What you should know about Melatonin

Our hormones influence almost every aspect of our life. Whereas testosterone is commonly associated with aggression and growing strength, melatonin is associated with restful sleep and proper circadian rhythms.

Before taking a melatonin supplement, it’s worthwhile to create lifestyle habits that create optimal levels of melatonin. Unfortunately, many modern habits like technology usage and artificial lighting negatively impact natural melatonin levels and therefore long-term health. Taking melatonin in the right dosage is both safe and potentially useful for long-term health. Melatonin has been extensively studied to reduce insomnia [1], reduce symptoms of jet lag [2], increase sleep quality [3], and a host of other sleep-related benefits. According to most research, there is no risk of tolerance or addiction either [4]. Also Known As N-Acetyl-5-Methoxytryptamine, Melatonine, Melovine, Melatol, Melatonex, Circadin Editors’ Thoughts on Melatonin My sleep is rarely disturbed, but my partner often has poor sleep. When she takes melatonin in the normal dosage (that one can find at a local pharmacy), it didn’t help and actually made her feel more groggy in the morning. When she takes what I call a “melatonin microdose” she did far better. Her melatonin dosage of 0.1 – 0.5 mg helped her get better sleep and not feel groggy the next day. It has significantly improved her sleep quality so I’ve seen it firsthand. I used to not be a believer of melatonin because I was under the impression that it created a dependency (and the body’s natural production of melatonin would cease). It seems that studies don’t pan out that way with relative safety on all fronts. Melatonin Benefits The primary melatonin benefit is for improving different aspects of sleep. A 2005 meta-analysis (one of the most comprehensive studies) looked at 17 trials and analyzed all the data. They concluded that melatonin supplementation could improve a host of sleep factors [5]: Sleep onset (time to fall asleep) by 4 minutes (approx. 20 – 26%)Sleep efficiency by 2.2%Sleep duration by 12.8 minutes This includes people who are already struggling with insomnia. When the meta-analysis included only healthy patients, all of these sleep indicators got even better. Melatonin is one of the few supplements, which is studied in many healthy adults. In most cases, nootropics are studied predominantly in disease model (people who have some medical condition), but melatonin is studied and showing benefits for people like you and me. Numerous other studies show that melatonin benefits include general insomnia [6][7], but this may be a function of our currently disturbed night and dark cycles. Melatonin certainly plays a crucial role in sleep, but has downstream effects as well. Similar to any other hormone that we may have out of balance, there are downstream effects. For example, people struggling with stomach ulcers find melatonin can help increase secretion of gastrin, which notably reduces their symptoms [8]. There are correlations to reduced blood pressure [9], less risk of cancer mortality [10], and many others. Using a healthy circadian rhythm to produce melatonin naturally is the best advice, but in certain situations when melatonin production is impaired, it is also useful to supplement for general health purposes. How Does Melatonin Work? Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, which aids in the regulation of night and dark cycles in humans. Primarily released at night, it is a hormone that aids in sleep onset, efficiency, and quality. Because melatonin is such a basic part of human biology, taking a melatonin supplement works by interacting with melatonin receptors to fill the gap if our own synthesis of the hormone is impaired. Melatonin Side Effects Even though melatonin is a naturally secreted hormone, some people have fears. The purported melatonin side effects include tolerance, addiction, and dependence on an outside source of this hormone, but all of these seem to be myths. According to all the evidence, there are few melatonin side effects and the ones that exist are seen mostly in animal models. A systematic review from 2006 found that “…there is evidence melatonin is safe with short term use…”[11] As mentioned earlier, one trial tested delayed-release melatonin over a 6 month period and found no tolerance in their subjects or incidence of addiction [12]. The most common melatonin side effects were nausea, headache, and dizziness, but none of them very common or any worse than placebo. However, anecdotal reports and some scientific literature suggests there can be side effects of melatonin supplementation at high doses. Taking doses in excess of 5 mg (and sometimes even a 2 mg dose) can create grogginess and drowsiness the next morning. Therefore, when ascertaining the side effects of melatonin, the dose does matter. Melatonin Dosage The melatonin dosage is usually one of the main reasons users find “melatonin doesn’t work”. Because most commonly purchased melatonin products range from 1 – 5 mg, it is hard for most users to know that this is not the right dose. For most people, a range of 1