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  • Clare Reed CBT Therapist

Melatonin Your Sleep Weapon to Fight Cancer

Updated: Jun 28, 2018

Nothing beats a good night’s sleep when you have Cancer or are caring for someone with Cancer. Its restorative effects are legendary and yet even money can’t buy a good night sleep. The secret sleep weapon to fight Cancer, and it is free to all, is Melatonin – the sleep hormone. This little miracle hormone helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. It can’t be patented so there isn’t any prescription medicine containing it – you won’t find this in prescription sleeping tablets. Our body makes Melatonin itself. It does require a particular diet and environment to successfully produce a high enough quantity for the sleep you need.

Melatonin Your Sleep Weapon For Cancer
Melatonin Your Sleep Weapon For Cancer

Studies of Melatonin and Cancer have shown interesting findings:

  • When Melatonin is used in conjunction with chemotherapy “Over the course of one year, the chance of survival almost doubled from 28% to 52%” (published in the journal of the Danish Medical Association)

  • Melatonin can retard tumour metabolism and development by lowering the body temperature. Source

  • Melatonin regulates excess oestrogen levels and excess IGF-1 levels. Both can drive cancer. (Published on Cancer Active)

  • The IRAC (International Research Agency on Cancer) has deemed a lack of sleep as a carcinogen, thereby Melatonin is anti-carcinogenic!

  • Night shift workers have triple the rate of prostate cancer, an increase of lung cancer of 79% and bladder cancer of 70% (University of Quebec – American Journal of Epidemiology)

How to get your Melatonin levels up for bed.

The Right Environment for Sleep

Darkness is essential. I am talking about full on pitch black darkness. Even a small crack of light from a window or door is enough to sink Melatonin levels. Get decent black out blinds and curtains and shut off any other light emitters in the bedroom or hallway, such as lamps, mobile phones, glow in the dark alarm clocks and watches. Anything and everything that emits a light that you can control needs to be shut off.

Wifi also interrupts Melatonin so it’s a good habit to switch this off at night too. Us humans have only had electricity available to us to illuminate our world for a tiny proportion of time in our existence. Our bodies and circadian sleep rhythms have taken a real shock by allowing this artificial light into our system.

Before bed, make sure to start darkening down your environment up to 2 hours before bed time. That means using a small lamp or candles (non-carcinogenic ones) instead of a full-on room lighting system. If you like watching TV at night make sure the device you are using is at least 2 metres away from your face. If you are on your mobile turn down the screen brightness to its lowest setting but really if you can turn it off an hour before bed it will help your melatonin levels enormously. The same goes for laptops and pads.

Reducing Noisy Outside Factors

If you have noisy neighbours, is it possible to move home, If you can? After all why do you want to subject yourself to this noise on a nightly basis? It causes untold stress and angst as well as frustrating sleep. If you really can’t move to a quieter location invest in good quality ear plugs. If the neighbours are renters you could reach out to their landlord and ask for a solution such as soundproofing walls be installed (probably a long shot!). Unfortunately, sound proofing only works in blocking sound when placed on the wall that is emitting the noise so it will be up to them to do this. If you have another bedroom you can sleep in, away from the noise source, this would be a good solution too. Even if you find yourself in a single bedroom it is better for you than remaining in the noisy one.

If you are living on a busy and noisy night time road can you move? Along with disrupting Melatonin production there are other issues that can contribute to many cancers and poor air pollution is one of them. Air pollution can cause lung cancer. and is a factor in other cancers such as breast cancer. Your health is your wealth. Is it worth living where you do? Could an extra few minutes commute, living away from a busy be a compromise worth making? When sourcing a new place to live ensure it is at least on a non-artery road and a side road or cul-de-sac.

If you live near large electric pylons these will also disrupt Melatonin levels.

Eliminating Internal Noisy Factors

People who sleep with snorers and have cancer are up against it. Separate bedrooms are a solution for the duration of your cancer treatment. Likewise, if you are the snorer. Most snoring dissipates with weight loss and cutting alcohol out, but that can be a long-term solution. Right now, you need a good night sleep every night. If you don’t have a spare room how about investing in a sofa bed for the snorer to sleep on?

Young children are famous sleep disruptors for many parents these days. Being woken up by little ones creeping into bed with you at night will not help your recovery, even if it is comforting to have them there. You may want to seek advice on how to get your children trained to stay in bed – please note I am not an expert on helping children with this at all 😊

Pets on the bed or given free range to jump on and off the bed during the night will disturb your sleep quality. As with children you may need to consider if this behaviour is worth sacrificing your health for.

Sleep Diet – Naturally

There are supplements that contain Melatonin that are available in most countries in the world. Curiously they are not freely available in Ireland and the UK. They prefer to prescribe sleeping tablets instead which don’t contain any cancer cell fighting properties. If you can’t get them in your country and want to take them you may have to get clever with how you will get hold of them. Phone a friend or relative in another country and see if they can help.

One herbal supplement available on Amazon is Asphalia, made from particular grass strains in Wales (UK). The grass contains Melatonin and the product they have developed is targeted at sleep. I take these myself and attest to their sleep inducing properties!

If you don’t want to go the supplement way then food is the answer.

Melatonin Rich Foods for Sleep


Morello Cherries


Sweet Corn







Another food source for sleep is Tryptophan. Tryptophan converts into Serotonin that then converts into Melatonin and is found in lots of food.

Tryptophan Foods for Sleep




Nuts – almonds, peanuts, cashews

Seeds – flax, sesame, pumpkin


Fish – tuna, halibut, sardines, cod, shrimp, salmon


Dried dates




Vegetables – Pumpkin, spinach, broccoli, onions, seaweed

*If you are on an anti-inflammatory diet or alkaline diet then meat, fish and dairy sources are not the best foods for Tryptophan for you. Prioritise the anti-inflammatory food groups instead.

Old Wives Tale - Sleep Trick

The famous old wives tale of eating an oatmeal cookie and a warm glass of milk before bed isn’t too far off the mark. If you eat a small complex carbohydrate about an hour before bed and a small glass of warm full fat milk it will help you sleep. I would omit sugar from this so a tiny bowl of plain oatmeal porridge made with milk – say 4 desert spoons would be sufficient for this purpose. Or a plain oatmeal cookie/biscuit (no sugar) with a small glass of milk. Oatmeal contains Melatonin and Tryptophan!

Ensuring your meals throughout the day are peppered with both Melatonin and Tryptophan sources is ideal.

Exercise for Sleep

Of course, exercise is a must. Exercise produces Serotonin amongst many other health-giving properties. Serotonin helps produce Melatonin. But make sure the exercise is earlier in the day rather than later otherwise it will stimulate and energise you, making it difficult to sleep.

If you want more help with sleep there are fantastic CBT techniques I can help you with. Particularly mind calming techniques. Being worried and anxious will also block melatonin production, as your adrenal glands will be firing on all cylinders, making you restless and disrupting sleep.

Sleep is a priority and CBT is the first port of call for most Doctor referrals for insomnia. Particularly if a patient doesn’t want to go on medication for it. Don’t hesitate to get in touch or book an appointment now.

If you have any other helpful tips for sleep during Cancer please contribute them below to help others who need help in this area. Every tip helps!

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