105: Can Melatonin Help Itchy Skin (So You Can Sleep)?

Wishing you could get a better night’s sleep without waking up all itchy?

When sleep is compromised (or nonexistent) night after night, it can feel like you’ll never catch up. The cumulative effect of sleepless nights is maddening.

Clients in my clinical practice often ask me “How can I sleep better?

The truth is, there’s not one simple answer to that question. Ultimately you have to figure out what’s causing the issue in the first place.

But some supplemental aides like melatonin might be helpful for some.

I’ve repeatedly seen studies mention lower nightly melatonin levels in those with eczema. And how the use of the supplement could be helpful!

Let’s dive in together to see if melatonin could be helpful for you.

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In this episode:

  • What is melatonin and can it be helpful for someone struggling with itchy eczema?
  • Melatonin production tends to be low in eczema patients
  • Food sources of melatonin (more than just tart cherries)
  • How to naturally boost melatonin production
  • Thoughts on supplementing with melatonin to avoid waking up groggy
  • Who shouldn’t take melatonin


“33 to 87.1% of adults” and “83% of children with eczema” are dealing with some sort of sleep disturbance or difficulty staying asleep.

Melatonin is broken down by your liver specifically in Phase 1 of liver detoxification by the CYP1A2 enzyme (along with some others) to get it out of your system.

Woman sleeping after taking melatonin

Can Melatonin Help Itchy Skin (So You Can Sleep)? (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Welcome back to episode #105 of the Healthy Skin Show!

In today's episode, I want to talk about a hormone called melatonin and how can it actually help you get some rest at night if you find that you're being woken up in the middle of the night, super itchy.

Sleep, as you probably know, is really important!

When you can't sleep or you don't sleep every single night very well, it has almost this snowball effect on your life.

You feel awful. And when you then you can't sleep the following night, you feel even worse.

When this goes on day after day after day, you get to a point where you don't feel like yourself anymore. You're so tired that you almost can't sleep.

It's a very vicious cycle a lot of my clients complain about before we begin working together.

One critical piece of the puzzle in my book is to always normalize certain lifestyle factors that are causing issues like sleep.

Sleeping well is so important to feel well and feel/see an improvement in the health conditions that you're fixated on. And right now it could be eczema, psoriasis, whatever, but it doesn't matter.

I like to think of your body in this example as a computer…

As you keep it on and do things day after day, not ever shutting it down or turning it off, the processes get slower and slower. And the computer doesn’t seem to work as well.

That's why it's imperative that you shut your computer down. You’ve got to reboot it, right?

And the same goes for your body… we needed to go to sleep.

That sleep part is sort of like rebooting your entire system.

The reason that I'm talking about melatonin today is that people with eczema tend to have lower levels of melatonin production.

The exact reasons why are not entirely clear.

Either way, there's a lot of disruption in one's ability to go to sleep or stay asleep. Because there tends to be lower melatonin in this population, researchers are testing out melatonin as an aid to help people with atopic dermatitis sleep better at night.(1)

Woman having trouble sleeping

What Is Melatonin (And Where Is It Found)?

So what exactly IS melatonin?

That's a good question.

Most people know melatonin as a supplement to take if you're having trouble sleeping.

But the reality is that most people don't know what melatonin is, if it's safe and if it's even a good idea for someone with chronic skin issues.

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by your pineal gland made from the amino acid tryptophan.

It’s then broken down by your liver specifically in Phase 1 of liver detoxification. This portion of liver detox is also known as the P450 cytochrome system.(2)

The enzyme CYP1A2 is most responsible for breaking melatonin down (though there are other enzymes involved).(3) If you need a refresher on liver detoxification, check out episode #47.

Melatonin is meant to help you get into a deep sleep.

For a long time, it was thought that the only animals and humans made melatonin.

Since then, scientists have discovered that it is produced in other living organisms such as “plants, insects, fungi and bacteria.”(3)

Relaxing evening in back yard

How Can My Body Produce More Melatonin?

Yes, your body normally produces melatonin.

So before we talk about the supplement form (and if it's right for you), it’s critical to do whatever you can to support melatonin production.

When it comes to making your own melatonin, evening rituals are everything!

If you’re truly not in “wind-down” mode by the evening, it will reduce melatonin production.

Here are six important steps to take to maximize melatonin:(4)

  1. Keep bedtime and your wake time very regimented.
  2. Your sleep environment should be cool (not warm). Everything I’ve read says that 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit seems to be ideal.
  3. Block out the light from windows and devices.
  4. Consider leaving your mobile devices that vibrate or ring outside your bedroom.
  5. Add some magnesium to your evening routine.
  6. Limit or avoid blue light exposure at least a couple of hours before bed.

If you’re not familiar with blue light, it’s a particular wavelength produced by all sorts of electronic screens — computers, tablets, mobile phones, etc.

Blue light is highly disruptive to your body's melatonin production and exposure to it makes your body think that it's still daylight.

Watching TV every night up to bedtime may be hijacking your body's natural ability to produce melatonin. Your body thinks it’s daytime so melatonin production is suppressed.

Also know that watching TV or looking at your phone in the middle of the night because you woke up is probably not the best idea. In that moment, you're flooding your eyes with this blue “screen” light that tells it it’s daylight… not nighttime.

Look, I get it… I too live in the real world.

I'm not suggesting that you should shut off all your lights, shut off all electronic devices, read by candlelight, and go to bed when the sun goes down.

That's not what I'm saying.

But if exposure to blue light is a reality for you, then the next best option would be to purchase a pair of blue-light blocking glasses. These types of glasses block blue light from reaching your retinas which are a part of the system that tells your brain what time of day it is.

Foods that boost melatonin

What Can Help Boost Melatonin?

Boosting melatonin production is important especially considering that “33 to 87.1% of adults” and “83% of children with eczema” are dealing with some sort of sleep disturbance or difficulty staying asleep.(4)

Pretty surprising stats, right?

Well, if you've got your nighttime routine dialed in, but still aren’t sleeping well, it’s time to take things up a notch.

For starters, certain foods contain melatonin such as: (3)

Also keep in mind that tryptophan (which is what melatonin is made from) is an essential amino acid — meaning that your body cannot make it.

It must be consumed through food!

Foods that will help you increase your tryptophan intake include:(5)

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Dairy products like milk and cheese
  • Fish
  • Seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin and sesame
  • Peanuts

Perhaps some of these options could be welcome additions to your dinners!

But if food isn’t cutting it, then supplementing with melatonin is the next option.

Most studies that I've read that look at melatonin for better sleep use between 3 to 5 milligrams of melatonin typically taken about 30 minutes before bedtime. 

That said, it doesn't mean that you have to take that much even if it’s the recommended dose listed on the bottle.

You can always take less especially if you tend to be sensitive to drugs and supplements.

I'm also of the mindset that you should use the smallest possible dose of anything in order to get the desired effect because more is not always better.

Using a formula that allows you to start with a lower dose and slowly work your way up will probably be a better fit. There are some liquid formulas out there that can give you that kind of flexibility.

This is key because if you take too much, you can wake up feeling really groggy or even drunk if it’s too much for your body.

Woman with arm out saying stop

Before You Test Out Melatonin…

Before you start any melatonin, read this!

Yes, melatonin is natural, but it’s a hormone. It’s not a great idea to mess around with hormones unnecessarily.

I highly recommend that you talk to your doctor first before starting melatonin to make sure that it is the best fit for you.

There is a laundry list of medications that can interact with melatonin.

Also, there are contraindications for using melatonin including if you’re:(6)

  • On immunosuppressant therapy
  • Under 20 years of age (definitely talk to your pediatrician if this is for a child)

Or if you’ve been diagnosed with:(6)

  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Impaired liver function
  • Seizure disorder

And I invite you to consider a couple of things before you head down the route of taking melatonin.

Melatonin should not be the first thing that you try if you have trouble sleeping. 

Work on your diet and a consistent bedtime.

Power down from the “blue light” devices and use blue light blocker glasses if that’s not an option.

Try taking magnesium before bed to help you wind down.

My point is that you should do everything else first before considering melatonin.

And lastly, melatonin shouldn’t be your longterm solution.

Ultimately, supplementation is a bandaid.

Yes it’s critical to sleep so if melatonin works for you, wonderful!

But ultimately you need to work on the underlying issue disrupting your sleep in the first place.

If you have experienced using melatonin and you've tried taking it at night, leave your thoughts and experiences below!

Do you know anyone who is struggling to sleep at night?

Share this episode with them because if they could get a good night's sleep, imagine how much better they would feel and how appreciative they would be.

Thank you so much for tuning in and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode!

Woman reading reference book in library


  1. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/134/2/e397
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3001211/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5409706/#!po=0.196850
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323505.php
  5. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002332.htm
  6. https://reference.medscape.com/drug/n-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine-pineal-hormone-melatonin-melatonin-344545#5

“33 to 87.1% of adults” and “83% of children with eczema” are dealing with some sort of sleep disturbance or difficulty staying asleep.

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.

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