Dr. Dwayne Jackson

The Vital Science Blog

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In an effort to optimize physiological function, the body strives to regulate 24-hour sleep wake cycles via circadian rhythms (internal clocks).  The release of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone from the pineal gland (in the brain), helps to synchronize sleep and wake cycles to the body’s circadian rhythms. We all know that sleep is essential to athletic performance; but it cannot be overstated that getting consistent and adequate deep sleep is the single best recovery strategy for athletes. As well, sleep deprivation has been repeatedly shown to negatively affect aerobic and anaerobic exercise performance. 


Many behaviors (commonly carried out by athletes) can shift the body’s internal clocks—these include intense exercise, late night meals, and long distance travel. Since athletes are at particularly high risk of messing up their circadian rhythms, then many also run the risk effects of sleep deprivation, especially prior to important competitions.   


Melatonin, behaves as the body’s “circadian rhythms synchronizer”, and is commonly taken as a supplement to resynchronize messed up circadian rhythms. However, up to recently, there have been very few studies aimed at investigating the effectiveness of melatonin supplementation on sleep patterns in resistance-trained athletes. A recent placebo controlled study published in Chronobiology International tested the effect of melatonin supplementation (100mg/day) on the circadian system in resistance-trained athletes. For four weeks, volunteers (undergoing regular intensive weight training) were treated with either melatonin or placebo 30-minutes before bed. Daily rhythm of salivary melatonin was measured before and after melatonin administration. As well, measures of circadian rhythms such as wrist temperature, motor activity, and body position rhythmicity were recorded during the week before and after melatonin or placebo treatment. 


The researchers reported that melatonin supplementation positively altered daily waveforms of wrist temperature, activity and position. Taken together, the data illustrate that melatonin not only adjusts the circadian clock, but also to improves the efficiency of sleep–wake cycle in athletes. 


ACTION POINT: According to this latest research, you must take relatively high doses of melatonin to modify sleep-wake cycle. Based on this study, take 100 mg of melatonin 30-60 minutes prior to hitting the sack. This dose has been deemed to be well tolerated and safe in other studies. 


Leonardo-Mendonça RC, Martinez-Nicolas A, de Teresa Galván C, Ocaña-Wilhelmi J, Rusanova I, Guerra-Hernández E, Escames G, Acuña-Castroviejo D. The benefits of four weeks of melatonin treatment on circadian patterns in resistance-trained athletes. Chronobiol Int. 2015 Oct;32(8):1125-34. 

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