Weight loss, Sleep, and Melatonin

It’s true, you can actually lose weight by getting good sleep, but what if you can’t sleep? Many of the health benefits of sleep come from melatonin, a hormone that sets the body’s clock and also plays a role in metabolism. Melatonin declines with age, which is part of why weight goes up and metabolism goes down over time (to be exact, metabolic rate falls by 1-3% every year after age 40).

Melatonin levels are supposed to rise several hours before sleep. Before electric lights and smart phones started getting in the way, melatonin would rise at sunset and fall at sunrise (it is regulated by light and darkness). In modern life, with the lights on, most people don’t get enough melatonin even if they do sleep – a hidden cause of weight gain.

The graph above shows how light suppresses the production of melatonin (the bottom line – it’s close to ZERO), while melatonin rises naturally in the top two curves (which represent darkness or blue-light filtering glasses)

The solution: blue-light filtering glasses. It turns out that blue light has the strongest effect on melatonin, and that’s wavelength is heavily produced by TV, laptops, smartphones, and energy-efficient bulbs. Yellow light has a more soothing effect at night, such as the glow of a candle or starlight. For years people told myths about the full moon making people agitated, and indeed it does.

Visits to a psychiatric emergency room go up during the blue-light of a full moon, so just imagine what the daily onslaught of electronic lights is doing to our mental health. In fact, when people wear these glasses during an agitated manic state it can double their response to medication.

Blue-light filtering glasses should be put on about 2 hours before bed, or earlier if in a manic or agitated state. Which pair to buy? We recommend the UVEX brand – this low-cost option blocks 90% of light and is an affordable way to start out and see if this technique works. Consumer reports endorsed this product as well.

People also take melatonin over-the-counter, and that can be a good solution for older individuals whose brain’s do not produce enough melatonin. Over-the-counter melatonin also helps prevent weight gain on atypical antipsychotic medications [these include: Abilify (aripiprazole), Clozaril (clozapine), Fanapt (iloperidone), Geodon (ziprasidone), Invega (paliperidone), Latuda (lurasidone), Risperdal (risperidone), Rexulti (brexpiprazole), Seroquel (quetiapine). Vraylar (cariprazine), Zyprexa/Symbyax (olanzapine)].


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