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Melatonin: Much More Than You Wanted to Know (lesswrong.com)
711 points by cepp 57 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 263 comments



Couple anecdotal points:

- Used to have to sleep problems - mainly just my mind racing with all the (stress of) things I had to do. The symptoms were trouble sleeping and/or waking in the middle of the night with instant thoughts of projects, task lists.

- Melatonin didn't help me much. Maybe their effect was too subtle on me - maybe I was using the wrong dose as mentioned in the post.

- Magnesium Glycinate pills before sleep were a massive help in falling asleep and staying asleep. The only way I can describe its effects is helping me "control my brain waves". Sounds a bit non-technical but the effect is quite subtle . The idea to take these supplements were from previous discussions on HN.

- Recently got a newborn baby - first child. These things will do more to knock you sleep cycle out whack than anything else I've experienced. Coincidentally, falling asleep and staying asleep is easier than ever. You just end up getting woken up by a tiny crying human at seemingly random times.


I am sharing my experience because I know how awful sleep problems can be.

I'm in my 30s and eat what many consider a very healthful diet - virtually no sugar, just veggies, high quality fats and proteins, and minimal fruit. I spend 7-9 hours in bed; yet wake up feeling exhausted every. single. day. I'd love to exercise, but I'm too continuously tired to get started.

Melatonin, when taken via dissolving sublingual tablet (1-3 mg), makes me feel a bit sleepier, but doesn't often keep me asleep through the night. When swallowed via a capsule, it makes me feel like I've been hit by a bus for the entirety of the next day, even if I slept the night before.

My own research led me to magnesium glycinate, which helped to some degree (maybe I wasn't taking enough?), but didn't solve the problem. My biggest trouble is falling asleep - I can be dead tired, but as soon as I'm in bed, my mind goes nuts, and I lie awake for hours. Then, by the time my body is in nice deep sleep, it's time to get up, and the deep sleep is disrupted.

I recently had an appointment with my physician (who practices integrative medicine and is not your typical MD), and he told me to try a relatively new formulation of magnesium called Magnesium L-Threonate, commercially known as Magtein.

It is apparently the best type of magnesium for crossing the blood-brain barrier, and thus, likely the best at addressing sleep issues.

I've been on it for about a week now (taking 1000mg 2 hours before bed and 1000mg upon waking in the morning), and have slept better in the last two nights than I have for a long time. Here's to hoping it keeps working!

I also use a couple other hacks to help me sleep - at night, about an hour after the sun sets, I wear "blue blocking" glasses (the UVEX S0360X fit nicely over my prescription glasses). Sounds (and looks) goofy, but for me it creates a noticeably stronger "sleep pressure" than I'd experience without them. I also wear a mask over my eyes when sleeping, to block out any ambient light, and I just started making an effort to listen to music while waiting to fall asleep. I think all of these things help to some degree.

Also, check out the book "Why We Sleep" by Matthew Walker.


Have you got checked for sleep apnea?

Have you tried sleeping elsewhere? On a couch? What about sleeping in a semi-seated position? Would that work?

How's your weight? Does it go up or down?

Finally, if you are in bed for 30 minutes and you haven't fallen asleep, it's probably way better to either get up and do some stuff or to just accept that you won't be sleeping and just stay there and go through your imagination.


What you've just described also sounds a lot like sleep apnea. Healthy, non-snorers can have it so might be worth doing a quick test.


Sleep apnea is one of the biggest unsolved problems in medicine. It effects 1 in 4 people and there's no good solution for it. I think this is an area where technology (and not drugs or surgery) can make a big difference.


You're half right. It's very common and very untreated.

But for most people, a CPAP machine is a great solution. There are few other serious medical conditions that can be more thoroughly addressed!

If you might have it, you really should look into it, there is a good chance your life can be turned around and improved more than you (pun intended) could dream of. Mine was!

Modern CPAP machines are quiet, comfortable, and only cover your nostrils. And they can save your life!


My friend is a terrible snorer, but I noticed one day when he fell asleep on the couch, that he’d stop snoring, then do this big gasping snore. It was really scary actually! I told him about it, he did a sleep study, and he turned out to have bad apnea. A few months of cpap therapy and he’s a new man. He used to pretty much fall asleep any time he sat down and did nothing, he was always tired, he needed a brass band to wake him up. Now he’s full of piss and vinegar, gets more work done, and he’s just a lot happier.

The test is apparently easy and you can do it at home with a device you get from your doctor and wear overnight, and his machine fits in the palm of one hand is basically silent. Anyone who thinks this is a possibility for them, I agree with you, get checked!


If you haven’t already, try doing an all-day physical activity (all-day hike, bike ride, or some other physical recreational activity) one day a week. For me, that made it a lot easier to start working out more.


This is going to be a totally anecdotal post: In my twenties I had the same problem when waking up, slept 7-8 hours, worked out, good job, super healthy diet but woke up exhausted, miserable, and borderline depressed 9/10 days. It took two years and lot of blood tests over time but turns out I had Hashimoto's disease, which lead to hypothyroidism. It is rare for someone in their 20s but I guess I beat the odds :), although it dose affect about 5% of the population at some time. My point here is your story seems very similar to mine (i.e possible thyroid issue) so maybe talk to your Dr about the possibility, especially if this has been a long term issue.


I feel the same way brother. And it took me 10 years to diagnose it. Just took one good GP


It’s recommended in Walker’s book so you probably already know about it, but CBTI (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia) might be a useful intervention for you based on the difficulties you’ve described.


Do you find it easier to fall asleep at other times than when you choose to go to bed? It might be that you have delayed sleep phase syndrome, or (less likely) a non-24 hour sleep phase issue.

My partner is non-24 and generally manages a "normal" schedule. However, she sometimes has to roll her sleep, where she'll go to bed an average of 1.5 hours later each day, until she's back to going to bed around 10.

When she is holding her sleep schedule steady she uses light goggles in the morning (literally goggles with bright reflected lights on them) and low-dose melatonin at night (can't remember the exact dose). She also watches her meal times relative to when she wants to go to sleep. I think these things would be useful for someone without the non-24 issues, but are good sleep hygiene things.


Do you consume stimulants like caffeine?


Check your Vitamin D levels, just out of curiosity, before giving Vitamin D3 a try. This doctor here says you need to be at 60-80 ng/ml D3 in the blood to get very restful sleep:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF24xmJQK1k

Also, D3 and Magnesium work very well together. In fact, if you add more D3, it's going to use-up even more magnesium.


60-80 seems absurd to me considering you’d be unlikely to hit that spending all day outside in the sun topless in Hawaii.


Like you, following a very similar diet of high quality animal fats and no carbs (banting). I to would have racing minds when in bed. Best thing I found (and this will sound cliche) is meditation. It's pretty much set for helping racing minds.


Not sure if minimal fruit counts as a healthy diet


It does, assuming you're getting enough vegetables; fruit is mostly sugar (high glycemic load which causes crashes, promotes diabetes, etc.), so not actually that good for you on the macronutrient level.


Uh not really. Most fruit is both low to medium GI and GL. Sugar in fruit is bound to fiber and bloodstream uptake is fairly slow.

There is a negative correlation between RDA fruit consumption and diabetes.


I'm wondering why you're flagged. Yes, fruits have sugar (fructose), but when you're eating the fruit whole your comment is on point. The fiber in the fruit makes the sugar absorption slower.

Of course if you're drinking 2L of juice a day you're gonna have a problem, as you would going ham on any kind of food. (ANY)


Correlation does not equal causation. People who generally eat less fruit are people who usually ignore health advice in general, and would replace fruit with stuff like sugar or carbs. Eating too much fruit gives an overload of fructose, which also triggers an insulin response.

If you eat the right meats, like liver, you get more vitamins and minerals then you would from fruit. So if you know what you are eating, it's fine to cut off fruit.


>Eating too much fruit gives an overload of fructose,

Note the operative modifier 'too much'

You can eat your recommended daily intake of fruit in one sitting with no other food and still remain below high GL levels.

Digestion is a complex process. Your model that anything containing fructose is bad is not supported by any data / analysis I am aware of, and contradicted by nearly all of it.

Mammals process most of thier fructose consumption in their small intestines. Only high doses that overload this capacity lead to harmful spillover to the liver etc.


fruit is not healthy for you, contrary to what you may have traditionally heard. you can get everything you need, vitamins and minerals wise, from vegetables, without the sugar that comes with fruits.


>fruit is not healthy for you

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/105/6/1462/4569801

Fruit consumption is inversely correlated with all-cause mortality as best we can tell. Probably something to be said about people who eat fruits being among the more health minded individuals as well and skewing results but it’s probably not “unhealthy” to eat fruits.


Correlation doesn't mean cause. Otherwise you would draw conclusions like divorce rates in Maine affected by margarine consumption.

https://tylervigen.com/view_correlation?id=1703

People consuming fruit could be more healthy individuals in general, exercising and avoiding other types of food which might have more effect than consuming fruit. So be careful about drawing conclusions from correlations or epidemiological studies as you have to consider other possibilities.


But I didn’t imply causation? I literally gave the same “could be skewed due to healthier lifestyle choices” in my comment...


Hey, you are on HN. The opportunity to shine the `correlation isn't causation` was too strong. /s


Try some carbs


Used to have really bad eye tics, along with difficulty falling asleep and leg cramps. For the longest time I thought it was Tourette or some other neurological issue. Turn out I was deficient in magnesium for all my early adulthood (coffee and alcohol depletes it quickly). Minerals are underrated.


There's really no great solution to stress-induced sleep problems except to reduce stress.


Quick note for anyone reading this about magnesium glycinate: this form of magnesium contains an amino acid called glycine, and we have evidence that glycine can improve sleep quality. According to examine.com, the evidence is "very high" that:

>In persons undergoing mild sleep deprivation, 3g of glycine an hour prior to sleep is able to increase sleep quality and improve self-reports of fatigue and well being the next day due to better sleep.

I take approx. 10g of gelatin a day which also contains glycine, and I also notice improvements in my sleep.


According to consumerlab.com, there have only been a few, small studies, all supported by or involving employees of Ajinomoto, which sells glycine. So it seems wrong to call the evidence "very high".


My experience with Melatonin is similar to yours. I tried the 2.5 mg and the 5mg dosages. If anything they made my sleep even shallower in the sense, yeah I have my eyes closed but am fully aware of my thoughts and surroundings but am too lazy/tired to be physically active. It also gave me weird dreams (not that I mind). waking up was tiring because all night my mind was awake. I think its good for REM sleep but what I desired more was the deeper sleep cycles that make me feel rested.


Note that the article suggests the ideal dosage is 0.3 mg, and larger dosage might not have the desired effect.


That's exactly right as the body uses melatonin spike as a wake up signal as well.

I think it was .25 and .5 mg I tried -- half of the minimum dose that was available over the counter at that time. It was about 5 years ago, so don't remember too well.


If you read the article, you'll note that the dosage and quality of the melatonin matters greatly, and simply saying that it didn't work isn't that meaningful if you don't explain at least what the dosage was.

Very low dosages seem to work best, according to the article... dosages lower than what is commonly sold. My anecdotal experience matches this recommendation.


Let's keep the magnesium training rolling.

NOW ZMA [1] has been my life saver for years. It never fails to make me enter "sleep mode". The same dose works now as has always worked. Do not take calcium supplements at the same time as ZMA.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0013OZGQ0/r


Where did you get the idea for Magnesium Glycinate? Never heard of it.

My sleep cycle has been out of whack since 17 years old. I've learned the hard way - no school jobs, relationships, etc. that require early mornings.

I have been able to improve things with a half of dose of Ambien 2-3x a week. I've heard good reports from some of the newer patented drugs (Lunesta, I think) but they're still quite expensive.


You don't want to take a sleeping pill everynight. That's pretty bad. I would suggest meditation.


I have tried tons of stuff for sleeping. Meditation helps, but to be honest Magnesium Bisglycinate has had far better effect. Plus meditation takes a fair bit of practice and is unlikely to help in help immediately because of that.


Lunesta is available cheaply as a generic under the name eszopiclone.


Have you tried meditation? Nothing fancy, just taking 15 minutes to focus on breathing exercises.

Whenever I find my mind racing at night, it's because I haven't taken any "down time" during the day. Laying in bed at night is often the first moment of my entire day (other than taking a shower) where I have no external stimulation of work or entertainment.

Best of luck with everything though!


I use Mg Citrate, because it seems pretty bio-available and easy to find. Does the form matter? Maybe I should switch to Glycinate.


Gah, the Mg Citrate I used from Solgar seems to be contaminated with Arsenic according to labdoor.

https://labdoor.com/rankings/magnesium


While melatonin helped me, the results were inconsistent.

However, 10,000IU of vitamin D3 before 10am (see e.g. [0] for discussion and analysis that do NOT support my regime) seem to consistently give me a good reliable sleep schedule.

I was definitely not as thorough as Gwern, nor comparing to placebo - but for decades I have tried tens of different sleep aids, most of them useless, some working for a couple of weeks and then not, melatonin being inconsistent - with vitamin D feeling like a jackpot.

If you care to experiment, do your own reading on dosing - it should be adjusted down if you spend any time in the sun - but it should 25-50IU/lb of body weight, which is way higher than the FDA RDA. This is not medical advice. I am not a medical professional, nor do I play one on TV. YMMV. Proceed at your own risk.

[0] https://www.gwern.net/zeo/Vitamin-D


10,000 IU is the upper limit recommended by researchers, but afaik 4,000 is the more commonly accepted/advised number.


Wasn't there a recent study suggesting that the recommended daily value was off by a factor of ~10?

I think an important thing to consider is that if your going to take large amounts of vitamin D, you should also be getting enough magnesium to prevent unhealthy calcification.

In the winter, I've taken one time doses of ~40,000 IU every few weeks or so, (always in the morning of course). I remember reading that 40,000 IU every single day for more than 3 months was what it would take for many people to develop hypercalcemia. Because vitamin D is fat soluble, that made me feel pretty safe taking a large mega dose from time to time. The effects of a large megadose are emotionally palpable.

But I will say that the magnesium also seems important. I have a sensitive ankle that was once run over by a taxi and got badly sprained. Last winter, I started taking daily vitamin D without magnesium, and was probably doing about 10,000 IU/day. After a week or so, I noticed that my ankle was acting up more than usual. I took an epsom salt bath (magnesium sulfate) and it helped immediately.

(https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/am-i-getting...)


> I think an important thing to consider is that if your going to take large amounts of vitamin D, you should also be getting enough magnesium to prevent unhealthy calcification.

You should be taking vitamin K as well.


I bought a magnesium spray but in reading up about absorption through the skin the evidence doesnt seem certain. Unless its getting absorbed through the rectum in a bath?

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579607/


That could be... All I know is that it works. Epsom salt baths are incredibly soothing, especially if you're liberal with the epsom salt


The recommended dose and limit are body weight dependent, age and light/uv exposure influenced.


Yes, agreed, but the 10,000 IU number is on the very upper end of the recommended intake in some research papers regardless of your body weight and age, and about twice as high as the upper recommended intake in current medical consensus. I'm also not a doctor but I would just ask anyone considering 10,000 IU / day for a long period after reading this post to run it by their doctor first.


I take 5,000 IU of Vitamin D daily and 3 mg of Melatonin about an hour or so before bed. It has all but cured a lifetime of serious sleep issues.


I take 5000 D3 at 9 in the morning. It causes me to naturally wake up at 6 a.m. or even earlier, without feeling groggy.

If I take it when traveling, jet lag is greatly diminished and overcome much more rapidly. I switch to taking it 9 a.m. of the destination's local time. If 9 a.m. occurs during the flight, I take it then.

It's like an external clock pulse!

The first time I took 5000 D3, I made the mistake of doing it in the evening. My sleep that very night was quite strange, disturbed with weird dreams. I immediately clued in to the fact that morning might be better. Basically, mimicking the onset of daylight.

D3 is beneficial for exercise; it relieves that muscle soreness and tiredness and improves mental alertness. It helps beat those winter blues and gets you out there.


I should mention that when I'm too long on D3, I start to "feel my teeth". Exactly like this blogger:

http://ctheblog.cforyourself.com/2008/12/overdosing-on-vitam...

When I get those teeth sensations, I back off the D3.

That blogger's experience with waking up early in the morning between 5-6 exactly matches mine, also.


Hi Beagle,

Is this a daily dose of D3 of 10,000 IU? And for how long have you been taking it?


Daily dose, have been for ~6 years now, not religiously - when traveling for less than a week I usually don’t take any with me, and I deliberately take a couple of weeks off every year to see if it still makes any difference (after 2-4 weeks, it starts becoming harder to fall asleep again, after which I wait another week and restart).

50,000 daily for a month is toxic, though afaik 20,000 has no “period of time it becomes toxic”; however, D is fat Soluable, so I take breaks to make sure my body can get rid of any excess.


Do you also take magnesium?


Yes; regular 400mg elemental magnesium (in chelated form)/day, and occasionally (e.g. after serious exercise) an additional teaspoon - 300-600mg elemental, in citrate form -- I find it keeps the muscles feeling much better (in a way that increasing the dose of chelated form does not -- even though the latter is supposed to be much more bioavailable).

I have never thought about the calcification angle that you mentioned in another thread, I'm just constantly experimenting since my teens, and keeping the things that seem to improve my well being (with the occasional breaks to guarantee I'm not overdosing/accumulating, and also to see that it still helps).

How much magnesium do you add to your D3?

(and, if anyone is going to try magnesium citrate or magnesium oxide as a result of this post - I highly recommend building up your dose from very little, and doing that on days where you have easy access to a bathroom - in the beginning, bioavailability is low, but it does relax your bowel muscles ... and even after your bioavailability rises, will happen with excess amounts)


I honestly just go by how I'm feeling. If I'm tense or restless, I might take some magnesium citrate before bed to help me sleep. If I'm feeling dehydrated or constipated, I'll take some magnesium citrate or an electrolyte drink packet with magnesium and potassium salts. If I'm anxious, I can take an epsom salt bath.


Melatonin has genuinely changed my life in regards to sleep. I'd tried everything and for exams went on Zopiclone, and then found the gold that is Melatonin. Thoroughly recommend anyone with suitable problems sleeping giving it a go.

(I was DSPD, though every so often did the whole "Non-24-Hour-Sleep Disorder" thing)


For me, it took a solid two weeks before I saw a regulation of my sleep pattern. Same time of day, 3 hours before I wanted to sleep, turning off all screens and eventually covering my eyes with a sleeping mask. Time released, low (correct) dosing too. Too much melatonin like pushes your brain past sleep.


The take-away from that sounds as if you found a sleeping-mask helpful, but there's not much evidence that melatonin had any effect.


> The take-away from that sounds as if you found a sleeping-mask helpful, but there's not much evidence that melatonin had any effect.

How can you reasonably conclude anything from your position, having only read that short comment? They have all the context and data and came to their conclusion. It might or might not be correct, but you're in no place to refute them on the topic of what has helped them personally.


The take away for me was that I have to let the melatonin work. It’s not a benzodiazepine. It won’t knock you out in 15 minutes like a benzodiazepine. But if you don’t counteract it with stimulants (and staring at a light is a stimulant) then it will work for you. It’s probably a lot healthier because of its subtlety too. At the time, I worked a late shift. That meant once I got home I went into dark out mode - to counteract all the stimulation from work. I didn’t absolutely have to do that for melatonin to work, but I was able to push up my sleeping time by doing that alongside melatonin. Ie melatonin works, but melatonin and other restful things I should otherwise be doing helped even more. Synergistically.

At the end of the day, you literally have to decide to end your day.


I was merely basing on the description as given. If there's more context, it wasn't really given.


How much do you take? I was regularly taking 3mg and 1.5mg regularly for most of the past 4 years. I recently tried 0.3mg (as recommended in another recent HN discussion about melatonin, I think it was a week or 2 ago), and I had terrible results.

On 1.5mg and 3mg, I would have very unsettling and memorable dreams, as well as wake up very tired, but I would get at least 7 hours of sleep on most nights. With 0.3mg, I woke after only 3 hours of sleep, feeling very energized but then getting very, very tired by early afternoon. I would fall asleep between 10 PM and midnight, wake up three hours later, then be unable to fall back asleep before it's time to go to work.

This meant I had to use stimulants to be functional, and I entered a cycle of not being able to sleep through the night, having to use stims in the morning, having to use melatonin at night to fall asleep, waking up after 3-4 hours, repeat. I finally broke it this past week by taking a sick day and sleeping through most of it, but I still couldn't hit 7 consecutive hours.

I can't even remember the last time I got the recommended minimum of 8 hours, regardless of what I do. I am trying ashwagandha and ZMA together for the first time tonight, having just taken both about an hour ago. I also took D3 this morning which will hopefully help too.

I think I'm done with melatonin for now, since I saw recommendations to abstain for a week or 2 to reset, and then trying again at the smaller dosage. But if this works, I probably won't use it again.


I get the wake up reaction with any dose, unless I take it with other stuff that keeps me asleep. I have Non-24 and have tried a bunch of stuff and have found finding things to help stay asleep easier than finding stuff to help get to sleep, although nothing really works for very long at a time (and there is a huge amount of individual variation in what helps at all). If exercise works for you that would be best but for me it doesn't help.

I wrote a long post about stuff that helps me stay asleep a month ago:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17384486


I also have N24 (I am sighted). 0.3mg 2 hours before the bedtime I wanted worked but would cause me to wake up in the middle of the night and sleep very long (about 13 hours). I'm testing 0.3mg 4 hours before bedtime and that's working so far.

The normal instructions for using melatonin as a sleep aid are to take it a short time before going to bed. It appears that at least some N24 sufferers have a different reaction to it and need to be dosed several hours earlier, contrary to the normal instructions.


I'm fairly sure I tried somewhere around .3mg 4 hours before bed and it still woke me up (and I couldn't get back to sleep for hours). I just recently tried .3ish mg (scooped from powder this time so not very precise, next time I'll try the water mixing trick that someone here suggested) 7 hours before bed for five days and it still seemed to wake me up more than usual (but I also took other stuff with it and was able to get back to sleep quickly most of the time), although hard to tell for sure if it was the melatonin since it was only a few days. Which is a little strange since the half life is short enough that it should all be long gone by the time I actually get to bed. The melatonin did seem to help in some ways though, so I will try it again soon.

If you haven't seen it, there is a circadian rhythm disorders patient advocacy group, email discussion list (not just for memebers), and survey (also not just for members) at: https://www.circadiansleepdisorders.org/

There are quite a few people with Non-24 on the list.


Also, I do have concerns about the quality control and dosage accuracy of these supplements. There was a study that tested OTC melatonin products in Canada and found:

> Results show that melatonin content did not meet within a 10-percent margin of the label claim in more than 71 percent of supplements, with the actual content ranging from 83 percent less to 478 percent more than the concentration declared on the label. The study also found that lot-to-lot variability within a particular product varied by as much as 465 percent.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170214162728.h...

There is no reason to believe the situation is different in the US where supplements are not regulated like drugs (thanks, Orrin Hatch).


Good point, that would certainly confuse the situation if there was a 5x variation. Even though they aren't treated the same as drugs there are still quailty standards in the US, although they don't seem to be enforced very well. I try to find suppliers that do better testing. If you have the money for FDA approved stuff you can get ramelteon or tasimelteon these days. But they are quite expensive. Although it looks like the ramelteon patent expires next year and there are a couple of approved generics already so prices should go down quickly next year:

https://www.drugs.com/availability/generic-rozerem.html

I got 1g pure melatonin powder from a now gone supplier that did good quailty testing. It takes me several tries to get something that looks like about .3mg since it is such a tiny amount and I'm sure there is quite a bit of variation, but I'm fairly sure I at least get < .5mg each time.


It's anecdotal, but D3 actually messes up my sleep and leads to the symptoms you're describing. I've read similar reports on reddit and forums.

Try to lay off D3, and try to take more magnesium citrate separately, this helped me.

Apparently, half-life of D3 is about 3 weeks, so if you've been taking it for awhile, you can have a lot of it in your body all the time. I'm not a scientist, but my best guess is that since D3 is meant to be released under sunlight, too much of it could be doing something to interfere with your sleep.

Again, just a layman's guess, but true in my personal experience.


D3 should be taken for small periods. Note that these supplements, do not make up for self-produced substances.

I would like to ask you if instead of using melatonin to enhance your sleep, did you try physical exercise. If your body is physically tired and you abstain from screens (iPads, iPhones, etc.) for 2h before sleeping, you should be able to get a decent amount of sleep.

Additionally, sleep quality doesn’t translate in hours. You could have a 5-hours sleep, where you reach the REM phase vs a 7-hour sleep where you don’t.


I don't exercise regularly, and I really should. My issue is I always feel too tired to exercise in the morning, and I feel like I have trouble falling asleep if I exercise in the evening. But I'm starting to think that exercising late isn't the problem now. I'll try what you recommend. It's really hard to abstain from screens, too. I'm definitely not doing that. I'll try doing nothing other than reading actual books ~2 hours before bed from now on.


If you don’t like Cardio like me I can’t recommend https://stronglifts.com enough. It’s been really fun slowly building up strength and I’m squatting 105kg now. Improves my mood and sleep no end.


Sooo doing some exercise 2 hours before sleeping and not spending my last waking hours on my laptop did it. I got more than 7 hours of sleep for sure, and...also woke up feeling very tired. I know I have a huge sleep deficit built up, so that's fine. I'm hoping I can sleep as much tonight as well.


Yes it is normal. Your muscles will need to cope with the demand for oxygen and more time to rest. You might also feel some pain from the lactic acid. Ideally, exercise should be progressive to avoid these situations, but overall it's a welcomed trade-off if you ask me.

Good luck with everything!


The article suggest the low dose but mid-day instead of right before bed.


Made a world of difference to me over the last 3 years too, wish I'd learned about it sooner!

0.5mg is the dose I found best - take it most nights but I'm currently enjoying a few weeks where I've not had to take any.


Every single person here, if your serious about diving into the science of sleep, should read Matthew Walker's book: Why We Sleep: https://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Sleep-Unlocking-Dreams/dp/1501...

His interview on Joe Rogan is a good summary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwaWilO_Pig

He covers everything from why we sleep (obv), naps, melatonin, etc. I've just finished it and really enjoyed it.


That is an excellent book. However, it doesn't contain a lot of practical advice (other than the 12 points at the end of the book, which were released already by National Sleep Association)

Somewhat tangetial, check out "The Circadian Code" as well - a lot of more practical advice in this one. They actually disagree on couple of delicate points, so not sure how can one make up one's mind as to which one's correct (e.g. one thinks there are night owls , one thinks it's a myth; one thinks we need 7 hours of sleep, one thinks that less than 8+ hours of sleep is devastating).

But in general, the message is the same - sleep well, try to fit into your circadian rhythm because all organs have internal clocks and being in rhythm benefits them all; some of them are interconnected, some are dependent on SCN, etc

In particular, the clinical trials with TRE (Time-Restricted eating, as in putting all calories in 8-12 hour intervals daily) seem amazing. Not a single side-effect, and all health markers seem to be improving under it.

One important study on mice concluded that mice that ate their high-fat, high-sugar food in 8 hour intervals (lets say, 8AM -> 4PM) compared to the control group of regular mice that had high-fat, high-sugar food all the time, ate more or less the same amount of calories daily, but the TRE-group had no increase of blood sugar or body fat.

Seems too good to be true, but apparently the study has been replicated..


I think I'm a night Owl with DSPS. For the past few weeks I have been trying to shift my schedule to wake at 4:30AM, go running, eat within 6 hours (Time Restricted Eating), and repeat - but my body is rejecting this like an allergy - I just feel awful.

I felt best running in the evening a little before sunset, getting back and eating within 6 hours, and going to bed around 2-3AM.

I had to change my schedule because we have bad Ozone problems in Phoenix AZ, so O3 around sunset was terribad — not worth running (if it was for health, anyhow).

Which book do you recommend? I feel like I'm fighting my body; since I began "waking" at 4AM (I think I'm already kinda awake) I can't sleep for more than 1-2 hours and get tired around 2PM. If I fall asleep at 2PM then I REALLY sleep, for many hours, and wake around 8PM.

Its a total mess.

I'm doing everything I know how: be in the sun early, melatonin, activity early, calories early, TRE, avoid blue light before bed, but my body still seems to reject the early bird protocol.


I recommend you to read "Why We Sleep", however try not to be discouraged when you think about your sleeping pattern and what the science says it damages, and how it is devastating, detrimental to your health and so on. It can be overwhelming a little. If I had to choose one, this is the book I'd recommend.

I've only got my experience with sleep deprivation and the methods I use to fix it. I had severe sleep deprivation and now I sleep 8 hours on average, with quality sleep.

I am a very light sleeper, on top of having problems falling asleep. This is what I did:

1) limiting the noise - I installed new windows and added new door that leads to my bedroom; I have a fan that I put next to me, put it on the highest speed and it absorbs any noise left. You can achieve this with a "white noise app", too.

2) completely dark room - I cover the windows outside, and then inside too (just in case any light escapes).

3) I fit my meals within 8 or 9 window as a part of TRE (Time-Restricted Eating) - my first meal is around 9AM. It does not have to be perfectly accurate (8:45, 9:15 acceptable)

4) strength training every day (assuming you are cardiovascularly fit); I do sprints as well (twice a week or so)

5) zero alcohol - it is one of the strongest REM suppressors

6) zero caffeine - very important. The average half-life of caffeine is 6 hours. That means that after 6 hours, you still have 50% caffeine in your body.

7) write down the following, and try to look at them from time to time: when you eat, what you eat, calories/macros breakdown, when you go to bed, when you fall asleep (approximately), when you wake-up, and a summary of the previous afternoon and night time - what you think is the reason for the sleep (or lack of) on the day of

8) try to fit in with your circadian rhythm. On average: we are at our peak 10AM-3PM - try to fit strenuous activities in this period (including heavy strength training - since I am a remote developer, I can do this).

9) I walk around 8-10 km every day, part of it in the morning, part of it around 20:00

10) try to limit blue light at night - some ideas: dim lights, orange/red glasses filter, orange/red light bulbs.

----- These were the major things that I did, and some combination of them seem to work. I don't know which ones precisely. Some things that didn't work for me:

1) some natural remedies like valerian tea, etc. - it made me worse, actually. 2) meditation - just doesn't work (for me). A lot of people swear by it.. 3) nothing of this sort: https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/fall-asleep-fast/

Try to learn something from what you eat - but be brutally honest with yourself and write down everything that contains calories that you eat. I noticed that I sleep worse on the day I eat more sugars (and I hardly eat sugar at all!).

Hope this helps someone.. I know how hard it is without sleep.


Does anyone have links to solid studies that provide some better answers if there is a significant share of people who can live on little sleep? As they tell you that you won’t recognize yourself if you’ve slept enough, I don’t quite trust my instincts


Mice have very fast metabolism. Converting mouse models to humans requires adjustment.

There is some evidence that for humans eating all calories within 4 hour window might have similar effects.


I don’t really think it works in the same way for humans. I have been doing it for decades and I can assure you that my body fat increases if I overeat.


Have you been doing TRE in 8 hour intervals? There was a study on this as well, and it turns out a lot of people simply think they are doing TRE, but once they start writing down exactly what they eat and exactly when, turns out it's far away from TRE.

I've always believed in the law of thermodynamics myself - counting just the calories, but I keep an open mind for now until someone can refute it. The blood sugar thing makes sense to me with what I know about melatonin suppressing the insulin - that's a fact. But the rest of the conclusion.. who knows.


>I've always believed in the law of thermodynamics myself - counting just the calories

Counting just the calories ignores second order effect, and diet is all about second order effects.

If one could absolutely stick to counting the calories and eating the specified amount, of course one would lose weight.

But e.g. a diet of only having 1500 calories of broccoli for 1 year, and one would be ill from lack of tons of nutrients and vitamins (and they'd have stopped much earlier anyway).

E.g. if one eats certain kinds of foods, your appetite increases and it's more likely to overeat. Not giving one's self some foods they like, also makes it easier and more tempting to break a diet. And lots of other factors (exercise, hydration, nutrition, and so on) unrelated with counting calories, that still affect what we eat and how we process it.


One / your / it / we: make up your mind on pronoun and stick with it!


Maybe focus on the content?

Any disparity is just on this single sentence: "your appetite increases" (as opposed to "their" or "one's").

"Their" as used across the comment is not meant as the plural possessive. It's instead used as a gender-neutral pronoun (a common use) to avoid repeating "one's" or using "his/hers".

It, in "your appetite increases and it's more likely to overeat" etc., refers to the situation/possibility (as in "If they sky's cloudy it's more likely to rain"). It is normal to use different pronouns to refer to different entities.

Finally, the "we" at the end is perfectly fitting. It's a generalization, beyond what each individual does.


It was really distracting to read. The mix - and there was a they in there too - broke focus. Sorry.


No problem!

Though "they" was used as a gender neutral pronoun -- not to change the subject from "one" to some group. E.g. as in: "if one drinks milk, their bones would benefit".


I think once you've chosen "one", you need to stick with it: "if one drinks milk, one's bones would benefit".


End of the day you still have to burn more calories than you take in and also eat less carbs and sugars. I think once you do that any benefits are marginal(based on my personal experience)


Kevin Rose also did a podcast with Matthew Walker shortly after the book came out https://www.kevinrose.com/single-post/matthew-walker


I think lots of people reading hn have picked it up in recent weeks, I just finished the first two chapters myself :)


+1 was recommended to me a couple of weeks ago on HN. Most useful book I’ve read this year, easy.


I am reading this right now as a chronically sleep deprived person and it is terrifying - no less than 7 hours for me from now on.


According to the author, with 7 hours of quality sleep, you are still sleep deprived; after 24 days, you would be sleep deprived in amount equivalent to someone not sleeping 1 full night.


Most of the "oh crap this is really bad" examples provided so far (I'm not done with the book) seem to have been for 6 hours or less, I figured 7 hours is a reasonable absolute minimum. I will aim for eight. However at this rate I'm afraid the more paranoid I get about not getting enough sleep the more difficult it becomes for me to fall asleep. I've never had issues sleeping, but this book coupled with having just moved to an apartment with a train nearby that's taking some getting used to is making me lie in bed and think about needing to sleep for longer before actually drifting off to sleep.


Seconding this. His data on agents of sleep disruption/degradation of sleep quality were eye-opening.


Thanks. Saw this book being recommended multiple times here so just bought it :)


Joe Rogan is one of the biggest propagators of pseudoscience. It's not a good sign when a guest appears on his show. Joe usually tries to rope them into talking about his two favorite health topics: cholesterol and testosterone.


I completely disagree, at the very least it is not intentional. He's interested in a lot of topics and explores a wide range of topics, he's not going to get everything right. What I will say is that he brings on a ton of interesting guests and they should not be judged because they participate in Joe's podcast.

> It's not a good sign when a guest appears on his show

Why does this matter? I find this line of reasoning corrosive and hypo-critical. Each guest should be judged on the basis of their merits, character, not who they choose to have a conversation with.


Eh, I've listened to hundreds of his episodes. Some are good for a laugh, some have interesting guests and I learn a thing or two, some I can't make it through. Not everything has to be a text book. What exactly is the problem? I find the unedited, uncensored, long form, 1 on 1, conversational style very appealing - Joe is just a chatter box to keep the guest talking.


I presented the problem clearly.


You must not listen to him recently. I've listened to maybe 15 episodes and haven't heard either of those yet. He's been a pretty level headed host. It could be that he's better than he used to be because I've only listened to recent episodes, but it's been great so far.


I haven't listened to a lot of Joe Rogan but from what I have listened (maybe last 6-7 episodes) and wearing my Dr hat I feel he fluctuates. He seems to walk a pretty level line but then occasionally drops things that are demonstrably false. More out of ignorance than malice I believe


Hi atomical, that's an interesting claim. Can you explain more why you believe that? I have listened through a couple of episodes and those made for interesting discussions.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4LtdUC14hY

edit: I get that he makes fun of him in later episodes, but that's only gonna pop up if you're watching youtube. for people listening on a podcast app, or with adblocking, or whatever else, they don't see the disclaimers. he's not a journalist and is rarely informed enough to challenge his guests, which totally counteracts his "open-minded" reason for having alt-right, pseudo-scienctific, snake oil salesmen, and bigoted people on his show. he's a dunce for giving his platform over to such obvious hucksters so often, which is only bolstered every time eddie bravo comes on (an idiot if there ever was one).


From the article:

>The consensus stresses that melatonin is a very weak hypnotic. The Buscemi meta-analysis cites this as their reason for declaring negative results despite a statistically significant effect – the supplement only made people get to sleep about ten minutes faster. “Ten minutes” sounds pretty pathetic, but we need to think of this in context. Even the strongest sleep medications, like Ambien, only show up in studies as getting you to sleep ten or twenty minutes faster; this New York Times article says that “viewed as a group, [newer sleeping pills like Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata] reduced the average time to go to sleep 12.8 minutes compared with fake pills, and increased total sleep time 11.4 minutes.” I don’t know of any statistically-principled comparison between melatonin and Ambien, but the difference is hardly (pun not intended) day and night.

>Rather than say “melatonin is crap”, I would argue that all sleeping pills have measurable effects that vastly underperform their subjective effects. The linked article speculates on one reason this might be: people have low awareness around the time they get to sleep, and a lot of people’s perception of whether they’re insomniac or not is more anxiety (or sometimes literally dream) than reality. This is possible, but I also think of this in terms of antidepressant studies, which find similarly weak objective effects despite patients (and doctors) who swear by them and say they changed their lives. If I had to guess, I would say that the studies include an awkward combination of sick and less-sick people and confuse responders and non-responders. Maybe this is special pleading. I don’t know. But if you think any sleeping pill works well, melatonin doesn’t necessarily work much worse than that.

The evidence says that it's a very weak hypnotic. The writer then makes a long, pseudoscientific argument against the evidence, while making a claim that their article is scientific, even though it wasn't peer reviewed. They make a cherry-picked comparison to Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata based on an article by non-scientific newspaper New York Times to bolster their claims; they ignore the ability of other, more potent hypnotics to improve time to sleep and sleep length in mental illness-caused insomnia -- on whom melatonin may be ineffective -- and in people with different causes for their sleep disorders.

I leave it as an exercise to the reader to find the other flaws in the article.


2 other low hanging fruit that make me pause re credibility:

The article butchers the role of intracellular adenosine increases. It would be fairly easy to describe the full mechanism but instead says that Adenosine is made whilst awake and cleared while asleep which is a gross oversimplification and actually pretty scientifically inaccurate.

It further describes UpToDate as 'the gold standard research database' - UpToDate is nothing of the sort - it is a authoritative clinical reference. Think Economist for medicine, except each article is about a condition, diagnosis or treatment and it is updated. But like all clinical references that are produced by humans, it has biases specific to the authors, their clinical practices etc


I think your criticism is overstated. He's fairly clear about whether he's stating the result of a study, interpreting such results, or making an informed speculation. It's not cherry-picking if you're selecting the strongest competitors. The New York Times article is reporting on a meta-analysis by Buscemi et al, very similar to the one he discusses in a prior paragraph.


I regularly take long haul flights (12+ hours) and take Melatoin for Jet Lag.

I'll take twice. With the flights I take this usually works out to before sleeping on the plane (which ideally is the same/close to bed-time at the destination). And then the first night at the destination.

In combination with other tricks -- I've found it really effective.


Same here. I pop one as I get on the red eye flight back from the states to the UK, then once again half an hour before I go to bed at 10pm UK time, and the next day I'm back to normal.

If anything, I find going the other way harder now as I have little energy until midweek.


What are the other tricks, I’ve always found jet lag horrendous.


Some of these are probably very personal, but have worked for me.

- I try to arrive in the AM, stay up all day, and walk around as much as possible. Ideally walk in the sun. By the end of the day I'm shattered and usually will sleep well. Often I'm traveling for work, so I'll head direct to the office and work to keep busy. That first day can be tough, but after a couple of dips you can power though. After that you're pretty well set.

- I never nap (or even lie down) during the first day, that's always the thing that throws me off.

- For the flight: I have earplugs, noise cancelling headphones, and a heavy-duty eye mask. On occasion I'll play something calm on the headphones, but often it's just unplugged.

- I have one of these weird neck pillows - https://trtltravel.com/products/trtl-travel-pillow - works well for me as it stabilizes the head. If find the actual "pillows" don't really work.

- I try to eat in (or close to) the target time-zone a day before. On the plane I'll eat for sure, but veer to something light. I find the full meals make me lethargic the next day. Definitely eat at the "right times" when you arrive.

- I drink plenty of water, but I don't go crazy - I used to drink too much and my bladder would wake me up. I'll usually work out how much I want to/should drink (e.g.. two bottles) and then ration over the flight.

- I do have a small wine and sleeping tablets on the plane. Realize that's not for everyone, however (and probably unwise for some). But seems to work for me.


I also use Melatonin for jetlag, but I usually prefer to do it just for the first and second night at the destination. On 12+ hrs flight I prefer a bland sleeping aid, as it is not directly working on the circadian rhythm (or at least that’s my experience). Other useful tricks:

- ban alcohol altogether the day of the flight an possibly one day before and one after

- order a special vegan meal during the flight, even if you’re not vegan. They’ll serve you first and you’ll have more time to organize your sleeping schedule on board, plus you’ll stay more hydrated as the meal will usually include more veggies. - stay hydrated constantly, I’d dare say even over hydrated


The vegan meal trick is airline specific.

On BA for instance, if you're in premium economy or higher as long as you order your meal via their portal a few days before the flight they'll serve you first before offering what's left to everyone else.


my instant jet lag cure:

1. if i arrive early in the day, make sure i take as much coffee and/or energy drinks as possible to stay awake. then stop about 4 hours before planned bedtime.

2. once it's bedtime, or if i arrive at destination close to bedtime, if possible, i then smoke as much cannabis as is necessary to force me to go to sleep.

whenever i travel somewhere with vastly different timezones, i do this two or three days in a row and i'm usually fixed.


Water fast for 13 to 16 hours before the time you want to wake up. And have a large breakfast right then.

https://hbr.org/2009/05/a-fast-solution-to-jet-lag

https://www.google.com/search?q=jet+lag+fast+hours


If you regularly buy Melatonin, I highly recommend Trader Joes Brand chewable Melatonin tablets.

In my area they cost $2.99 for a bottle, far below the cost of other brands, and the dosage per tablet is 0.5mg or 500mcg which for me is pretty optimal.

EDIT: corrected units.


>0.5g or 500mcg

I hope you mean 0.5 mg not 0.5g because that would be a very big dose!


I think he did mean .5mg since 500ug is .5mg. Still, I'm a bit confused. The bottles I get come in doses of 10mg, I can't imagine taking even just two or three of them in a single night! On the other hand, I'd think 1/20th of my pill (.5mg) would be way too little. After reading this relevant paraphrase from the article:

> There have been few studies on sighted young people. One finds that 1 mg works but 0.3 mg doesn’t; this study is an outlier. Another study on 25yo found both to work equally. Another study on 22-24yo found that 0.3 mg worked better than 1.0. UpToDate and Mayo Clinic suggests using at most .5mg. John Hopkins’ experts almost agree: they say “less is more” but recommend 1-3 mg.

I wonder if I should actually start cutting my pills in 20ths now... The author goes on to say he personally thinks that .3mg is a good amount and anything beyond 1mg is too much.

Edit: Sorry for the edits, I read the article after I made my comment, then figured I'd share their answer since I asked the question myself.


> On the other hand, I'd think 1/20th of my pill (.5mg) would be way too little.

That's one of the key points of the article:

> “But my local drugstore sells 10 mg pills! When I asked if they had anything lower, they looked through their stockroom and were eventually able to find 3 mg pills! And you’re saying the correct dose is a third of a milligram?!”

> Yes. Most existing melatonin tablets are around ten to thirty times the correct dose.


Yes, I ended up reading the article after commenting (shame on me) and edited my answer to contain their answer. Sorry!


Honestly for me the ideal dose is 250ug. I take half of a Trader Joe’s 500ug pill.

Melatonin has a U shaped dose curve so you either need a tiny bit or a whole lot to be effective.

500ug leaves me groggy in the morning, 250 is perfect.


Oddly enough, I've found that anything much over 1mg doesn't seem to have much of an effect at all - it maybe makes me a little drowsy, but that's about it. On the other hand, .5mg more or less knocks me out and leaves me feeling sleepy for most of the next day. Seems almost like there's a threshold over which it loses effectiveness, but I don't know of any medical mechanism that would lead to that.


I have been taking melatonin for a couple decades, due to severely delayed sleep. I haven't tried anything less than 3mg recently, but that has been very successful. 5mg or more have been too much, although I don't remember the specific problem.


3 mg is also the sweet spot for me. More than about 5 makes me have really wild, restless dreams. I still sleep feel rested in the morning, but it's kind of like you spend the whole night half awake because the dreams are so vivid.


It is strange. I take the Trader Joe’s brand as well and even half of a 500mcg pill is enough for me, and sometimes feels as effective as a a 3mg of 5mg pill from a different brand. Not sure what to make of it, other than maybe all I need is a placebo.


I've found the same thing.


Kroger sells 10 mg dissolvable tablets right now (and it's on sale!) - it definitely made me sleep but totally obliterated my metabolism when i was taking it. regulation is definitely needed


10mg?! Holy smokes, 3mg can turn me into a zombie the next day. Oh, I sleep well, but so do the undead.


It's rolling a 20 when you usually roll an 8. You successfully SLEEP, and there's a bonus!


At one point I was taking 40mg.


thanks - that was a typo.


random question... gummies always felt like candy to me and have extra sugar... why do you like them over pills? Also I'm being an angry old man as the last time I was in the pharmacy like 50% of the shelf space was taken up by these huge gummy bottles of the very popular vitamins pushing out some of the more esoteric stuff like phycogenol


I was going to mention: the article sort of begs the question of how to get an appropriate dose of melatonin. I’ve found a source of 1mg pills, but even that seems to be a bit too much for me — as if my body takes the dose as a sign I’ve already been asleep for 3 hours and insists I wake 4-5 hours later.


Re dosages - I recently found melatonin in liquid / dropper bottle form at one of my local drugstores, intended to be mixed into a glass of water or similar. The "dosage" is 1 mg, but that requires 4 droppers - so a single dropper is 250 µg, and it's very easy to do less than that (although not with much accuracy).

If you don't want to buy from some online nootropics store just to get a 300µg dose, check your local drugstore or vitamin store for liquid melatonin, and read the label and see how much each dropper is.

I just took a ~half-dropper with a glass of water because I'm still up. Good night!


Also if it's cheap enough, you can dump half the water after dilution!


Yes, that (or mixing a pitcher of 3mg melatonin and measuring a tenth of it each evening, or something) would also work. Anything with liquid seems way less fiddly than trying to split pills into >2 parts, I'm surprised I don't see more liquid melatonin at stores or more people who know that they want a <1mg dose suggesting liquid melatonin.


> less fiddly

If the melatonin is in pressed-pill form, rather than splitting it, you can just crush it in a mortar, then mix it with more filler (look at which one they’re already using on the bottle and use some of that; they’re usually using the cheapest thing that works.) Then you can simply measure out powder for a dose (rather than measuring out liquid).

If you want to go the extra mile, you can add enough filler to the mixture to fill a grid of gelatin half-capsules, such that you don’t have to worry about measuring doses.


Magnesium is very important. Magnesium deficient rats were shown to have decreased melatonin.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/17172005/

It's also protective against hypercalcemia, so if you're taking vitamin D, make sure you're getting enough magnesium.

I've even read that magnesium alone can mitigate the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.


Magnesium is important, many people are deficient, supplementation is cheap and supplementation is very unlikely to cause harm (as long as you keep it to max 300 mg of elemental Mg (e.g. 2g of magnesium citrate) a day). Like with vitamin D, you should have very good reasons not to chose to take a magnesium supplement.


Is magnesium dissolved in water bioavailable? There are some sparkling mineral waters with Mg ions and it would be nice to be able to just sip on those


I’m not sure. I know the bioavailability of magnesium citrate is much better than that of magnesium oxide, due to the bad solubility in water of the latter (and supplements with magnesium oxide are thus next to useless). That suggests Mg ions already present should be readily absorbed.


Thanks, whats the best magnesium supplement to take?


> Yes. Most existing melatonin tablets are around ten to thirty times the correct dose.

I couldn't find an explanation why they'd be sold at this dose from this article, which makes me suspicious of this. Am I missing something? What would be the motive for this?


Because they're sold as supplements and not as medications. Many supplement dosages are arbitrary, with few exceptions.


The same author posted a follow-up post explaining why: http://slatestarcodex.com/2018/07/12/did-a-melatonin-patent-...

In summary: "Commenters, including a patent lawyer, have filled in the rest of the story. Because melatonin is a natural hormone and not an invention, patents can only cover specific uses of it. The MIT patent covered the proper way to use it for sleep; a broader patent might not have been granted. The patent probably guided supplement companies, but expired about five years ago. It’s now legal to produce melatonin 0.3 mg pills, but people are so used to higher doses that few people do."


It is not their motivation but what's great about those huge doses is that you can cut the pills and the bottle of pill last two or four time as long.


Europe. I get mine melatonin tablets there. Just stock up for a year. Small bottles to bring back. Never had an issue through customs.


I suspect it's just marketing. Consumers like seeing the big numbers because they assume bigger number more effective.


Wow! I've started with 2.5 mg and now 20 mg does nothing to me. I've been doing it sooo wrong. I hope the tolerance is going to fall now as I've stopped taking it and I will be able to use it the right way going with 0.3mg. That's such a pity you can't just get any better kind of a sleeping pill without a prescription if you don't want to mess with circadian rhythms and just want to fall asleep whenever you have time but can't. So many people actually have irregular schedules: day and night shifts mixed chaotically etc. I actually don't think I know anybody who would go to bed at the same time every night. I wish I had Ambien for occasions like that (I don't drive) but it seems impossible to get without a doctor.

In fact I've tried to do some research but failed to find any information about undesirable effects and DON'Ts of melatonin at the time when I've started taking it (some years ago). It seemed a wonder drug everybody should be taking all the time - it just makes you sleep well whenever you choose to, protects from oxidative stress, boosts your immunity etc. But now I know: tolerance (including tolerance to endogenic melatonin which means screwing your natural circadian system) is what you pay (I could find not a single mention of melatonin tolerance until today).


I used to suffer terrible sleep until recently. Always exhausted in the morning. Sore all over. Missed meetings, or called in sick some days. Would wake up around 11 if I could

Now I can wake up around 630 am, lift weights, do HIIT, and be early to work

Melatonin wakes me up in the middle of the night. I take Unisom (Doxylamine) as well. Works pretty well in combination

I have blackout curtains but I need some light to wake me up in the am, so I leave them open about six inches on one side

I eat a small organic meal for dinner, early as I can, usually by 630


Just an anecdotal warning. Unisom is not recommended for long term use. I didn't know this and used it for a year straight to combat stress induced insomnia during my first startup. It took me a few years before I returned to feeling "normal". YMMV.


Another data point: I've been using it on and off for a year now and it's been a life saver. I can reliably get to sleep when I need to for the first time in my life

As best I can tell it's not recommended for long term use because it hasn't been studied for that purpose and because there are prescription sleep aids that don't cause as much drowsiness

I'm terrified of taking a prescription sleep aid because of all the sleepwalking horror stories.

I take only 5 mg so the drowsiness isn't that big of a problem for me especially if I exercise in the morning. I'll take drowsy and rested over alert and unrested any day.


The first generation antihistamines are strongly anticholinergic, so long term use might have cognative effects and may increase the chance of dementia later in life. They can also interact with a lot of other medication since they are much less specific than most drugs. I agree that they are still quite a bit better than GABA-A agonists. IMO, any sleep medication is best taken with breaks as frequently as possible, which can both increase effectiveness when you take it and reduce side effects of long term use.


Wow, that is good to know. Thank you.


If it helps I found melatonin wakes me up in the middle of the night if I take too much of it.


Do you drink caffeine? Discontinuing caffeine improved my sleep quality dramatically.


Can you share any more details about your life?


It's hard to tell if you're being snarky/sarcastic or sincere


Are there statistics somewhere on how many folks use an alarm clock? Every time I think I have a sleeping problem, I'm always harshly reminded of how different my sleeping habits are by virtue of the fact that I have never used an alarm clock. Something that it seems near universal among everyone else. (Though, I suspect it is just something everyone talks about. Hypothesis being that I'm in the majority, but there is just nothing to say about not using one.)


If I didn't use an alarm clock I would be unemployed.


I've trained myself (and reworked my daily schedule) to stop using alarm clocks. Incidentally, next week will be 4 years since the last time I used one. And melatonin has been one of my main tools.

Getting up by yourself instead of being jolted out of sleep is invaluable, especially if you do rest all the time you need.


Similarly, I haven't used one for more than a few months at a time for my entire life. Pushing forty at this point. I'll confess the winter months up here in Seattle can be tough. Sun isn't up til about 8ish, so it can be hard to realize what time it is.

In the summer, though, sun is up at 4:30. I don't know how folks sleep too late. Even when exhausted, sleeping past 7 is near impossible.


I never took it because I read a long time ago that it causes your body to decrease melatonin production long term. I guess that’s just a myth because people in this thread seem very positive about using it long term.


People in this thread didn't RTFA (top posts are addressing the title/subject of 'melatonin'), and generally the responses are anecdotal. Don't assume folks here know what they are talking about.


I don't think it is a myth.

I worked at a pharmacy for years before moving overseas. I'm not a pharmacist, but overheard pharmacist-customer advice for melatonin many times. While melatonin is one of the safer sleep aids, the pharmacists would always warn to take the lowest dose possible, and only take it while needed without a doctor's oversight because of the threat of decreasing natural melatonin production. It causes a sort of dependency on the supplement. It always seemed occasional use was OK, and generally safer than some of the alternatives.

I think these risks are why the supplement is a prescription here (Norway), and I fully agree with this.

It can still be better than the dependency on other sleep aids and have fewer side effects, though.


The best book on this topic (that I've read) "Why We Sleep" is uniformly against all kinds of medicine.

There isn't long-term effect after 6 months (I think) of any sleep medicine, according to certain studies. The effect literally "wears off", despite the subjective notion of the user.


In the long term, your body produces less melatonin as part of aging.


Melatonin is usually not (freely) sold in Europe while it can be easily bought in the US like vitamin pills or cod liver oil.

Is there a recommendable online option with international delivery?

(I don't consider the usual 'online pharmacies' recommendable. Even when buying Melatonin in a store in the US, there's still the issue that Melatonin manufacturers and sellers mostly control themselves …)


In the UK, it's not possible to buy over the counter, however it's legal to import from another country where it is legal. I've purchased it several times from https://www.biovea.com/uk/

The products I ordered definitely work so I think I trust them.


Thank you!


Huh. Melatonin is readily available in pharmacies and shops here in Finland.


I don't know why the parent said "Europe", unless they did a survey of all the laws. Drugs are mostly regulated at the country level.


You are right, my use of "Europe" was too broad.


Afaik, 5 years ago it was only available in the 1mg amount (which in the light of this article, would be good). I once ordered some online that was 3mg, and the customs almost fined me for illegal drug importing.


Biovea has all sorts of health supplements, including a wide variety of Melatonin (down to 1mg capsules or liquid form too).

They even have the more questionable supplements such as Phenibut.

They ship this to Denmark at least, though it's possible some products are not shippable to some countries if there are stricter local laws.


Are you sure? It’s sold in every drug store in the Netherlands. I usually buy 500 tablets of 0.1 mg each.


You make a blanket statement for Europe, but I know for a fact there are plenty of places in mainland Europe that will sell it OTC just about everywhere. In this case this is therefore not a super useful generalization.


If you want a pharmaceutical product you can try to buy products that have a licence. That would be something like Circadin - a slow release product.


I buy it from EBay UK, delivered to England (appears to be posted from England too).

It all disappeared for a while but there's sellers offering it again now.


There are sleeping tablets in the supermarket in Spain that contain it.


Melatonin has been a lifesaver for me after having kids and for a few other new parents I know that I've recommended it to. Somehow it allows you to get much more rest out of interrupted sleep.


Just a quick warning for those considering Melatonin before a flight or for adjusting to jet lag:

About a week before a long flight I decided to test Melatonin and took a single 3mg tablet (smallest dosage I could find at my local pharmacy) before I went to bed. My sleep quality seemed unchanged but right after breakfast the next day I had gastro issues.

I tried a 3 mg tablet again a few days later and had the same symptoms.

I gave up on Melatonin deciding it was better to be wide awake over the Pacific than stuck in a tiny airplane bathroom :)

YMMV but other folks online have had similar side effects. It seems a small % of people have gastro issues but if you're considering Melatonin I suggest a small dosage first (maybe 0.3mg as recommended by the article) and a test _before_ travelling!


Melatonin has also shown to help with certain cancers especially breast. Ref: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5412427/


No mention of the antioxidant properties of melatonin or its metabolites. https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ben/ctmc/2002/0000000... https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614697/ https://www.fasebj.org/doi/abs/10.1096/fj.01-0309fje

Or the fact it also appears to have an effect on mesenchymal stem cells. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1600-079X.... https://stemcellsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10... https://stemcellsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10...

Perhaps this is why its called Beauty Sleep?

I also wonder what effect on the sleep pattern these above affects have in the big picture of sleep?

Best sleep I have had in adulthood was water only fasting for 18days recently. The body seems to know what to do to repair itself, perhaps because ever cell has a copy of our DNA in it. There seems to be some knowledge in this DNA that makes cells know what to be and how to perform its individual cellular role for the bigger picture of being part of a body, a bit like individual humans playing their part in a society.


Some folks in the anti-aging community are taking it daily, not because they have trouble sleeping, but exactly because there seem to be a number of small health benefits of taking melaton8n that are not mediated by better sleeping.


It has also been shown that melatonin improves the efficacy of breast cancer chemotherapy.


I see lots of posts bashing melatonin.

I take 0.5mg/night one hour before bed and it helps calm my mind and get right to sleep. It also helps me with my reflux!


Melatonin is also an antioxidant. Does anyone know its effects on physical health?



I'm reading HN because I have insomnia after upping my Melatonin dose from 2.5mg to 5mg at the recommendation of my psychiatrist. I've never had the early morning jolt of energy until the last couple of days. Maybe I'll drop my dosage down to 1.75mg tomorrow. That's about the lowest I can get with these 10mg pills.


1.75 mg is still almost an order of magnitude higher than the recommended dose of 300 micrograms. Throw your pills away and get these instead: https://www.amazon.com/Sundown-Naturals-Melatonin-300-Tablet...


If I take 300 micrograms I feel groggy the next day. I do half and that's just right. It's crazy people are doing 3-10mg.


Ideally a bedroom needs to be so dark that if you hold you hand up inches away from in front of your nose, you cant see your hand in any way. You may also want to consider good ventilation in the room, if CO2 levels get up to around 700ppm which can happen in a few hours of going to bed, you will also wake up feeling less refreshed and groggy. Its why they have CO2 scrubbers in submarines and why people feel more refreshed when camping under canvas. Sleeping at the back of a large cave doesnt seem so bad now.


> if CO2 levels get up to around 700ppm which can happen in a few hours of going to bed, you will also wake up feeling less refreshed and groggy

source?


it only takes a couple days to lose your tolerance. if you have to use melatonin, try the smallest dose you can


According to the article the effect seems to plateau or maybe even peak at around 0.3 mg (0.3 mg being mentioned most often). You could try dissolving a pill and measuring it into 1/30ths.


As someone who works from home 90% of the time and sleeps/works in a room with a huge skylight, I've never had better sleep, energy, and overall "consistency" with my body. The most notable issues being that I actually feel sleepy when it's time to sleep, and I can fall asleep within minutes. I've never really experienced that before.

I used to work nightshifts with mostly light-blocking shades, and the only natural sunlight was the light that came in from the small gap above the room partition (I lived in a flex room/living room). That set-up was the worst.

I've had various life variables and combinations of them, but aside from the night-shift one, and obvious ones like constant sleep deprivation, it does seem like sunlight is playing the next-most significant role in helping to regulate my body and sleep.


That's ok if you're living close to the equator with a regular day/night schedule. But if living more towards the poles then you get extremes in winter and summer of how much light/darkness there is.


I always dream much when taking Melatonin, which makes the sleep less refreshing.


I thought that indicated REM sleep which is supposed to be the best type. (I heard that alcohol and pot do the opposite,so you have less refreshing sleep).


I have a very different sleep aid. A sleep headphone (a headband with speakers woven into that also serves as an eye-mask) combined with white noise (quality rain sound) served by an iPod. The white noise blocks outside sounds much better than earplugs, and the rain soothes me into sleep (always loved it when it rains outside and I'm in bed).

It has become a crutch for me, sometimes I do worry if I have become too dependent on that arrangement, but it works well. In summer the headband can get hot though.


Link to the headband product ?


There are a lot of crappy ones or overpriced, it takes some trying out to find a good fit. The ones I currently use are those: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleep-Headphones-Adjustable-Comfort.... Had also good experience with the provider, they eagerly replace broken headphones.


I will always sing the praises of Trazodone for dealing with sleep issues. It worked extremely well for me and my parents. It's normally used at very large doses as a last line for clinical depression. However at smaller doses it's an extremely effective sleep aid for some people. It also doesn't make you to sleepy like other drugs. It just makes getting to sleep easy.


What time should you take melatonin if you don't have any major sleep problems but want to improve sleep quality?


Roughly 30 minutes before I hit the pillow works for me. I use the normal melatonin (non-chews), but I suck on them till they dissolve in my mouth, because I hate when they get stuck in my epiglottis; you get used to the bitter flavor after a bit. I'm going to assume this is safe because chewables exist.


Why not just take it with a small amount of water?


Water isn't a magic lubricant. Pills still get stuck in my epiglottis with water. Usually when I take pills, I do it followed by a piece of bread and then water, but prior to bed I don't want to eat anything after brushing my teeth and the pill dissolves nicely, and like I said, I assume it's safe, because chewables exist (obviously other drugs don't work in a similar manner).


Ah. Have you tried butter, which would be a lubricant? And it would probably be relatively safe after brushing because of the lack of sugars.


Butter is delicious, but sadly it too lacks any fel or fey essence necessary for magicks.


I assume the answer would be the same times that are solving for delayed sleep phase disorder.


The but about th optimal dose being 0.3mg is interesting. I've been nibbling the corners of 3mg pills for years now, since the full strength always left me with a weird sleep hangover, or I would end up bolt awake but still sleepy at 4am..


I've been practicing mindfulness meditation for a few weeks. I'm in week four now, and I'm getting good results. https://palousemindfulness.com


What a great article. Explains why melatonin works for my wife for a short time but then stops working (dosage in store-bought pills is too high and stays in the system too long).


I occasionally use Melatonin to help me sleep on planes or adjust to new timezone, but I don't think it's a good idea to take it regularly.


I'm curious since this is currently apparently the highest-upvoted comment -- does OP (or any upvoters) have any (preferably reference-backed) reasoning for this?

Otherwise it's just an unsubstantiated knee-jerk reaction at the top of the discussion.

I take melatonin once a week or so but haven't noticed any detrimental effects, so I do have a stick in the game and would like to know about potential issues if anything is out there.


I don't have any studies to back it up, but I know someone who used to take it every day and she said it's harder for her to fall asleep without it than it used to before she started taking it. Naturally our body adjusts to anything that we ingest.


Anyone knows why Melatonin is available so easily in the US, but you need a prescription for it in Europe? (I haven’t asked my GP though)


My understanding is because it is sold as a food supplement in the U.S while the UK, for example regulates it as a medicine.

So its available for prescription for short-term treatment of sleep disordersm, with provisos such as:

"Melatonin’s metabolism is mainly mediated via CYP1A enzymes. Therefore interactions may occur between melatonin and other drugs affecting or metabolised by CYP1A enzymes e.g. fluvoxamine, cimetidine, ciprofloxacin and other quinolones, carbamazepine, omeprazole, oestrogens (oral contraceptives and HRT), rifampicin, theophylline and increase in blood pressure with nifedipine and reduced prothrombin with warfarin have been reported." etc.


No need for a prescription in France.


Nor in Spain. I've been taking melatonin for quite some time, and so has my mother. You just go to a pharmacy and buy it over the counter.


A friend of mine was on rotation in Sweden from the US and went into the pharmacy to ask for some melatonin to help with her jet-lag. She was very sternly told that she needs a prescription for that here.


You can get it in Mercadona's sleeping pills.


I guess it is dangerous in regard to driving ability and misuse. You need an approval from a doctor.


Thanks for the answers. Strange that different EU countries seem to regulate differently. And then I guess I can legally order it online from Italy, France, Spain or Hungary, and get it delivered to Germany. But not buy it locally...


No need for a prescription in Italy.


You don't need prescription for melatonin in Hungary.


anyone here tried breathing exercises to help with better sleep? i am noticing that at times when i am taking deep and slow breaths before sleeping, i have a dramatically higher quality sleep.


I don't know why but whenever I did the technique where I tense and relax my muscles I got nightmares.


Breathing definitely helps me with sleeping and also in many other areas.


A 20 minute meditation session before bedtime helps me sleep better.


Some related posts by the same author, some about drugs (SSRIs and Adderall), some about other topics: https://slatestarcodex.com/tag/much-more-than-you-wanted-to-...


It's always unclear whether you're reading crackpot or not especially around the nootropics crowd.

In this case the author seems to be a psychiatrist so he should be trustworthy: http://slatestarcodex.com/about/


A good multivitamin stack (for example, AOR Ortho-Core + Life Extension D & K in the morning and 4 Doctor's Best High Absorption Magnesium pills at night 5 days/week) is probably better than raw melatonin.


I have cut out sugar and caffeine for dietary reasons and my sleep schedule did not improve at all. I tried those red shift apps and they did not change my sleep schedule. The last few weeks I was not working on my computer late at night and got tired at a reasonable time. Now that I am back working on my side project, having interesting problems to solve (one more feature before bed!) and the bright screen, I am starting to stay up late again.

I notice when I do everything right I don't have a problem waking up before 8 hours. Normally I shoot for 8:30 and have trouble going to sleep and getting up. Also when I am in a good sleep schedule I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, use the restroom, meditate if I'm awake enough, then go back to sleep.

I am sad to say that with most of the other factors controlled, bright screens are the likely cause of my sleep issues. This is hard for me because screen is life.


I'm not sure I understand, but I want to: Do you become engaged in a project and fall asleep later because it's hard to drop the project, or do you become engaged in a project and use a bright screen and the screen causes you (through some screen-body interface mechanism) to fall asleep later?


It is unknown to me, honestly. Most of the time I am simply not tired, which I blame the screen for. When I do get tired I usually push it even later if I'm working on something good.


How long ago did you take out caffeine? I found it took a month for my sleep quality to improve, but once it did it was an amazing difference.


I haven't had any for a few years.


> This is hard for me because screen is life.

I find that a pretty depressing thing to read.


When I was working long hours at an startup. My sleep cycle got disturbed.

Here is what works for me:

1. Reduce room temperature to 25*C. Go to bed at 10:30pm

2. Automatically shutdown the airconditioner at 4:30am.

3. Jump out of bed at 5am without any alarm clock.

This habit continues in the month when no airconditioner is needed.


Reduce the temperature to 25C? What do you normally keep it at?


25c is 77f. That's way too hot for me. I need max 70, 65 ideally. With a blanket.


It seems you sleep 6 hours per day - way too little.

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