New Studies Reveal Impact of Sleep and Melatonin on Physical Health and Disease Prevention in Adults and Adolescents
We all know how sleep deprivation can negatively affect health – impacting everything from our cognitive ability and immune response to heart function and disease prevention.
The studies, which recognized that the pandemic has fueled anxiety related insomnia weakening the immune system vital in combating a host of diseases, including COVID-19, revealed that not only has melatonin (a hormone released primarily by the pineal gland at night) shown to improve restorative sleep but also immune response – potentially providing added protection against COVID-19.
According to a Cleveland Clinic study, researchers found that “melatonin reduced the likelihood of study participants getting COVID-19 by 28%.” Among black participants, a population disproportionately affected by the disease, “infection likelihood was reduced by 52%.”1
The study further indicated that aside from potentially preventative benefits, melatonin may also help aid in the treatment of COVID-19 “due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.”
Another study found that taking melatonin to improve sleep in the two weeks prior to a COVID-19 vaccination could help ensure that the vaccine is taken amid optimal sleep conditions, when the immune system is at its best. And using melatonin for at least two to four weeks following receipt of the vaccine may enhance the body’s immune response to the vaccine and possibly increase length of time a person has immunity.2
If this information isn’t compelling enough, as COVID begins to increasingly affect younger population groups, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that insufficient sleep – common among high school students – is associated with an “increased risk for unintentional injury from drowsy driving crashes, sports injuries and occupational injuries.”3
The data showed that students reporting less than seven hours of sleep per night were more likely to report several injury-related risk behaviors than those sleeping nine hours or more.
The lack of sleep in both adult and adolescent population groups can be attributed to a number of factors, including anxiety, nutritional deficiencies impacting melatonin production, and over exposure to “blue light” affecting the body’s natural circadian rhythm (24-hour cycles that regulate sleep patterns and essential function based on sunrise and sunset).
Synthesized from tryptophan, an essential dietary amino acid, melatonin production can be impacted by nutritional factors such as the intake of vegetables, caffeine and some vitamins and minerals – though with less intensity than light, which is “the most dominant synchronizer of melatonin production.”4
According to the Sleep Foundation, blue light is a portion of the visible light spectrum that can affect alertness, hormone production and sleep cycles. It is emitted by LED and fluorescent lights, as well as many electronic devices. Blue light is the largest disrupter of natural circadian rhythm and melatonin production.5
It is important to monitor behavior and discuss changes in sleep and activity patterns with your physician to determine if inadequate melatonin levels and disrupted sleep cycles are compromising restorative sleep and protective immune system function. Melatonin supplements, dietary changes and behavior modifications may be recommended.
- Zhou Y, Hou Y, Shen J, Mehra R, et al. A network medicine approach to investigation and population-based validation of disease manifestations and drug repurposing for COVID-19. PLOS Biology. 2020. Doi.org/10.1371/ journal.pbio.3000970.
- Cardinali DP, Brown GM, and Pandi-Perumal SR. An urgent proposal for the immediate use of melatonin as an adjuvant to anti SARS-COV-2 vaccination. Melatonin Res. melatonin-research.net .
- Wheaton AG, Olsen EO, Miller GF, and Croft JB. Sleep duration and injury-related risk behaviors among high school students – United States, 2007-2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2016;65(13):337-341. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6513a1.htm
- Peuhkuri K, Sihvola N, and Korpela R. Dietary factors and fluctuating levels of melatonin. Food Nutr Res. 2012;56:10.3402/fnr.v56i0.17252.
- Newsom R. How blue light affects sleep. 2021 June 24. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/blue-light
This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not replace a discussion with your healthcare provider.
Dr. Korsh Jafarnia is one of Houston’s leading board certified, fellowship trained hand and upper extremity specialists. A member of Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, Dr. Jafarnia also serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Weill Cornell-affiliated Houston Methodist Hospital. Call 888.621.HAND (4263) for an appointment, or go to www.korshjafarniamd.com to learn more.