Neurobiology professor Dr. Andrew Huberman warns that melatonin may cause more harm than good.
Tossing and turning all night, unable to fall asleep no matter how heavy your eyelids feel.
In moments of frustration, it’s tempting to reach for a melatonin supplement to force yourself into sleep.
In this post, we will cover the potential risks of melatonin and safer natural alternatives recommended by Professor Huberman.
Let’s dive in!
Andrew Huberman Melatonin Problem
On the Huberman Lab podcast, Dr. Andrew Huberman has often zeroed in on a major drawback of using melatonin supplements to help induce sleep.
“The problem with melatonin is it will help you fall asleep, but it won’t help you stay asleep,” Huberman explained.
“Some people have this problem that they take melatonin, then fall asleep but wake up three or four hours later because it wears off.”
Huberman’s assessment rings true for many melatonin users.
The initial sleepy feeling melatonin provides is enticing and helps you doze off.
But in the early morning hours, as the effects dissipate, you often find yourself jarred awake.
Then you’re left fatigued yet unable to fall back asleep, doomed to toss and turn in frustration until sunrise.
Melatonin Impact on Puberty
Beyond just regulating sleep cycles, melatonin serves another critical function in the body – helping control the onset of puberty.
Huberman points out that melatonin not only makes people sleepy but also “interacts with other hormone systems” and suppresses “things like breeding and sexual behavior.”
This is especially concerning with chronic melatonin use in children and teenagers.
Having abnormally high melatonin levels throughout the day and night can negatively impact the delicate hormonal changes that trigger puberty.
Huberman cautions that this is a “potentially problematic” effect, indicating melatonin should be avoided as a sleep aid for adolescents.
Andrew Huberman Melatonin Alternatives
Given the concerns around melatonin, Dr. Huberman suggests safer natural alternatives to help improve sleep quality without the unwanted side effects.
One of Huberman’s top recommendations is magnesium L-threonate.
- Supports healthy sleep and recovery
- Better absorption vs. other forms of magnesium
- Developed in collaboration with Huberman Lab
This unique form of magnesium has been shown in studies to more effectively cross the blood-brain barrier.
Once in the brain, it activates calming neurotransmitters like GABA to reduce neuronal excitability.
By quieting down overactive brain activity, magnesium L-threonate makes it easier to relax into restful sleep.
This amino acid found in green tea has gained popularity for its sleep-enhancing qualities.
L-theanine increases alpha brain waves which induce relaxation.
It also boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine, leading to an overall sense of calm, less stress, and better sleep quality.
The recommended dose is 100-200mg of L-theanine taken 30 minutes before bedtime.
Apigenin is a natural plant flavonoid found in chamomile tea and certain fruits and vegetables.
It acts as a mild sedative to the central nervous system.
Apigenin binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain which regulate sleep and anxiety.
This helps quiet neural activity and enables drowsiness.
Huberman suggests taking 50mg of apigenin before bed for better sleep.