Have you heard of melatonin? We usually hear of it as a way to induce sleep, however, did you know melatonin can be used to treat infertility?
Yes, indeed, melatonin is an antioxidant that can assist in reversing oxidative damage to oocytes therefore improving egg quality and improving the chances of conception(1).
Let’s take a step back and discuss what melatonin is. First of all, it is a hormone. We often think the only hormones floating around the human body are sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, etc). In actual fact, us humans create about 50 different hormones. One of these is melatonin.
When light levels begin to decrease in the evening, melatonin production will begin to increase. You will therefore become sleepy. Melatonin is important in establishing normal sleep-wake cycle rhythms, and is thought to also impact other circadian rhythms in the body, like the menstrual cycle(2).
In fact, we know that shift workers have larger impacts on their menstrual cycles due to melatonin production disruption(2). They can experience longer menstrual cycles, heavier menstrual bleeding (called menorrhagia) and more painful periods (called dysmenorrhoea). Shift workers also have a tendency toward early pregnancy loss(3).
Melatonin has other important functions because of its antioxidant nature, including improving egg quality. One study showed that melatonin supplementation improves oocyte quality in patients specifically with unexplained infertility, which then resulted in higher rates of pregnancy – up to 30% higher(1).
You’re feeling pretty curious about whether or not you should be using melatonin now, right? Fortunately, there are things you can do to increase it naturally. Melatonin production is suppressed by light exposure, which means that our habitual use of artificial light and screens late at night can seriously impact our natural melatonin production(1).
Here are a few tips to help:
- Dim lights and reduce screen time at night. I encourage my patients to set a bedtime alarm (you can set this up easily on an iPhone) 1 hour before bed. When the alarm goes off, so do the screens.
- Use certain glasses to boost levels. You can also look into blue-light blocking glasses as a way to increase melatonin production (Swanwick is the brand I have at home).
- Filter out blue light. I also use an app called f.lux on my laptop to filter out blue light at night if I need to work late.
Supplementing with melatonin is definitely warranted especially in known cases of poor egg quality. You’ll want to be sure to discuss this with your healthcare provider or naturopathic doctor to understand safety and interactions with your other medications and supplements, especially because higher levels of melatonin have been shown to suppress ovulation. You’ll want to be sure you’re getting the exact right dose for you.
To learn more about how you can support your fertility, or to book a virtual appointment with a Conceive Health ND, contact us today.