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  • Writer's pictureAshley T

Why We Need Melatonin For Sleep

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

The hormone melatonin, sometimes known as the sleep hormone, plays a crucial role in the body's sleep-wake cycle. The body's circadian rhythm is oriented by its production, which rises with the onset of nighttime darkness.

Although melatonin is produced by the body naturally, researchers and the general public are becoming more interested in using external melatonin sources, such as liquids or pills, to help with sleep issues. Melatonin is marketed as a dietary supplement in the United States, and according to a 2012 National Institutes of Health survey, it is one of the supplements that both adults and children use the most frequently.

Melatonin has been shown in studies to occasionally enhance sleep, but not always. The potential advantages and disadvantages of melatonin should be carefully considered. Melatonin supplement users should be knowledgeable about dose concerns and supplement quality issues.


What Is Melatonin

The pineal gland in the brain creates the hormone melatonin, which is then released into the bloodstream. The pineal gland produces melatonin while it is dark, but stops doing so when it is light. Melatonin assists in regulating the circadian rhythm and synchronizing the sleep-wake cycle with the length of the day. As a result, it makes it easier to fall asleep and encourages regular, good sleep.

Endogenous melatonin is the term for melatonin produced by the body; however, the hormone can also be produced outside the body. Exogenous melatonin is frequently offered as a dietary supplement in the form of a tablet, capsule, chewable, liquid, or patch and is typically produced synthetically in a laboratory.

It is common to wonder if taking melatonin pills will help with sleep issues because it is well known that the melatonin your body produces is essential for having good sleep.

Melatonin supplements may be helpful in some circumstances for both adults and children, according to research so far.


Melatonin appears to have the greatest potential benefits in adults who struggle with sleep issues brought on by delayed sleep-wake phase disorder and jet lag.

With delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, a person's sleep schedule is moved later than usual, frequently by a few hours. When persons with this "night owl" pattern must get up early in the morning for obligations like work or school, it might be difficult for them to obtain enough sleep. People with delayed sleep-wake phase disorder may be able to move their sleep cycle ahead by taking low doses of melatonin before going to bed, according to studies.

People who work shifts, or in the early morning or late hours, frequently experience sleep problems because of an unbalanced circadian rhythm. Although some people claim a benefit, studies on melatonin in shift workers have yielded conflicting results.

It is debatable if melatonin is advantageous for otherwise healthy adults who experience insomnia, a persistent disorder characterized by difficulty falling or staying asleep. The current body of research is inconclusive. While organizations like the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) have come to the conclusion that there is not enough scientific support for melatonin in treating insomnia, some specialists analyzing it find some evidence in favor of it.

Even while its benefits may not be fully understood, some people with sleeping issues may be tempted to try melatonin because it generally has few noticeable adverse effects in adults. The best course of action is to speak with a doctor and have a thorough discussion about the advantages and disadvantages before taking melatonin.


How To Improve Sleep Naturally

Taking steps to establish sound sleeping habits can help people who have sleep issues. Even if melatonin provides comfort, making your sleeping environment and routines better will improve the quality of your sleep.

1. Improve Sleep Hygiene: The term "sleep hygiene" refers to practices that influence sleep quality positively or negatively. Healthy sleep hygiene recommendations include having a peaceful, pleasant bedroom environment that is conducive to relaxation, going to bed and waking up at the same times every day, and abstaining from coffee and alcohol in the hours before bed. Purchasing fresh bedding and a nicer mattress may also be beneficial.

2. Reducing Screen Time: The screens on smartphones, tablets, televisions, and laptops all generate blue light, which can disrupt the circadian rhythm that controls your sleep cycle. Reducing your time spent in front of screens has been linked to easier sleep, according to studies.

3. Quick Naps: People who are sleep deprived can catch up on their recommended amount of sleep each day by napping. Long naps, though, may make it more challenging for you to doze off when it's time for bed. The best naps are those that last between 10 and 20 minutes since they are just long enough to make you feel rejuvenated afterward without letting you into the deeper phases of sleep.

4. Consult Your Doctor: The presence of an underlying sleep disorder can also be determined by discussing melatonin and sleep issues with a doctor. For instance, talking about sleep problems or being overly tired may reveal a condition like sleep apnea. Although melatonin is not a treatment for sleep apnea, working with the doctor in this situation can result in more effective and appropriate treatments.


Does Melatonin Have Side Effects?

Melatonin has relatively minimal negative effects when used for a brief period of time, and most users report that it is well tolerated. Daytime drowsiness, headaches, and dizziness are the most often reported side effects, however only a tiny minority of melatonin users suffer these.

The short-term negative effects that have been described in youngsters are similar to those in adults. When using melatonin, some kids may get agitated or develop an elevated risk of bedwetting.

Before taking melatonin, both adults and children should speak with a doctor to avoid any potential allergic reactions or dangerous drug combinations. Ask your doctor about possible drug interactions, especially if you take blood thinners or anti-epileptic drugs.

It is recommended for dementia patients not to use melatonin as there is limited evidence to support its safety in pregnant or nursing women.

The long-term consequences of melatonin supplementation on kids or adults are also largely unknown. There is some worry that long-term melatonin use may have an impact on when children begin to go through puberty, but the evidence is still ambiguous. People should often discuss utilizing melatonin, the quality of their sleep, and general health with their doctor because the long-term implications are unknown.


How Much Melatonin Should I Take?

Although most specialists recommend avoiding excessively high quantities, there is disagreement over the ideal melatonin dosage. A common supplement dose ranges from 1 to 5 milligrams, although whether this is right for a particular person will depend on things like their age and sleep issues. One milligram is equal to 1,000 micrograms when melatonin products offer dosages in micrograms.

When melatonin is used as a sleep aid, some persons develop daytime tiredness. If this happens to you, your dosage might be too high. It is advised to start with the lowest dosage and progressively increase it while being monitored by your doctor.

For children, doses exceeding 5 milligrams are not advised. Depending on the identified sleep disorder, typical doses for children start at 1 to 2 milligrams. Reduced doses may be effective in young people, and some studies have indicated that adults may also benefit from smaller doses.

Melatonin levels in the blood can be significantly greater than what the body typically produces thanks to oral supplementation. For instance, doses of 1 to 10 milligrams can increase melatonin concentrations by up to 60 times the normal range. Because of this, melatonin users should exercise caution while taking excessive amounts.

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