Melatonin For Sleep - Does It Work?

Melatonin For Sleep - Does It Work?

Key points: 

  • Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced in your body and controls your sleep cycle. It’s also responsible for maintaining body temperature, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels and keeping your body relaxed. Studies have found that melatonin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well.
  • You should start with low doses of melatonin and stick to the lowest dose that works for you. Taking high doses of melatonin can result in side effects like nausea, headache, dizziness, daytime sleepiness, and irritability. 
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid melatonin. It is also not recommended for individuals with autoimmune and seizure disorders and depression. This supplement may also make certain medications less effective. 

Melatonin is one of those supplements virtually everyone knows about since more and more people have trouble sleeping in today’s fast-paced world. In fact, it is one of the most widely used supplements in some countries, but if you want to use melatonin, you need to understand how it works and what it can and can’t do for you. Keep on reading to find out what exactly melatonin does for your body and how to use it effectively.


What Is Melatonin

Melatonin is one of the hormones produced in your brain that controls your sleep cycle. It’s produced by the pineal gland in the brain but is also present in your bone marrow, eyes, and gut. The production of melatonin depends on the availability of light. Typically your melatonin level will start to rise after sunset and remain high at night. In the morning, the level of the hormone in the blood drops, which forces your body to wake up. Melatonin production can be slightly off in winter when the days are shorter. It also decreases as we age. 


How Does Melatonin Work

Melatonin not only controls your sleep cycle but also impacts your body’s circadian rhythm or, in simpler terms, your body’s internal clock. This clock controls processes like sleep, waking up, and eating. This hormone also regulates your body temperature, blood pressure, blood glucose, body weight, and the levels of some other hormones. It also binds to certain receptors in your brain and keeps you relaxed. In addition to all of these benefits, studies have found that melatonin also has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. 

Its antioxidant properties can help to support eye health and lower the risk of eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration. It can also reduce acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux as it protects the lining of the oesophagus. Studies suggest that melatonin can reduce symptoms of tinnitus which is a condition characterised by ringing in the ears, and alleviate migraines. Migraines are recurring headaches characterised by severe pain or a pulsing sensation. Since melatonin can inhibit pain receptors, it can be an effective remedy for migraines.

Melatonin Supplements

Many people experience disruptions in melatonin production. They may be caused by circadian rhythm disorders among blind people or individuals who work in shifts, delayed sleep disorders (disruptions in the normal sleep cycle), and jet lag. Low melatonin levels can be caused by other factors such as consumption of caffeine or alcohol, smoking, and exposure to too much light at night. Taking melatonin supplements can help to alleviate these conditions. 

Melatonin supplements are available over the counter and can be either synthetic or natural and derived from the glands of animals. 


How to Take Melatonin

You don’t need to take a lot of melatonin in order to feel its benefits. You should also keep in mind that even if you take more of the supplement, it won’t work faster. It’s recommended to start with a small dose and gradually increase it if you feel that you need it.

What’s more important is when you take melatonin. For example, if you need to prevent jet lag, it’s best to start taking the supplement 3 days before your trip. If you work in shifts, try taking it at the end of your workday. 

Studies have also found that taking melatonin before going to bed decreases the time it takes you to fall asleep while increasing the overall sleep time. 

There are a few other tips that may make your melatonin supplementation more effective. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should try to minimise your exposure to artificial light. This includes avoiding using tech devices before going to bed and turning off the overhead light. You can also try sleeping with open curtains so that sunlight can signal your body to wake up in the morning.

Melatonin For Children

Melatonin is safe for children and can even help with certain conditions like ADHD and autism and promote better sleep. However, it’s up to a paediatrician to decide whether your child needs melatonin supplements or not. While it’s safe as a short-time solution, its long-term effects haven’t been studied. 


Melatonin Side Effects

Always keep in mind that taking melatonin at the wrong time may hamper your body’s natural clock. Melatonin is safe and non-addictive but may cause some side effects, including nausea, headache, dizziness, daytime sleepiness, and irritability. However, those side effects are only present if you take too much melatonin. Taking high doses of melatonin could disrupt your sleep cycle even more.

You should avoid using melatonin supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or suffer from the following conditions: 

  • autoimmune disorder
  • seizure disorder
  • depression 

Also, don’t use melatonin if you take the following medications: 

  • anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs and supplements
  • antidepressants
  • anticonvulsants
  • blood pressure medication
  • diabetes medication
  • contraceptive drugs
  • CNS depressants
  • Diazepam (Valium)

If you want to take melatonin supplements, it’s best to consult your doctor, especially if you have any of the conditions above or take any of the medications mentioned above. 


How To Take Melatonin

When taking melatonin, it’s recommended to start with a low dose, such as 0.5–1 mg, taken half an hour before going to bed. If you don’t notice any effects, increase the dose to 3–5 mg. Taking more than 5 mg of melatonin won’t help you to fall asleep faster or improve your sleep quality. Your goal is to find the lowest dose that works for you. You can also consult your doctor regarding the dose of melatonin you need and what form will be best for you. 

If melatonin doesn’t work for you after one-two weeks, talk to your healthcare provider. If it does work, you can safely take it for 1-2 months. After that, take a pause and see how your sleep cycle is. 


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Is it OK to take melatonin every night?

Melatonin is a safe and non-addictive supplement, however, it’s not recommended to take it long-term. The general recommendation is to take melatonin for 1-2 months and then take a break and see how your sleep is without it.

What are the negative effects of melatonin?

Melatonin is unlikely to have side effects, but if you take high doses of this supplement, you may experience nausea, headache, dizziness, daytime sleepiness, and irritability.

Does melatonin help you go to sleep or stay asleep?

Melatonin is naturally produced in your body to control the sleep cycle. It helps you to fall asleep faster, and melatonin supplements can be used to treat certain disorders, such as delayed sleep phase and circadian rhythm sleep disorders in blind people and provide some insomnia relief to the rest of the population.

How long does it take for melatonin to help you sleep?

You should take melatonin 30 to 60 minutes before you go to sleep as it takes melatonin about half an hour to start working. If you work night shifts, take it immediately after your shift ends. For jet lag, you can start supplementing with melatonin as early as 3 days before your trip.

Who shouldn't take melatonin?

Melatonin is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women and people suffering from autoimmune disorders, seizure disorders, or depression. Melatonin can also affect the way some medications work which is why it’s recommended to consult a medical professional before starting to use it.