I want to revisit my post of January 14 and add a few lines about sleep I just ran across in David Shields new book, The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead:
On average, infants sleep 20 hours a day, 1-year-olds sleep 13 hours a day, teenagers sleep 9 hours, 40-year-olds sleep 7 hours, 50-year-olds sleep 6 hours, and people 65 and older sleep 5 hours. . . By age 65, an unbroken night’s sleep is rare; 20 percent of the night consists of lying awake.”
This underscores my advice about a having a decent bed as we grow older. We might as well be comfortable if we’re going to be awake. That’s an expensive sleep tip, so here’s a cheaper one: melatonin (0.5-1 mg). One milligram is 40 times more than the body typically secretes nightly.
Melatonin is a hormone produced deep in the brain by our pineal gland. It helps regulate our circadian rhythms, including sleep. We make less melatonin as we age so taking a supplement can help keep life in balance.
The Mayo Clinic reports that, “the weight of scientific evidence does suggest that melatonin decreases the time it takes to fall asleep, increases the feeling of sleepiness, and may increase the duration of sleep.”
Melatonin has been shown to help with jet lag and suggested to help “delay the spread of cancer, strengthen the immune system, or slow the aging process. But these areas need further research.” Indeed, one comprehensive overview of melatonin studies concludes that melatonin isn’t effective in ANY of the instances I’ve quotes above, so go figure.
What is true is that melatonin is inexpensive and safe for short-term use. It won’t hurt and it might help.
Here are some other uses for melatonin, but you didn’t hear them from me:
For a good night’s rest, sprinkle it on the supper of an overly amorous spouse.
To stand out at work, dissolve it in the coffee pot and bring your own brew.
For parental peace of mind, add it to the punch served at all school dances.
To enhance a long plane flight, sneak it into the drink of a talkative seat mate (but don’t let the sky marshal see you).