Monash Health in the Media: Maintaining healthy sleeping habits

This month, Monash Health’s Director of Sleep Research Professor Garun Hamilton joined Channel 7’s ‘The House of Wellness’ program, to discuss the use of melatonin and healthy sleeping habits. 

Professor Hamilton advised that while melatonin has an important role to play in sleep, it may not be the best solution in the long term.  

“To understand how melatonin affects us, we first need to know what it is,” says Professor Hamilton.  

“Quite simply, it’s a hormone. It’s a chemical that’s released from a small gland in the brain called the pineal gland and its key role is to regulate our internal body clock (Circadian Rhythms)”. 

Professor Hamilton also explained how all cells in the body have internal clocks and change their function according to a 24-hour cycle through the night and day. Melatonin acts as a messenger to the brain and the rest of the body to synchronise these clocks.  

The body naturally increases melatonin levels at nighttime signalling to our bodies that it’s time to go to sleep. It then lowers melatonin production during the daytime and exposure to light.  

Taking a melatonin tablet can in some cases, help to break the cycle of a bad sleeping pattern by re-synchronising your body clock.  

It acts by focusing on our natural sleep mechanisms, compared to traditional sleeping tablets which switch off waking mechanisms, knocking us out into sleep.  

“In the short term, melatonin is safe, and side effects are generally low. Long-term effects are more uncertain; it is likely safe, but there hasn’t been enough systematic research into its long-term effects and safety,” Professor Hamilton says. 

“There are better ways to improve your sleep and in particular, behavioural strategies are the important aspects for most people with insomnia to focus on.” 

“The best treatment for insomnia is a coordinated range of behavioural-based therapies known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I).” 

“CBT-I is well proven to be as or more effective than sleeping tablets in the short term – but in the long term it’s much better because it essentially deals with the underlying cause of the insomnia, and it also retrains our brains to sleep more normally and naturally.” 

To watch the ‘The House of Wellness’ episode [09:15 – 13:00], visit: