Most people I work with in clinic have trouble sleeping.  They either can’t fall asleep or they can’t stay asleep.

The first thing that comes to mind is Melatonin.

What is Melatonin?

It is a hormone produced by the pineal gland.  Throughout early life it is made in abundance and hence why babies and young children sleep a lot.

It is our sleep hormone as its excreted cyclically.  Its release is triggered in response to the darkness falling at the end of the day.  Its production is naturally stopped by the daylight in the morning or any other extreme lighting when it should be dark.  One of the big factors of melatonin production being delayed or inhibited is our obsession with screens and lights at night.

This hormone is more than just a sleep hormone.  It is the most powerful antioxidant that we know of.  It can help with blood pressure, immune support, and has a major role in production of estrogen and testosterone.

Should everyone take Melatonin supplement for sleep and general health?

No.  Supplemental Melatonin is not always necessary.  There are many factors at play as to why Melatonin production may have slowed down or is being impaired, not just screens and lights at night.

There are many things you can do to help maintain Melatonin levels without the need for supplementation.  In Australia Melatonin can only be prescribed by a GP unless it is a homeopathic preparation.  You can’t get Melatonin at your local health food store anymore.

One main group of people who probably do need help with Melatonin supplementation is night shift workers.


What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is our stress hormone and the hormone that gets our body up to face the day.  Its release is triggered when the first light starts to appear in the morning.  Cortisol and Melatonin work together. As one starts declining the other starts increasing its production as part of wake/sleep cycles.

Often Melatonin production is working fine, but our evening cortisol levels have not dropped as it should and can impair us from sleeping properly as this stress response hormone overrides what Melatonin is trying to do.

Daily routines to increase Melatonin naturally should be looked at first and addressing any imbalance of cortisol production.  Some simple ways to help your body maintain high Melatonin levels are:

  • Eat regular meals. As Melatonin production is dependent on a daily rhythm, eating around the same time each day can be helpful.
  • Don’t eat a huge meal at night. Digestion slows once Melatonin production starts. Heavy foods before bed may lead to digestive problems which will impact sleep.  Eating light meals in the late evening is preferred.  Eating at least 2 hours before bed can be key.
  • Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea, caffeine containing medications and soft drinks which can interfere with melatonin production. Also avoiding alcohol as this really messes with sleep.
  • Avoid exercising late at night. Especially vigorous exercise which will delay melatonin production.  Best results come from morning exercise outside in the morning light.
  • Avoid wearing sunglasses every time you step outside. Let your eyes see daylight to keep your natural rhythm in check.  We are often somewhat in the dark wearing sunglasses everywhere.  Making this change in my personal life had a profound effect!  I stopped wearing sunglasses around 2 years ago and have never put a pair on again.
  • Stop looking at screens at night before bed. Keep night lighting low with low voltage lamps or candles.
  • Watching the sunset go down. This is a great melatonin trigger.

If you try these things and feel that your sleep is still affected, I can organise testing to see what your melatonin and cortisol is doing (to actually see if you are melatonin deficient), or we can come up with a plan to balance out your cortisol and support your stress response so it’s not impacting sleep so much.


Megan Crockart is a qualified Holistic Nutritionist & a self-confessed foodie! Megan has a special interest in working with individuals with allergies, food intolerances, SIBO, eczema, pre- & post-natal health & children’s health. 
Balancing Nutrition. 

To book a consultation with Megan please click here.

References available upon request