Melatonin 101 | Everything you Need to Know
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain in response to darkness. This hormone helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, which is our 24-hour internal clock. When melatonin is released, it produces feelings of tiredness and prepares us for sleep.
Melatonin is also used as a dietary supplement to support their sleep. Melatonin supplements can be made from animals or microorganisms but are often produced synthetically.
In this article, we are going to discuss melatonin supplements in detail.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone in the body that plays a role in sleep. The production and release of melatonin in the brain increase when it is dark and decreases when it is light. This hormone plays a vital role in regulating our body’s circadian rhythm. Exposure to light at night, such as the blue light emitted from electronics, can interfere with melatonin production and contribute to insomnia.
Melatonin is also available as a supplement, usually as an oral tablet or capsule. Most melatonin supplements are synthetically made in a lab, though some can be extracted from animals or microorganisms. People usually take melatonin to help them fall asleep easier.
What Does Melatonin Do?
As a supplement, melatonin promotes sleep and provides insomnia relief. In addition, melatonin inhibits signals in the brain that promote wakefulness, which helps encourage sleep by making you feel more tired. Melatonin supplements are often used to treat a variety of sleep issues. They are considered safe for short-term use, but there are some concerns with long-term use, especially around creating a dependency on melatonin supplements for sleep.
Does Melatonin Work?
Many people wonder if melatonin supplements work. While every supplement will affect people differently, studies on melatonin have shown that it works better than a placebo to improve the time to fall asleep and total sleep quality.
How Long Does It Take for Melatonin to Work?
Exactly how long it takes for melatonin to work may vary from person to person. There is not an exact time that it causes you to fall asleep. Instead, melatonin inhibits signals in the brain that make you awake and alert, so it gradually creates a feeling of drowsiness and tiredness in the body. How long it takes to fall asleep can vary from person to person.
In general, however, melatonin typically starts working after 30 minutes, when the melatonin levels in your blood rise. Because of this, it is often recommended to take melatonin 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. That being said, the best time to take a melatonin supplement will vary from person to person, as each body is different and may absorb supplements at different rates.
How Long Does Melatonin Last?
After taking a melatonin supplement, the melatonin levels in your blood will increase, making you feel calmer, tired, and sleepy. Melatonin typically stays in your blood for about 5 hours. So, the effects of melatonin will last around 5 hours after taking a melatonin supplement.
How Much Melatonin Should I Take?
There is no official recommendation for how much melatonin to take. However, the average range for a melatonin dosage for adults is between 0.5 milligrams to 5 milligrams. Each supplement company will likely have different melatonin dosages in their products, but if the serving size is within this range, it should be safe and effective.
Is Melatonin Safe?
Melatonin is generally considered to be safe for short-term use. Many sleep medications can lead to dependency. While it is less likely for this to occur with melatonin, it can still happen when taken for long periods. Therefore, melatonin is best used as a short-term sleep aid. Melatonin is unlikely to cause a hangover effect, as some sleep medications do. While melatonin is considered safe for most people, there are still some potential side effects.
Melatonin Side Effects
Melatonin side effects are not common but can occur for some people. Melatonin side effects become more likely with regular use.
Some of the possible melatonin side effects include:
- stomach cramps
- low blood pressure
Can You Overdose on Melatonin?
While taking too much melatonin can lead to unwanted side effects like the ones mentioned above, an overdose of a melatonin supplement could rarely kill you. That being said, every form of medication has a lethal dose. But with melatonin, you would have to take a considerable amount. Therefore, it is recommended to always stick to the recommended dosages posted on the label of the supplement you are taking.
Is Melatonin Bad for You?
Melatonin is generally considered to be safe for short-term use. However, studies have shown that the potential side effects of melatonin may become more likely with frequent use. Therefore, melatonin is best used as a short-term remedy for sleep issues but is not optimal as a long-term solution.
Are There Alternatives to Melatonin?
There are some other natural alternatives to melatonin supplements. While they will not work in the same way that melatonin supplements do, there are many natural herbal remedies for promoting sleep. Rather than producing melatonin, these typically work by relaxing the nervous system, helping to calm the body and mind, and making it easier to fall asleep naturally.
Some of the best herbs for supporting sleep include:
These herbs can be consumed as herbal teas, capsules, or powders. While any supplement may work, many people prefer to take these as herbal teas, as there is an additional relaxing and soothing quality of drinking warm tea before bed.
The Importance of Sleep Hygiene
While supplements like melatonin or herbs may help promote sleep, they are short-term solutions. It would help if you focused on improving your overall sleep hygiene to correct sleep issues.
Sleep hygiene refers to a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep.
Healthy sleep quality is essential for both physical and mental health, as well as for improving your productivity and overall quality of life. Everyone can benefit from better sleep, and good sleep hygiene can be essential in achieving that goal.
Our habits play a critical role in our health. Good habits make healthy behaviors seem natural and almost automatic, whereas bad habits can lead to destructive behaviors that degrade our health over time. For example, one of the essential health habits one can cultivate is sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene encompasses our habits and environment, essential for promoting higher-quality sleep and better overall health.
How Do You Practice Good Sleep Hygiene?
Good sleep hygiene is about putting yourself in the best possible position to sleep well each night. Of course, this can look different for each person, but some general considerations can support your overall sleep quality. These include:
- Having a consistent sleep-wake schedule
- Developing a pre-bed routine
- Avoiding blue light at night
- Getting exposure to sunlight in the morning
- Exercising during the day
- Adopting habits that make sleep feel more natural and automatic
- Have a comfortable sleep environment
Having a set schedule for sleeping and waking programs your brain and body to naturally get tired when it is time for bed and makes it much easier to fall asleep. Try to wake up at the same time each weekday or weekend. This can help make sleep more regular, as a fluctuating schedule can prevent you from getting into a healthy rhythm of consistent sleep.
It is also recommended to prioritize sleep. Whatever your fixed wake-up time is, set a target for a bedtime around 7-8 hours prior and make it a priority to go to bed each night. This may not be easy if you have been out of a healthy sleep rhythm for a while. But within a few days of consistently waking and sleeping simultaneously, you will begin to adopt a new habit naturally, and it will become much more manageable.
While naps may be helpful from time to time, it is also recommended to avoid napping as a regular habit, as naps can throw off your sleep schedule.
A regular pre-bed routine is a great way to train your body and mind to get ready for sleep. Some of the critical elements of a healthy nighttime routine include:
- Keeping a consistent routine and following the same steps each night (this could include brushing your teeth, washing your face, putting on pajamas, etc.). Doing these simultaneously each night reinforces your mind that it is time for bed.
- Make time to wind down. At least 30 minutes before bed, make a winding down routine. This can include drinking tea, meditating, doing light stretching, or anything else that helps you relax and wind down from the day.
- Unplug from electronics. During your nighttime routine, unplug from the electronics, as the blue light emitted from them can hinder the natural production of melatonin and prevent you from falling asleep quickly.
- Dim the lights. When starting your nightly routine, dim the lights to help promote melatonin production and to prepare yourself for sleep.
Morning Sun Exposure
One of the best things you can do for your sleep starts with your morning. When you wake up, go outside and get a few minutes of sunlight. This will release hormones that promote wakefulness and help to regulate your circadian rhythm, making it easier to produce melatonin later in the evening.
Cultivate Healthy Daily Habits
Our daily habits play a significant role in our sleep. Cultivating healthy daily habits can make it easier to fall asleep when it is time for bed. Regular exercise is the most important among all the healthy habits you can adopt. It has a wide range of benefits for the body and can make it easier to fall asleep at night.
Some other healthy habits to cultivate include:
- Cutting back on caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening
- Avoid eating late. Aim to eat at least three hours before bed.
- Restrict in-bed activity, such as reading, using your phone, etc.
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Avoid smoking, as nicotine is a stimulant that may cause sleep issues.
Lastly, make sure that your sleep environment supports your sleep. For example, unplug the electronics in your room, get dark curtains, turn out all the lights, and make sure it is not too warm. Whatever helps promote sleep for you, ensure that your bedroom is a welcoming environment for sleep, not an environment that keeps you up unnecessarily.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the brain in response to darkness. This hormone helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. When it is released, it produces feelings of tiredness and prepares us for sleep.
Melatonin is also used as a dietary supplement to support their sleep. While melatonin supplements are safe and effective in the short term, they may have potential long-term consequences.
While these supplements may be helpful from time to time, it is better to focus on practicing good sleep hygiene. This will regulate your circadian rhythm and make it easier to fall asleep naturally each night without needing to rely on a supplement.