If sleep is dogging your days, melatonin may be an effective solution. A hormone that is released by the brain’s pineal gland in response to darkness, melatonin makes us drowsy and induces sleep.
It works by synchronizing your circadian rhythms, which affect the release of other hormones in the body. Melatonin also has powerful antioxidant activity and has been shown to benefit cognition, immunity, mood, disease prevention, and body composition. It has chemoprotective effects and may protect against various cancer types, including breast, lung, liver, kidney, and brain cancer.
Studies show that melatonin is comparable to pharmaceutical sleep aids in improving sleep. Unlike prescription sleep drugs like Ambien and Lunesta, melatonin has the noteworthy advantage of improving cognitive performance and reducing grogginess upon wakening (1, 2). Supplementation can improve sleep onset, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency. In one placebo-controlled trial, individuals with insomnia who took 5 mg of melatonin nightly for a month fell asleep 82 minutes faster (3).
Melatonin is also a great tool for overcoming jet leg because it helps reset your body clock to the new time zone. When trying to advance the sleep phase, melatonin should be given 1-2 hours before 9 pm (4).
Melatonin may also help shift workers who have to sleep during the day. One study found that taking 1.8 mg of sustained release melatonin a half hour before going to bed improved daytime sleep quality and duration (5). Sleep was most improved in subjects who demonstrated difficulty sleeping during the day.
Who Should Try Melatonin?
Melatonin appears to be most effective in people who have difficulty falling asleep or getting restful sleep. It should be noted that it’s worth doing the little things that improve sleep before trying melatonin because this will set yourself up for success once you start supplementing. For example, if you are wired right up until bedtime, melatonin is going to have a harder time doing its work than if you develop a sleep-promoting routine: Establish a set bedtime, avoid screens in the hour before bed, avoid late night eating, and do something relaxing like deep breathing or meditation.
Melatonin may be most effective in older adults. Just like all hormones, melatonin levels decrease as we age with a steep drop off coming around age 45 or 50. This is one reason that older people often report increased trouble sleeping. Lower melatonin levels are also associated with increased risk of several diseases, including breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and obesity.
Melatonin may be most helpful in stressful situations: For example, it has been shown to help patients sleep following surgery, when dealing with an advanced cancer diagnosis, or when trying to recover from intense physical training. It is also helpful for people suffering from certain ailments such as children with epilepsy, developmental disorders, or dementia.
Who Shouldn’t Take Melatonin?
If you are on medication, especially antidepressants, blood pressure medications, diabetes medications, or blood thinners, you should talk with your doctor before taking melatonin. Women trying to get pregnant should also be sure to consult a physician (6).
- Melatonin should not be used by children under 12 years of age.
- Do not take melatonin when operating machinery or driving a vehicle.
- Pregnant women should consult with their healthcare practitioner prior to supplementing with melatonin.
How To Take Melatonin?
Most studies show benefits from supplementing from as little as 0.3 mg up to 10 mg a night. Higher doses have been tested and show no negative effects, but it’s reasonable to go for the lowest dose that has a benefit.
Melatonin should not be taken at any time except before going to bed at night. The one exception is if you are a shift worker taking it to sleep during the day. For non-shift workers, taking it during the day for a nap is not recommended because this could throw your biorhythm off.
If you have trouble staying asleep throughout the night, you may want to try a sustained release melatonin supplement that delivers melatonin over the course of the night. Melatonin is rapidly metabolized by the liver and it has a half-life of 30 to 60 minutes (this means that half of any supplemented melatonin is metabolized within an hour of taking it).
Fortunately, scientists have come up with a solution: Our Melatonin QSR has a biphasic delivery system that overcomes the body’s speedy metabolism by releasing 1 mg of melatonin immediately upon digestion and the rest of the melatonin (4 mg) over a 6-hour period to help you sleep soundly throughout the night.
What Supplements Is It Safe To Use With Melatonin?
Melatonin may go well with magnesium supplements to support the body’s rest and digest system.
Having optimal vitamin D levels are important for sleep and hormone balance and taking melatonin while on a vitamin D protocol is generally considered safe.
Taking fish oil with melatonin may have a protective effect on the brain by reducing the risk of peroxidation (damage) of omega-3 fatty acids.
Melatonin impacts the neuroendocrine system and may increase the sedative effect if combined with other nutrients, including 5–HTP, kava, St. John’s wort, and valerian. Therefore it is recommended that you speak with your healthcare practitioner prior to using it with these supplements.
Final Words: If you’ve made the effort to establish a relaxing sleep routine and still find yourself tossing and turning, melatonin may be a worthwhile sleep aid. Melatonin may be especially effective in older adults and those who wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.