Sleep problems and insomnia plague many Americans. However, women going through menopause can experience amplified sleep problems due to shifting hormone levels. Menopause is characterized by a decrease in the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, but melatonin, another important hormone particularly critical to sleep, decreases as we age as well. Melatonin is well known for regulating your natural sleep-wake cycles, but research has shown that melatonin may also have a positive effect on your bones.
Bone remodeling, the laying down of new bone in conjunction with the removal of old bone, is controlled by different growth factors, minerals, cytokines and several hormones. One of the hormones active in the formation and re-absorption of bone is melatonin.
The production of melatonin affects your bones is several ways:
- Increases osteoblast production (cells that make new bone)
- Inhibits osteoclast production (cells that break down bone)
- Regulates bone metabolism through its interaction with estrogen, calcitonin and parathyroid hormones (system hormones that impact bone re-modeling)
- Has antioxidant properties that protect bone against free radical damage
Melatonin is a hormone released by the pineal gland in the brain with the darkness of night. Levels of melatonin begin to rise in the evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop off in the morning hours. Melatonin is an essential nighttime hormone needed to aid in sleep and staying up late at night or having inconsistent sleep-wake schedules can keep our body from producing melatonin. In postmenopausal women, it has been shown that going to bed at a later time, not getting enough sleep at night, and excessive daytime napping is associated with low bone mineral density.
A recent study suggests that supplemental melatonin can increase bone mineral density in the leg and the spine in post-menopausal women with early onset of bone loss (osteopenia). One year of supplementation with 3 mg of nightly melatonin resulted in improved bone mineral density in the neck of the femur in the hip as well as the inner bone thickness in the lumbar spine vertebrate. This study showed an added bonus of decreased fat mass and improved lean body mass as well. Although melatonin alone may assist in more restful sleep and aid in bone building, there may be even greater benefits when combined with other bone healthy nutrients.
This past January a study was published showing that melatonin in combination with strontium citrate, vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 (MSDK) had a positive increase in bone mineral density. In this study, 22 women with osteoporosis saw a significant improvement in the bone mineral density of the neck of the femur and lumbar spine after one year of supplementation of melatonin, strontium, vitamin D3 and vitamin K2. This combination of nutrients was shown to reduce bone turnover and normalize the bone remodeling process. The acquired increase in bone mineral density in this study was also associated with a lower risk for a major osteoporotic fracture. Although this study was small in number, the results support the use of the combination of melatonin, strontium citrate, and vitamins D3 and K2 for the prevention or treatment of osteopenia or osteoporosis.
If you have osteoporosis, there is a good chance that you are taking a supplement with vitamins D3 and K2, and perhaps even strontium. In light of this study, if you are struggling to maintain or boost bone density, you may choose to add melatonin as well. Although there is no data regarding the amount of melatonin needed to produce positive effects on bone, adding 3 mg of melatonin appears to be a safe and effective way to improve your sleep and strengthen your bones.
However, as with any supplement or medication, there is always a chance for intolerance or potential side effects. Side effects of melatonin are uncommon but can include drowsiness, headache, dizziness, short-lived depression, stomach cramps or nausea. Some people have reported side effects such as vivid dreams or nightmares when taking melatonin. Although melatonin appears to be safe when used short-term, there is a lack of long term studies so it is unknown if it’s safe for extended use. Consult with your physician first if you are considering adding melatonin to your supplement regime. If you are hesitant about taking a melatonin supplement, there are ways to increase your melatonin production naturally as well.
6 Natural Ways to Boost
Your Melatonin Levels
1. Improve your sleep patterns to boost melatonin levels at night by going to bed at a regular time
2. Make sure your bedroom is dark and free from artificial light from TV’s, mobile phones, bright alarm clocks, etc.
3. Make sure you get plenty of sunshine during the day to help promote a regular circadian rhythm
4. Be mindful of electromagnetic fields in your bedroom that can disrupt the production of melatonin. EMFs can be generated from anything that has electricity, as well as cordless phone bases, cell phones and other wireless communication devices
5. Incorporate foods that naturally contain melatonin or aid in production of melatonin into your evening meal or as a night time snack:
- Tart Cherries
- Orange Bell Peppers
- Turkey and chicken
6. Ensure that you are getting enough of these micronutrients which are important in the production of melatonin: Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin B6 and Folic Acid.
Beyond bone health, low melatonin levels have also been linked to a variety of other conditions, including Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and endocrine/metabolic disorders such as diabetes.
If you are struggling with getting a good night’s sleep, try adding a melatonin supplement into your evening routine.
My favorite melatonin brands are as follows and all can be purchased through Amazon:
Life Extensions: This supplement provides a smaller dose for those who want to start out slow, but is also time released which provides a steady supply of melatonin throughout the night.
Source Naturals: This supplement contains 1 mg sublingual tablets so you can better regulate how much you need. Additionally, the sublingual form is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the liver and allowing for quick entry into the system.
1. Wang, K., Wu, Y., Yang, Y., Chen, J., Zhang, D., Hu, Y., . . . Liu, C. (2015, June). The associations of bedtime, nocturnal, and daytime sleep duration with bone mineral density in pre- and post-menopausal women. Retrieved June 19, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=the associations of bedtime%2C nocturnal%2C and daytime sleep duration with bone mineral density in pre and post-menopausal women&cmd=correctspelling
2. Amstrup, A. K., Sikjaer, T., Heickendorff, L., Mosekilde, L., & Rejnmark, L. (2015). Melatonin improves bone mineral density at the femoral neck in postmenopausal women with osteopenia: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Pineal Research,59(2), 221-229. doi:10.1111/jpi.12252
3. Melatonin‐micronutrients Osteopenia Treatment Study (MOTS): a translational study assessing melatonin, strontium (citrate), vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 (MK7) on bone density, bone marker turnover and health related quality of life in postmenopausal osteopenic women following a one‐year double‐blind RCT and on osteoblast‐osteoclast co‐cultures
4. Liu, J., Huang, F., & He, H. (2013). Melatonin Effects on Hard Tissues: Bone and Tooth. International Journal of Molecular Sciences,14(5), 10063-10074. doi:10.3390/ijms140510063
5. Maria, S., & Witt-Enderby, P. A. (2014). Melatonin effects on bone: potential use for the prevention and treatment for osteopenia, osteoporosis, and periodontal disease and for use in bone-grafting procedures. Journal of Pineal Research,56(2), 115-125. doi:10.1111/jpi.12116