Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. It is produced in the body by the pineal gland and can also be taken as a supplement. For centuries, people have relied on melatonin to improve sleep quality. However, its benefits extend far beyond just promoting a good night's sleep.
Recent studies suggest melatonin has shown promise in various areas of our well-being such as mood regulation, immune system support, and eye health.1 It might even help alleviate symptoms of seasonal depression. Ongoing research aims to better understand its uses, optimal dosage, and timing.
In this guide, we'll explore melatonin's history, uncover its potential benefits, and guide you in choosing the right melatonin supplement.
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The Definition: Melatonin is a hormone humans naturally produce in order to regulate their wake-sleep cycle. Melatonin may also be essential in regulating the immune system, reducing inflammation, and relieving stress.
The Process: Melatonin is a more complicated supplement, as there are several sources of melatonin. Melatonin can be natural, meaning that it’s derived from the pineal gland of animals. However, the bulk of it is synthetic, derived from petrochemicals.
How To Take: The recommended dose of melatonin for those who are new to the substance ranges from 0.2 to 20 mg per day. As a supplement, not everyone responds to it in the same way. Take care to start with the lowest dose and gradually increase it until you experience the desired effects.
History: Melatonin was first discovered in the 60s, but studies in the 80s began researching the use of melatonin as a potential sleep aid. Today, melatonin supplements are quite popular, either being sold with melatonin as the main ingredient or combined with several other ingredients believed to bolster sleep hygiene.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is also found in small amounts of some foods, such as oats, rice, and barley. The production of melatonin is triggered by darkness and suppressed by light, so it is sometimes referred to as the “darkness hormone.”
The production of melatonin in the body follows a circadian rhythm, meaning that it is highest at night and lowest during the day. This is why melatonin is often used as a natural sleep aid.
In addition to its role in regulating sleep, melatonin has been found to have numerous health benefits, including the regulation of the immune system, inflammation, and the body’s response to stress. It helps protect against oxidative stress, which is linked to aging and certain diseases.
Melatonin is available as a supplement in various forms, such as tablets, capsules, and liquids. It is important to note that melatonin is not a sleeping pill and should not be used as one. Instead, it is used to help regulate the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
Studies in the 1960s and 1970s revealed that melatonin production is influenced by exposure to light. The release of melatonin is suppressed by light, particularly blue light, which is why exposure to bright lights in the evening can disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle. This discovery laid the foundation for understanding melatonin's role in promoting healthy sleep patterns.
In the 1980s, researchers began exploring the use of melatonin as a sleep aid. They found that melatonin supplements could help regulate sleep-wake cycles in individuals with sleep disorders, such as insomnia or jet lag. Melatonin was also found to be effective in promoting sleep in shift workers and individuals with irregular sleep schedules. Over time, the use of melatonin expanded beyond sleep disorders.
What Are The Benefits Of Melatonin?
Melatonin is believed to have a wide range of potential benefits, from improving sleep quality to reducing seasonal depression symptoms.
Melatonin can help you sleep better. Melatonin is released into the bloodstream in response to darkness and helps to induce sleepiness. Studies have shown that taking melatonin supplements can help those suffering from sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.2 It has also been found to be effective in treating jet lag and shift work sleep disorder.
When taken at the right dose, melatonin is generally considered safe and effective for short-term use. It is not recommended for long-term use, as there is not enough evidence to support its safety and efficacy for this purpose.
It can help reduce seasonal depression symptoms. Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that typically occurs during the winter months when there is less sunlight. Melatonin is known to regulate our sleep-wake cycles, and research suggests that it may also be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of seasonal depression.
Studies have found that taking melatonin supplements can help improve mood, reduce stress levels, and reduce the symptoms of depression.3 It has also been found to improve sleep quality, which can be beneficial in reducing the effects of seasonal depression. Additionally, melatonin has been found to increase serotonin levels in the brain, which is thought to be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of seasonal depression.
Human growth hormone levels may increase. Melatonin appears to have an effect on the body’s production of human growth hormones and other hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen. Studies have shown that taking melatonin can lead to an increase in testosterone levels in men and an increase in estrogen levels in women.4
Speak with your doctor before taking any supplements, as they can interact with other medications and cause side effects. Additionally, it is critical that melatonin should not be taken if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
It can help improve eye health. Studies have shown that melatonin can reduce intraocular pressure, which can help prevent glaucoma.5 It also has antioxidant properties that can protect the eyes from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Melatonin may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, which is a leading cause of blindness in the elderly. Furthermore, melatonin may be beneficial in treating dry eye syndrome and improving night vision.
It may help in the treatment of GERD. GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a chronic digestive disorder that is characterized by frequent heartburn and acid reflux.6 GERD can lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including chest pain, nausea, and difficulty swallowing.
It is believed that melatonin helps to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, which can help to reduce the symptoms associated with GERD. It has been found that melatonin can help to reduce the production of stomach acid, which can diminish the symptoms of acid reflux.
What Is The Right Dose Of Melatonin?
The recommended dose of melatonin varies depending on the individual and their age, health status, and the reason for taking it. Generally speaking, the recommended dose of melatonin ranges from 0.2 to 20 mg per day.
For adults, the most common dose is between 0.5 to 5 mg. Some individuals may need to increase the dose up to 10 mg or even higher. However, taking too much melatonin can have adverse effects.
For children, the recommended dose is much lower. It is generally advised to start with a dose of 0.3 to 0.5 mg. If the desired effect is not achieved, the dose can be increased gradually up to 1 mg. Melatonin is not recommended for children under the age of three.
When And How Should You Take Melatonin?
If you are planning to take melatonin, there are a few things to consider. The dosage and timing of the supplement should be tailored to the individual's needs.
Melatonin should not be taken during the day, as it can interfere with normal sleep patterns. The best time to take melatonin is in the evening, about an hour before bedtime. This is when the body's natural melatonin levels begin to rise, which helps to induce sleep.
When it comes to dosage, it is essential to start with the lowest dose possible and increase it if needed. The amount of melatonin needed to induce sleep will vary from person to person. Generally, the recommended starting dose for adults is between 0.3 and 0.5 mg.
Melatonin is not a sleeping pill and should not be used as one. It should only be taken as needed and not every night. Taking too much melatonin can cause side effects such as headaches, dizziness, and nausea. If side effects occur, the dose should be reduced or the supplement should be discontinued.
How To Choose The Best Melatonin Supplements?
Choosing the best melatonin supplements can be a daunting task. Here are some tips to help you find the best melatonin supplements for you.
- Make sure that you are getting the right dosage. Melatonin supplements come in a variety of doses, so it is paramount to find the one that works best for you.
- Consider the form of melatonin supplement you are taking. Some people prefer to take melatonin in pill form, while others like to take it as a liquid or chewable tablet.
- Consider the type of melatonin supplement you are taking. Some products contain other ingredients such as herbs or vitamins that may help you sleep better.
- Read the label and check the expiration date on the product. Always check the manufacturer’s website for any recalls or warnings related to the product you are taking.
- Remember to always consult your doctor before starting any new supplement or medication.
By following these tips, you can make sure you are getting the best melatonin supplement for your needs.
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Is melatonin a sleeping pill?
No, melatonin is not a sleeping pill. It is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body and helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle. While it can help you to fall asleep more quickly, it does not have the same effects as a sleeping pill.
Is it okay to take melatonin every night?
It is generally safe to take melatonin every night. However, it is imperative to consult with your doctor first, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications.
When is the best time to take melatonin?
The best time to take melatonin is about 30 minutes before going to sleep. This gives your body enough time to absorb the hormone and for it to take effect.
Can melatonin help with insomnia?
Yes, melatonin can help with insomnia. It works by helping to regulate your sleep-wake cycles and can help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
How do you know when melatonin starts working?
The effects of melatonin may start to be felt in as little as 30 minutes after taking it. You may feel more relaxed, sleepy and have a harder time staying awake.
Can I take melatonin twice in one night?
It is generally not recommended to take melatonin twice in one night, as it can cause a build-up of the hormone in your system, which can lead to side effects.
What should I monitor when taking melatonin?
It is critical to monitor your sleep-wake cycle when taking melatonin. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and that you are not taking too much melatonin. Keep track of any side effects that you may experience and talk to your doctor if they become severe.
Is melatonin safe for children?
Melatonin is generally considered to be safe for children. However, it is imperative to consult with your doctor first before giving it to your child.
- Malhotra, S., Sawhney, G., & Pandhi, P. (2004). The therapeutic potential of melatonin: a review of the science. MedGenMed : Medscape General Medicine, 6(2), 46. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1395802/
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2022, July). Melatonin: What You Need To Know. NCCIH. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know
- Tonon, A. C., Pilz, L. K., Markus, R. P., Hidalgo, M. P., & Elisabetsky, E. (2021). Melatonin and Depression: A Translational Perspective From Animal Models to Clinical Studies. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.638981
- Waldhauser, F., Lieberman, H. J., Frisch, H., Herckner, K., Crowley, W. F., & Wurtman, R. J. (1984). Melatonin does not alter human serum gondotropin and testosterone levels, but it increases prolactin levels. Pediatric Research, 18(11), 1228–1228. https://doi.org/10.1203/00006450-198411000-00166
- Gubin, D., Neroev, V., Malishevskaya, T., Cornelissen, G., Astakhov, S. Y., Kolomeichuk, S., Yuzhakova, N., Kabitskaya, Y., & Weinert, D. (2021). Melatonin mitigates disrupted circadian rhythms, lowers intraocular pressure, and improves retinal ganglion cells function in glaucoma. Journal of Pineal Research, 70(4). https://doi.org/10.1111/jpi.12730
- Antunes, C., & Curtis, S. A. (2019). Gastroesophageal reflux disease. Nih.gov; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441938/