” prescriptions for conditions the drugs were never tested against. (See: Pharmaceutical companies now among largest corporate criminals in the world: no better than white-collar drug dealers.) Their list of “dangerous” natural products might be unwittingly tipping you off to the most successful natural products to combat mental disease.
We have often reported here at Health Impact News on the testimonials of families who have successfully incorporated coconut oil and a high-fat diet into the lives of seniors suffering from mental illness with great success. (See: New Alzheimer’s Drugs Continue to Fail Where Coconut Oil Shines)
Don’t be fooled by dire warnings made against natural products such as coconut oil by Big Pharma and Big Pharma-funded mainstream media. The scare tactics usually look like this:
1. There is no science to support health claims of natural products like coconut oil.
FALSE. There are plenty of scientific studies regarding coconut oil, the high-fat ketogenic diet, and natural supplements. It is true that rigorous and costly studies as are spent by drug companies to get their products FDA approved will seldom be funded or conducted on natural products. This is because they cannot be patented to obtain a return on such an investment as the lucrative FDA-approved products can provide. However, natural products also do not need such extensive research, since they are not toxic and they are not killing people like pharmaceutical products are. Coconut oil, for example, has been nourishing billions of people around the world for thousands of years.
2. Natural products like coconut oil are dangerous because they are not regulated or approved by the FDA.
FALSE. Just the opposite is true. Nobody is dying from toxic side effects of natural foods and supplements (because there are none), but over 100,000 people a year die from prescription drugs.
There is actually one claim made against natural supplements that is generally true: their interaction with prescription drugs is unknown and potentially dangerous. However, this is true because pharmaceutical drugs are inherently dangerous, even without interactions with other products.
Of course we would disagree with the medical community’s suggested solution regarding potential dangerous drug interactions, which would be to forgo natural treatments in favor of “approved” drugs. Instead, one might want to skip the “approved” drugs and try the natural products first.
But that would put a lot of people out of business, wouldn’t it? If people found natural products to be more effective for mental illness, they might never return to the toxic drugs. It is not likely that Big Pharma will allow that to happen.
Natural products and supplements for geriatric depression and cognitive disorders: an evaluation of the research. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2014 Aug;16(8):456.
Source: Brian Shilhavy Health Impact News Editor
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Britain’s “obesity epidemic” is mainly caused by the fact that its population are lazy slobs and not because they eat too much, a shock new study called The Fat Lie has found.
The only reason the study – produced by Christopher Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) – is shocking is because it contradicts one of the great received ideas of our politically correct times: that fatties are the hapless victims of the rapacious and bullying food and drink industry which pressures them into eating and drinking far too much fat and sugar.
What Snowdon’s research clearly shows that this claim is nonsense. Yes, it is indeed true that British people are getting porkier. Since 2002 the average body weight of English adults has increased by two kilograms, contributing to Britain’s unenviable status as the fattest country in Europe.
But what is rarely mentioned by health campaigners is that this rise in obesity over three decades has coincided with a steady fall in average sugar and fat consumption.
Fat consumption has fallen from 111 grammes per day in 1974 to 81 grammes per day in 2012.
Sugar consumption has fallen by 16 percent since 1992.
Total calorie consumption has fallen from 2534 calories per person per day in 1974 to 1990 in 2012 – a decrease of 21.5 per cent.
Yet obesity has gone on rising. Why? Because, as Snowdon explains, obesity is a simple function of repeatedly eating more calories than you burn off. And people are taking much less physical exercise than they used to. Britons are walking less (from 255 miles per year in 1976 to 179 miles in 2010) and cycling less (from 51 miles per year in 1976 to 42 miles in 2010). At work, 63 per cent never climb stairs; while 40 per cent never walk. Outside work, 63 per cent report spending less than ten minutes a day walking, while 53 per cent claim to do no sports or exercise at all.
This is worth keeping in mind next time you read some shrill lobby group – such as Action on Sugar – demanding that the government does more to rein in the food and drink industry or pushes for a ban on supersize portions in fast food outlets or higher taxes on fizzy drinks.
The reason these lobbyists get away with such drivel is because they find a ready audience among the panic junkies at places like Mumsnet and in much of the mainstream media which thrives on public health scare stories.
And the reason they find a ready audience in government is because there are few things a minister on the make enjoys more than being seen to clamp down on some greedy industry or other.
With most departmental budgets being cut, ministers can no longer make a name for themselves by spending their way into public favour. But what they can do – because notionally it’s “cost-free”, though of course it’s not really – is introduce more regulations in the name of public health and safety. It has happened to the tobacco industry. Now it is happening to the food and drink industry.
This is why reports like Christopher Snowdon’s are so unusual and refreshing. They’re one of our few remaining toeholds on reality in a world which finds it more convenient to fall for the cultural Marxist lie that nobody is responsible for their own problems and that it’s the government’s job to sort them out.