Is Melatonin Good for You?
There is nothing more upsetting than hitting the hay after a long day, ready to get a good night’s sleep but then tossing, turning, and counting all the sheep in the world for hours on end. If you have trouble sleeping: just know that you are one of 50 million! Fortunately, there is a potential solution to the misery that is lack of sleep: melatonin. Here’s to hoping this over-the-counter supplement will be the answer we need to finally get some satisfying sleep. But first, is melatonin good for you?
- Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain that ensures quality sleep; you can also purchase supplements to help with insomnia, jet lag, or shift work.
- Some risks of taking supplemental melatonin include headaches, excess drowsiness, nausea, and feelings of depression, anxiety, and irritability.
- Research is still being conducted on the risks and benefits of melatonin, but nonetheless, it is deemed safe for short-term use.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain as our body’s response to darkness. Otherwise known as the “sleep hormone,” it helps with the overall timing of our circadian rhythms (our 24-hour body clocks) and with ensuring quality sleep (a true lifesaver!)
The simple sleep cycle averages about 16 hours of daytime with 8 hours of sleep time. Obviously, this varies from person to person and night to night, but altogether, adults need around 7 hours of sleep (minimum) to stay healthy. However, research shows that 50-70 million adults of all ages suffer from sleep-related problems and 11 percent report insufficient sleep every single night. During our sleep cycle, melatonin’s peak production time is generally from 11pm to 3am. These levels fall sharply just before daylight, and are almost undetectable during the day.
Melatonin can be purchased over the counter as a supplement ranging anywhere from 1 milligram to 10 milligram tablets. It is recommended to take the lowest dose possible at first (i.e. 1 milligram, and potentially even breaking it in half), as the body naturally produces about 0.3 milligrams on its own. Additionally, research has shown that tablets higher than 5 milligrams stop reaping additional benefits, so it’s best to take the lowest dosage possible.
Risks vs. Benefits
The risks and benefits of melatonin continue to unravel as scientists conduct supplemental research. Currently, melatonin is not approved by the FDA (because it is considered a dietary supplement which is not regulated by the FDA), but it is still considered safe in small doses.
Research shows that melatonin is likely effective for:
- Those struggling to fall asleep at a conventional bedtime
- Those struggling with Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder and other sleep disorders
Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder (N24) is a sleep disorder in which someone’s circadian rhythm is not synced up to a 24-hour day, often resulting in chronic fatigue, depression, and memory problems. While N24 is thought to affect over 50% of the blind, it is possible in sighted people as well.
Furthermore, research is showing that seasonal affective disorder can be linked to our circadian rhythm. Seasonal changes in sunlight can completely throw our sense of time and our biological clocks off balance. Disruption to our circadian rhythms can seriously impact our mood, increasing our chance of suffering from seasonal affective disorder. With that being said, taking melatonin can be linked to a decreased risk of facing seasonal depression.
Additionally, if you’re getting back from the vacation of your dreams and are severely jet lagged, or you just landed in Europe and are still functioning on Eastern time, melatonin can (possibly!) help. Taking a dose can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep when you’re in a pickle.
Melatonin is also possibly effective for helping with insomnia and for those who work shift work (or alternating work schedules.) Fortunately, it has no addictive properties, as it doesn’t force you to fall asleep, but rather, it simply helps you to fall asleep.
Unfortunately, there is no good without (just a little bit) of evil, and while melatonin is seemingly ideal, it is no exception. Possible side effects include:
- Daytime drowsiness and confusion
- Anxiety, depression, and irritability
- Vivid dreams
- Loss of appetite
Another reason to start with the smallest dose possible: to reduce the potential of all the unpleasant side effects and ensure quality sleep without the baggage.
Is melatonin good for you?
In conclusion, there are ample benefits of taking a small dosage of supplemental melatonin. This non-addictive, all natural hormone will likely improve sleep quality and help keep your body clock running on time. Doctors recommend starting with the smallest dose possible to reduce the risk of unwanted side effects and to see how your body reacts to it before increasing your dose.
Additionally, melatonin is not recommended as a long-term solution, and should only be taken temporarily, for short-term purposes. If over-the-counter melatonin doesn’t help with insomnia, it is best to seek out professional help from a doctor to discuss alternate solutions.
It is also important to note that taking birth control increases the natural levels of melatonin in your body. Adding to this by taking supplemental melatonin can result in levels of melatonin being too high in your body, which increases your risk of experiencing side effects. It is (again) recommended to meet with your doctor to discuss alternate solutions for sleep improvement.
Overall, if you suffer from a lack of sleep, or you just want a deeper and more restful sleep, it may be worth it to check out an over-the-counter melatonin supplement. Satisfying ZZZ’s are definitely unbeatable, and they are also critical to staying happy and healthy!
Written by Morgan Taylor