Chapter 9


Medical evidence suggests that fascinating links between sleep and weight exist. 

Inadequate sleep:

Many hormones are affected by sleep.


Leptin and ghrelin work as a "checks and balance system" to control feelings of hunger and fullness. 

Ghrelin, (produced in the gastrointestinal tract) stimulates appetite. 

Lack of sleep causes Ghrelin levels to rise, which means your appetite is stimulated, and you desire more food.

Leptin (produced in fat cells) sends a signal to the brain that you are full.

Lack of sleep drives Leptin levels down, which means you don't feel as satisfied

Ability to Sleep


Melatonin is the all-natural nightcap. 

It's secreted by the pineal gland, a pea-size structure at the center of the brain, as our eyes register the fall of darkness." At night melatonin is produced to help our bodies regulate our sleep-wake cycles. The amount of it produced by our body seems to lessen as we get older. 

Scientists believe this may be why young people have less problem sleeping than older people.

"Studies suggest that... supplements can hasten sleep and ease jet lag, without the hazards or side effects of prescription sleeping pills." It may have many other uses and has been reported to make people feel better, strengthen the immune system, and reduce free radicals in the body. Current research is underway to determine it's effect as an anti-oxidant, immuno-modulator in cancer, delayed sleep-phase disorders, and jet lag. Tests are still under way so there is much to still be learned about it and its effects on the human body.

Researchers have found that Melatonin protects cells, strengthens the immune system and slows the growth of some tumors." Tests with laboratory mice suggest that Melatonin might also reduce the effects of aging . Even one milligram, the smallest commercially available dose, is at least three times higher than the normal amount in the body (3mg. is a standard dosage but higher dosages remain very safe) 


Certain people should avoid the use of Melatonin:

In tests on both rats and mice melatonin caused a significant 20% increase in their lifespan. 

If melatonin does allow you to live longer and healthier it could do so because melatonin may reduce free radical damage; stimulate an aging immune system; protect the cardiovascular system; preserve a youthful circadian rhythm; stimulate the production of growth hormone.

Taking small amounts of melatonin on a regular basis may prevent the age-related decline in testosterone levels, allowing men to be more active sexually in their later years.

Melatonin is one of the least toxic substances known. 

People have taken as much as 6 grams (600 to 3000 times the normal dosage) of the substance in carefully monitored studies with no sign of toxicity. 

The only consistent side effect of high doses has been drowsiness and a slower reaction time. In the most extensive clinical trial to date a high dose of 75 milligrams of melatonin per day was given to 1400 women in the Netherlands for up to four years with no ill effects. 

Melatonin should only be taken at nighttime, usually about thirty minutes prior to going to bed. 

If you are traveling on a long trip you may want to take a dosage prior to getting on your flight and a higher dosage pill prior to going to bed. If you commonly sleep during the night, melatonin should not normally be taken during the day - and vice versa.

Melatonin plays a distinct role in setting the body's daily clock

One of the most common and most troubling times we experience is when we or our children cannot fall asleep effectively. Autistic children appear to be especially prone to this problem, and it has been estimated that more than half exhibit some disturbance in sleep patterns. This suggests some form of deficit in the brain systems that normally promote sleep. During the past decade, great progress has been made in understanding the normal brain mechanisms that sustain restful sleep. Since a great number of sleep promoting substances exist in the brain and body, any of them might be deficient in the  neurological condition we call autism. Here we will focus on one of the major factors, melatonin, which is presently proving to be a remarkably effective natural sleeping aid not only for restless autistic children but also their often bedraggled parents.

As many parents have already discovered, that this natural sleep molecule is presently available over-the-counter at many health food stores and distributors (although the ever present danger exists that special-interests will succeed in coaxing the FDA into taking this safe and effective aid off the shelves, as has already been done for several other important supplements, most notably tryptophan). Of course, as with any powerful and effective substance, there are certain guidelines that one should follow to maximize benefits and avoid problems. 

The fact that melatonin can stabilize and promote normal sleep and daily bodily rhythms is presently certain. However, it is important to learn how to use this remarkably safe and powerful substance wisely. 

Within our bodies, melatonin is naturally produced within the pineal gland, a glandular organ nestled between the cerebral hemispheres. In that gland, melatonin is synthesized in two steps from the precursor neurotransmitter serotonin. 

Pineal stores of melatonin are typically released into the circulation when illumination diminishes. 

Melatonin does a remarkable number of beneficial tasks in the body: Not only is it a powerful inducer of sleep, but it also regulates a variety of other bodily processes ranging from brain maturation to the vigor of our immune responses. 

It has been found to retard the growth of some cancers, and it can also alleviate certain forms of anxiety and depression. When given in the drinking water, it has increased life-span in various experimental animals by about 20%. It also helps control the onset of puberty during adolescence.

Melatonin exerts many beneficial effect on the brain and body, but parents should be well advised to follow certain guidelines in its use as a sleep-promoting agent:

It should be given only once a day, about half an hour before the regular sleep-time. 

Supplementing with additional melatonin in the middle of the night may be effective, but can shift the biological clock in chaotic and undesirable ways.

Although melatonin is very safe a very small amount can go a long way. 

Commercially available preparations usually come in 2.5 or 3 milligram (mg) tablets, and a young child should do well on a third of this amount. 


Quality of sleep


Apnea literally means "cessation of breath." If you have sleep apnea, your breath can become very shallow or you may even stop breathing while you are asleep. 

This state of not breathing can occur up to hundreds of times a night in some people.

Often the person with obstructive sleep apnea is not the first to recognize the signs.

OSA is often first noticed by the bed partner or a person who observes the patient at rest.

Many people who have OSA have no sleep complaints.

The most common obstructive sleep apnea symptoms include:

Symptoms of OSA in children may not be as obvious. They include:

Conservative treatments -- In mild cases of sleep apnea, conservative therapy may be all that is needed. These treatments include the following:


Mechanical therapy


Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the preferred initial treatment for most people with obstructive sleep apnea.




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