Melatonin is the only hormone produced by the pineal gland, a tiny gland in the brain that plays a key role in the regulation of the body’s circadian rhythms. The 24-hour internal clock in the brain regulates cycles of alertness and sleepiness in response to light changes in the environment. This sleep/wake cycle is essential for the body to replenish and heal so that it can function properly. The pineal gland helps to regulate the circadian rhythms by secreting melatonin.
Commonly referred to as the “sleep hormone,” melatonin is secreted in response to darkness and inhibited by light, which means that melatonin levels increase in the evening, remain high throughout the night, and drop in the morning once it begins to get light again. When the melatonin level is high, it can make someone feel sleepy and help them to fall asleep more easily. It is often used as a sleep aid, and has been quite effective as a temporary regulator of the body’s internal clock for someone experiencing jet lag. Melatonin has antioxidant properties and may help to regulate immune function.
Melatonin, which is made from tryptophan, is produced as a direct response to darkness. When the retinas perceive the change from light to dark, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which could be called the pacemaker of the circadian timing system, signals the pineal gland to begin producing melatonin. The neurohormone is then released into the bloodstream and is able to penetrate all body tissues. Typically, a drowsy, relaxing sensation ensues and is soon followed by an easy transition to sleep. When the morning light begins to emerge, the pineal gland reduces the production of melatonin and the body returns to a state of awakening.
As a supplement, melatonin is available in pill form, liquid, and as a gummy. The advantage of pill form is that it is flavorless, has a longer shelf life than the others, and makes it easy to ensure that you’re getting the right dose. The liquid form is easier to swallow and more quickly absorbed. The gummy, on the other hand, likely tastes better, though it might be tempting to have more than one. It is always a good idea to consult with your physician before taking any supplement or medication, especially if you may be pregnant or lactating. Always use melatonin as directed, and look for a high quality supplement like Care/of’s Sleep Blend (The Snooze Button).
There are no standard recommended dosages for melatonin as the dosage can vary based on the brand of the supplement you have chosen. Typically, the recommended doses range from 0.5mg to 10mg. It is recommended that you start with a lower dose and increase, if needed, until you find what works best for you. Generally, the safe starting doses are from 1mg to 5mg.
Melatonin is generally considered safe for short term use, though there is not enough definitive research available on its safety and efficacy for long term use. This review and analysis of the safety of higher doses of melatonin in adults found that some indications for melatonin may require higher doses for treatment efficacy. The researchers have called for larger, comprehensive studies to be done.
Melatonin use at higher doses has been associated with potential side effects, such as dizziness, daytime drowsiness, nausea, and headaches. There have also been some reports of vivid dreams and nightmares. Care/of addresses these concerns in their excellent article Does Melatonin Really Cause Nightmares.
Do not consume any alcohol, drive, or operate any heavy machinery while taking melatonin. Do not take melatonin if you are taking any other products that contain melatonin. And if you are taking any medications on a regular basis, pregnant, or lactating, ask your physician before you begin to take melatonin to be certain that there are no contraindications.
There is no one best time to take melatonin as it is dependent upon the reason for taking it and the sleep patterns and medical history of the person doing so. If you are taking it to promote relaxation and sleep, it is generally recommended to be taken 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. This will give the melatonin time to start working as you prepare for sleep.
While taking melatonin is generally considered to be safe in the short term, there is no data on the safety and efficacy of its long term use. If you are experiencing long term sleep challenges, consult your physician for the best options available to you.
Care/of has an excellent article Best Vitamins and Supplements for a Good Night’s Sleep that can also be a source of information.
Though melatonin is considered safe for most people, it should not be taken by everyone. If you are pregnant, lactating, or considering becoming pregnant, do not take melatonin without consulting with your physician. Those taking medications on a regular basis should also consult with their healthcare practitioner before taking melatonin. There could be possible contraindications depending upon your current state of health and medications. You may also experience side effects such as headaches, daytime drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting when taking melatonin.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body to regulate sleep-wake cycles. When the retinas perceive darkness, the pineal gland is stimulated to begin producing melatonin, a neural hormone that produces a state of relaxation or sleepiness that typically precedes sleep. The melatonin levels remain high throughout the period of darkness. Once daylight begins to appear, the body is prompted to stop producing melatonin and the result is the awakened state most people experience every day. This regulation of the sleep-wake cycle is essential for the body to rest and rejuvenate in order to function optimally.
Melatonin has been available in supplement form since the mid-1990s and is often used to help with sleeplessness and jet lag. It has been generally considered to be safe for most people on a short-term basis. There is no conclusive evidence to support its safety and efficacy with long-term use. Side effects from melatonin supplements include dizziness, daytime drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, and headaches.
If interested in supplementing with melatonin, you should always consult with your physician to determine your best options. If you are pregnant, lactating, or considering becoming pregnant, do not take melatonin without consulting your physician.
It is essential for your own health and overall well-being to maintain excellent sleep patterns. Melatonin may be a short-term solution for your sleep deprivation. But if you are experiencing sleep issues that are more severe than an occasional night of tossing and turning, or jet lag, seek medical help. There is no evidence to support daily use of melatonin over an extended period of time.