In the early days after my fibromyalgia diagnosis (back in 2000), I remember reading somewhere that Melatonin wasn’t good for auto-immune disorders. Although FMS isn’t an auto-immune disorder, it wasn’t well understood (still isn’t) back in those days, so I never tried it. After researching natural alternatives, I settled on Valerian. It worked for me for many years, but these days it sometimes gives me a foggy feeling in the morning if I take a supplement.
Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain and fatigue. People with fibromyalgia often have insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or their sleep is often disrupted by pain. People with fibromyalgia may also experience an alteration in their patterns of slow wave sleep, which is the deepest stage of sleep.
Sleep is an essential function1 that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly.Sleep Foundation
After yet another sleepless night recently, I decided to do look into Melatonin.
The Facts – Melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep–wake cycle. It is primarily released by the pineal gland. As a supplement, it is often used for the short-term treatment of trouble sleeping such as from jet lag or shift work.
“Most people’s bodies produce enough melatonin for sleep on their own. However, there are steps you can take to make the most of your natural melatonin production, or you can try a supplement on a short-term basis if you’re experiencing insomnia, want to overcome jet lag, or are a night owl who needs to get to bed earlier and wake up earlier, such as for work or school,” explains Johns Hopkins sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.S.M.
- Melatonin comes in extended release and immediate release. “If you tend to wake up in the middle of the night, you may want to take extended release before you go to bed. If you have trouble falling asleep, try immediate release.”
- It is best used for short-term use
- It is risky for those taking blood thinners
- There is an increased risk of seizures, especially with children
- Do not use melatonin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have an autoimmune disorder, a seizure disorder or depression.*
- It can raise blood sugar or blood pressure in those taking hypertension medication.*
Interesting to note that Melatonin is released by the pineal gland. I have had a few head MRIs that indicate I have a cyst on my pineal gland, so I have often wondered if there is a correlation there between my sleep issues + fibromyalgia + this cyst. Things that make you go Hmmmmm.
*NOTE: I am not a medical professional and am only citing research to try to educate others. Please do your own research and consult with your doctor if you are taking other medications, before using Melatonin.
The Facts – Valerian
Valerian is a perennial flowering plant and a natural supplement is made the root of that plant. Valerian is most commonly used for sleep disorders, especially the inability to sleep (insomnia). Valerian is also used orally for anxiety and psychological stress, but there is limited scientific research to support these uses.
- It has been used for over 2000 years as a sedative and anti-anxiety treatment
- It becomes more effective over time, so take it every night for up to 4-6 weeks
- It helps people fall asleep faster and stay asleep
- Its effect can be compounded by other sleep aids or alcohol
- Some people experience stomach issues, headaches, or grogginess in the morning
- It inhibits the breakdown of GABA in the brain, to give that calm feeling. (NOTE: Low GABA levels, related to acute or chronic stress, are associated with poor sleep.)
- It contains anti-oxidants
- It has been successful in reducing symptoms of Menopause, PMS, Restless Leg Syndrome, and Parkinson’s*
- Studies have also shown its use for OCD, and ADHD in children*
*NOTE: I am not a medical professional and am only citing research to try to educate others. Please do your own research and consult with your doctor if you are taking other medications, before using Valerian.
Products to Try
- Sleepy Time Tea – I use this Valerian and Chamomile containing Bedtime tea from Yogi some nights. It’s the best one I have tried out of various brands. When I do use it, it really helps me fall asleep. Having nighttime rituals really helps me, especially if my schedule gets out of whack. I actually do a double-tea bag of the Bedtime plus Traditional Medicinals “Smooth Move” tea, which helps with the digestion issues I sometimes experience.
- I went searching for a Melatonin supplement and was shocked at the variety of supplements there were – even for children! Why do our kids need a sleep aid? Not wanting a chewable or gummy, that often adds sugar and gluten, I settled for a basic Melatonin 5mg. supplement. But here’s a list of 7 to Try
- Here’s a list of 10 Valerian supplements to try. I even give something similar to this to my dogs when there are thunderstorms or fireworks going off.
- JJ Virgin’s Sleep Candy – I have not tried this product, but I am a fan of her and her program. I have two of her books and listen to her podcast. She uses a combination of melatonin and other ingredients to work together. Sounds like good science, but I just have no experience with the product to share. (It’s a bit expensive.)
- Foods for Sleep – If you’re looking for an even more natural way to get to sleep, take a look at this list for foods and supplements to help you fall asleep (like a turkey sandwich and a glass of milk!).
I tried Melatonin last night. I did wake up a few times during the night, but managed to fall right back asleep and get 7 hours. And best of all didn’t wake up feeling hungover or groggy!
My sleep issues are likely a combination of post-menopausal issues + fibromyalgia. I sometimes think this is a near-lethal combination! My best bedtime ritual is to drink my bedtime Valerian tea, take a bedtime bath with epsom salts and lavender, and use some of my other sleep strategies. Lately I have been diffusing lavender and vetiver essential oils for bedtime relaxation (this combination is my favorite for bedtime).
Do you use Melatonin or Valerian or some other natural sleep aid? Please share your experiences or your favorite bedtime rituals for ensuring a good night’s sleep.