Melatonin And It’s Role In Helping You Sleep

February 1, 2023

Hey there! If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, you might have heard about melatonin – a hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. It’s often called the “sleep hormone” for this reason. You can find melatonin supplements at your local drugstore or online, and they’re becoming increasingly popular as a natural way to improve sleep. But melatonin isn’t just for sleep – it’s also been linked to other potential health benefits, like reducing the risk of certain types of cancer and helping with jet lag. In this article, we’ll dive into the world of melatonin and talk about its various uses, as well as any potential risks to be aware of. So grab your coziest blanket and let’s get started!

Hand with pen drawing the chemical formula of melatonin.

The Role of Melatonin in Regulating Sleep

Melatonin is often called the “sleep hormone”.

But what exactly does melatonin do, and how does it help us sleep?

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain that helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Its levels naturally rise and fall throughout the day in response to changes in light exposure. When it gets dark outside and the sun goes down, your body’s production of melatonin increases, making you feel tired and helping you fall asleep. As the sun comes up and it gets lighter outside, your body’s production of melatonin decreases, helping you to wake up and stay alert during the day.

This process is known as the body’s circadian rhythm, and is an important part of your sleep hygiene. It helps to ensure that you are awake and alert during the day and asleep at night. Disruptions to the body’s natural circadian rhythm can lead to problems with sleep, such as insomnia or difficulty falling asleep.

Melatonin supplements are often used to help people with insomnia or other sleep disorders fall asleep more easily. They can be taken orally in the form of a pill or liquid, or they can be applied topically as a cream or gel. Melatonin supplements may be particularly helpful for people who have irregular sleep schedules, such as shift workers or people who frequently travel across time zones.

What Are The Benefits of Melatonin Supplementation?

Melatonin supplementation has been linked to a number of potential health benefits, including:

Improved Sleep

Obviously, the most well-known use of melatonin has been to help people sleep. Melatonin supplements are often used to help people with insomnia or other sleep disorders fall asleep more easily. They can be taken orally in the form of a pill or liquid, or they can be applied topically as a cream or gel. Melatonin supplements may be particularly helpful for people who have irregular sleep schedules, such as shift workers.

Alleviation of Jet Lag

When you travel across time zones, your body’s natural circadian rhythm can become disrupted, leading to fatigue, insomnia, and other symptoms. Taking a melatonin supplement before bedtime at your destination can help your body adjust its sleep-wake cycle to the new time zone more quickly.

Reduced Risk of Certain Types of Cancer

Some studies have found that melatonin may help to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer. This is thought to be due, in part, to melatonin’s ability to act as an antioxidant and protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

Other Potential Health Benefits

In addition to the benefits listed above, melatonin has also been studied for its potential effects on other health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and Parkinson’s disease. However, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of melatonin and determine appropriate dosages.

The Potential Risks and Side Effects of Melatonin

Melatonin is generally considered safe, but it can cause some side effects in some people, including:

  • Dizziness: Some people may experience dizziness after taking melatonin, which can be particularly problematic if they need to drive or operate heavy machinery.
  • Headaches: Some people may experience headaches after taking melatonin.
  • Nausea: Some people may experience nausea after taking melatonin, which can be accompanied by vomiting and stomach cramps.
  • Other side effects: In rare cases, melatonin may cause allergic reactions, such as hives or difficulty breathing. It may also interfere with blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.

It is important to note that melatonin may also interact with certain medications and supplements. For example, it may interfere with blood pressure medications, blood thinners, and antidepressants. It may also interact with caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.

It is always a good idea to speak with a healthcare provider before taking melatonin or any other supplement. They can help you to understand the potential risks and side effects and determine whether melatonin is right for you.

Are There Natural Sources of Melatonin?

Supplements are not the only source of melatonin. There are some natural sources of melatonin that may help to boost your body’s natural production of this hormone. 

These include:

  • Tart cherries: Tart cherries are a good source of melatonin and are also high in antioxidants.
  • Walnuts: Walnuts are a good source of melatonin and are also high in healthy fats, protein, and fiber.
  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a good source of melatonin and are also high in vitamins and minerals.
  • Other foods: Other foods that may contain small amounts of melatonin include oats, barley, rice, corn, ginger, and sweet potatoes.

Can Natural Sources of Melatonin Help Me to Sleep Better?

There is some evidence to suggest that natural sources of melatonin, such as tart cherries, walnuts, and tomatoes, may help to boost your body’s natural production of this hormone. However, although these foods are recommended for better sleep cycles, it is not clear whether these foods provide enough melatonin to have a significant effect on sleep.

Melatonin supplements are generally considered a more reliable way to increase your body’s production of melatonin and improve sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping, it is always a good idea to speak with a healthcare provider to discuss your options. They can help you to understand the potential risks and side effects of melatonin and determine whether it is right for you.

In addition to taking melatonin supplements, there are other lifestyle changes that you can make to improve your sleep, such as establishing a consistent sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and avoiding screens and caffeine before bed. Making these changes can help to improve the quality of your sleep and make it easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.

Frequently Asked Questions About Melatonin

Here are some frequently asked questions about melatonin:

What is melatonin and what does it do?

Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It helps to regulate sleep-wake cycles and is often referred to as the “sleep hormone.”

How does melatonin help with sleep?

Melatonin is produced by the body in response to changes in light exposure. Its levels naturally rise and fall throughout the day, with levels being highest at night when it is dark. Melatonin helps to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle and can make you feel tired, making it easier to fall asleep.

Who can benefit from taking melatonin?

Melatonin supplements may be helpful for people with insomnia or other sleep disorders, as well as for people who have irregular sleep schedules, such as shift workers or people who frequently travel across time zones. Melatonin may also be helpful for people with certain health conditions, such as anxiety or depression.

Are there any risks or side effects associated with taking melatonin?

While melatonin is generally considered safe, it can cause some side effects, such as dizziness, headaches, and nausea. It may also interact with certain medications and supplements, so it is important to speak with a healthcare provider before using melatonin.

Can I get melatonin naturally from food?

Yes, some foods, such as tart cherries, walnuts, and tomatoes, contain small amounts of melatonin. However, it is not clear whether these foods provide enough of the hormone to have a significant effect on sleep. Melatonin supplements are generally considered a more reliable way to increase your body’s production of melatonin.

Is it safe to take melatonin every night?

In general, melatonin is considered safe when taken at recommended dosages for short periods of time. However, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider before taking melatonin or any other supplement on a regular basis, as they can help you to understand the potential risks and side effects and determine whether melatonin is right for you.

Can I take melatonin if I have a history of depression or anxiety?

Melatonin may be helpful for people with anxiety or depression, as it can help to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle and improve sleep quality. However, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider before taking melatonin if you have a history of depression or anxiety, as it may interact with certain medications or worsen symptoms in some people.

Can melatonin cause weight gain?

There is no evidence to suggest that melatonin causes weight gain. However, poor sleep quality has been linked to weight gain and other health problems, so improving your sleep with melatonin or other means may have indirect effects on your weight. It is important to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine in addition to getting good quality sleep to support overall health and well-being.

Will taking melatonin make me feel drowsy in the morning?

Melatonin supplements are generally taken to help people fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. However, some people may experience drowsiness or “hangover” effects the next morning after taking melatonin. This is more likely to occur if you take a higher dosage of melatonin than recommended or if you have a sensitivity to the hormone.

If you are experiencing drowsiness or other side effects after taking melatonin, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider. They can help you to determine the cause of your symptoms and recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

In general, it is a good idea to start with the lowest dosage of melatonin that is effective for you and to take it only as needed. This can help to minimize the risk of side effects and ensure that you are getting the most benefit from the supplement.

Is melatonin safe to take while pregnant?

There is limited research on the safety of melatonin use during pregnancy. Some studies have suggested that melatonin may be safe to use during pregnancy, while others have not found it to be effective in improving sleep.

It is generally recommended that pregnant women avoid taking supplements, including melatonin, unless they are specifically recommended by a healthcare provider. This is because the safety of supplements during pregnancy is not always clear and they may interact with certain medications or have other potential risks.

Who should avoid taking melatonin?

Melatonin is generally considered safe, but there are some people who should avoid taking it or use it with caution. These include:

  1. Children and adolescents: Melatonin may interfere with the natural development of the brain and endocrine system in children and adolescents, so it is generally not recommended for use in this age group.
  2. People with bleeding disorders: Melatonin may interfere with blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.
  3. People taking certain medications: Melatonin may interact with certain medications, including blood pressure medications, blood thinners, and antidepressants. It is important to speak with a healthcare provider before taking melatonin if you are taking any medications.
  4. People with autoimmune disorders: Some studies have suggested that melatonin may worsen symptoms in people with autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  5. People with epilepsy: Melatonin may increase the risk of seizures in people with epilepsy.

It is important to speak with a healthcare provider before taking melatonin or any other supplement. They can help you to understand the potential risks and side effects and determine whether melatonin is right for you.

What happens if you take melatonin every night?

Melatonin is generally considered safe when taken at recommended dosages for short periods of time. However, taking melatonin every night may not be necessary or appropriate for everyone, and it is important to speak with a healthcare provider before taking melatonin or any other supplement on a regular basis.

There is limited research on the long-term effects of taking melatonin every night, but some studies have suggested that it may interfere with the body’s natural production of the hormone and cause dependence. This can lead to problems with sleep when the supplement is stopped.

In addition, taking melatonin every night may cause side effects, such as dizziness, headaches, and nausea. It may also interact with certain medications and supplements, so it is important to speak with a healthcare provider before using melatonin.

Overall, it is a good idea to use melatonin only as needed and to follow the dosage recommendations provided by a healthcare provider or the manufacturer. This can help to minimize the risk of side effects and ensure that you are getting the most benefit from the supplement.

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