Melatonin is a hormone the body makes naturally. It is produced by the pineal gland in the brain but found in other parts of the body like the eyes, bone marrow, and gut. Melatonin is popularly referred to as the sleep hormone mainly because high levels can help you fall asleep by calming the body before bedtime.
Melatonin is not a magic wand produced by the body to knock you off. Actually, what it does is to alert your body that it is nighttime so it can relax and prepare for shut down.
Although melatonin is found naturally in the body, it is also produced as a dietary supplement in the laboratory, and most commonly available for use in pill form.
As a medicine, melatonin is mostly used by people dealing with insomnia and jet lag to adjust the body’s internal clock [aka sleep-wake cycle] -- and in people whose daily work schedule changes, leading to a shift-work disorder.
How does it work exactly?
Melatonin works hand-in-hand with your body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm -simply put- is your body’s internal clock that alerts you on when to sleep, wake, and eat.
Essentially, melatonin’s job is to help regulate night and day cycles in your body. How? Well, darkness makes the body produce more melatonin, signaling the body to prepare for sleep. On the flip side, light makes the body produce less melatonin, sending a ‘wake up’ call in the process.
So, when you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, it simply means your body is producing less melatonin at a time it should be producing more. This is where adding melatonin from dietary supplements come to the rescue.
Is melatonin safe to take every night?
Absolutely! It is non-habit forming, meaning you’d not become addicted to it by taking it every night. And, while it is readily available over-the-counter in many pharma stores as tablets, gummies, lozenges et cetera...there’s no daily recommended amount for melatonin [although it is often sold in doses ranging from 1mg – 10mg].
What to do? Start with 1mg and gradually increase it until you hit the dosage amount that works best for you [studies show that 3mg is the standard dose].
When is the best time to take melatonin?
Yeah, timing is super important. When you’re taking melatonin as an oral supplement, it reaches the maximum concentration in your blood in a little over 30 minutes. So, most people take melatonin in the evening [before bedtime].
= > If you’re having trouble falling asleep, take melatonin 30 minutes before bedtime
= > If you’re a night owl [meaning you stay awake late into the night] and would like to fall asleep earlier, then take melatonin a few hours before your desired bedtime
= > If you’re an early bird [meaning you wake up several hours too early] and would like to wake up later, then take melatonin immediately you wake up
Common side effects of melatonin?
While melatonin is mostly safe, common side effects include:
= > Headaches
= > Daytime sleepiness
= > Dizziness
= > Stomach cramps
= > Irritability
= > Et cetera
Pro tip: Make sure you don’t drive or use heavy machinery for 4 to 5 hours after taking melatonin.
Alright folks, this is it - but before you go…