Melatonin - All You Need To Know
Learn all about melatonin and whether it's the right solution for you.
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If you’ve stumbled upon this article, you may be suffering from insomnia, having intermittent problems sleeping, or you know someone who is.
You may also be considering melatonin for sleep as a solution.
There are tons of options when it comes to sleep supplements. Some are good. Some are bad.
If you haven’t already, learn more about insomnia here.
If you’ve already read it and want to learn more about melatonin, then this is the article for you. There's a lot to know about melatonin and you should definitely read up about it as much as possible if you're considering taking it.
The keys when choosing a supplement are:
- Seeing a doctor first for the thumbs up (or down)
- Ensuring it's honest and safe in what it claims to do
- Ensuring it supports your body's natural processes
You'll be learning why Sleep Support Plus does just that - click here to learn more about how it can help you sleep.
Or keep reading.
That's okay too.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone made in your brain. The pineal gland, to be precise.
Melatonin is commonly known as the sleep hormone and plays a crucial role in regulating the body's sleep-wake cycle. It helps you sleep by optimising the timing of your circadian rhythms (your internal clock), so that you go to sleep at the right time and wake up at the right time. To translate: it puts you into a calm state that promotes sleep.
The natural production of melatonin for sleep is stimulated by the darkness and inhibited by light. Which is why looking at screens around bedtime tends to mess with our sleep.
Melatonin is available as a synthetically made supplement. And there has been growing interest in obtaining it from external sources such as liquids or capsules to address sleep issues. In the US, melatonin is available as a dietary supplement. According to a 2012 survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health, melatonin is one of the most widely used supplements among adults.
Research has shown that melatonin can be beneficial for sleep in specific instances, but it may not be suitable for everyone. It's crucial to be mindful of the pros and cons of melatonin and consider them carefully. Those who wish to take melatonin supplements should also be conscious of dosage and the quality of the supplement.
Let’s learn more!
What is melatonin good for?
Melatonin in Adults
Melatonin supplements can be useful for people with insomnia and sleep disorders such as jet lag and delayed sleep-wake phase disorder. Although research is still underway and new discoveries are being made all the time, current research shows the most potential benefits from melatonin for adults with jet lag and delayed sleep-wake phase disorder.
Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder
Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder results in sufferers falling asleep later (usually not before 2-6 am) and waking up later (usually around 10 am to 1 pm). This is because their sleep schedule has shifted forward by a few hours. Studies have shown that melatonin, when taken before trying to get to sleep, can help correct your sleeping pattern.
Jet lag results from rapid travel across time zones, causing the body's internal clock to become misaligned with local day-night patterns. Small research studies suggest that melatonin supplements may help reset the sleep-wake cycle and improve sleep for people experiencing jet lag. As a frequent flyer between the UK and Australia, I have personally found melatonin very useful when getting through jet lag.
The effectiveness of melatonin in treating insomnia in otherwise healthy adults is a subject of debate. The current research is not definitive, with some experts finding evidence for melatonin's benefits, while organizations such as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) have concluded that the scientific evidence supporting the use of melatonin for reducing insomnia is less certain. However, other organizations such as the UK's National Health Service suggest that certain (usually older) adults may be suitable for short-term melatonin use to help them fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer.
Most adults don't experience significant side effects from melatonin, leading some individuals with sleeping difficulties to consider trying it, even when its benefits are not fully established. However, it is recommended to consult a doctor and thoroughly discuss the potential benefits and risks before taking melatonin.
Currently, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) as first-line treatment for insomnia. However, that's not to say that there's absolutely no role for melatonin.
An excellent 2022 systematic review (the highest form of clinical evidence) found that melatonin improves sleep quality in adults with sleep disorders. A number of high quality studies have also shown that melatonin helps people get to sleep faster and also improves total sleep time. They also did not report any significant side effects.
Melatonin in Children
While melatonin may be useful for children with sleeping difficulties, experts concur that further research is required to determine the best use of melatonin in young people.
Translation: don't give your child melatonin without taking them to see their doctor first.
Numerous studies have found that children with difficulties sleeping may benefit from melatonin, as it may help them fall asleep faster and improve their total time asleep. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), melatonin can be beneficial for children as a temporary solution for adjusting to a healthy sleep schedule and developing good sleep habits.
What are the side effects?
Most people who take melatonin for sleep won't experience side effects.
Those who do tend to report mild occurences of :
- Sleepiness during the day
This is all short-term, however. The long-term effects of melatonin supplements in children and adults are poorly understood, with limited data available. It's important to have ongoing discussions with a doctor to monitor the impact of melatonin on sleep quality and overall health, as the long-term effects remain unknown.
In children, short-term melatonin usage can cause similar side effects as in adults.
It's recommended for both kids and adults to consult with a doctor before taking melatonin to avoid any potential allergic reactions or drug interactions. People already taking medication should especially consult with their doctor regarding any potential drug interactions.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also advises individuals with dementia and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to avoid melatonin.
What is the best dose of melatonin?
The ideal dosage of melatonin is uncertain, and it is recommended to steer clear of excessive dosages. Supplements usually contain 1 to 5 milligrams of melatonin, but the appropriate dose for an individual depends on factors such as age and sleep issues. It's important to note that when melatonin supplements specify dosages in micrograms, 1 milligram is equal to 1,000 micrograms.
If you're using melatonin as a sleep aid and feel drowsy during the day, it might be due to an excessive dosage. It's best to begin with a minimal amount under your doctor's guidance and gradually increase it as needed.
For children, dosages higher than 5 milligrams are not recommended. The standard dose for children varies between 1 to 2 milligrams based on their sleep issue. Some studies have shown that lower doses can also be sufficiently effective for both young people and adults. But again, check with your doctor first.
Oral melatonin supplements can significantly increase the melatonin levels in the blood, sometimes even reaching up to 60 times the normal levels produced by the body. This can be achieved by taking dosages ranging from 1 to 10 milligrams. Hence, caution should be exercised when taking high doses of melatonin.
How long should I take melatonin for?
In an ideal world, for as little as possible.
Melatonin is a sleep supplement, and as such you should use it to supplement your journey to a better night's sleep. Especially because we don't have enough long-term safety data, you should aim to stop taking it as soon as it's enabled to you to make long-lasting improvements to your sleep through other measures such as sleep hygiene and therapy.
Is melatonin a sleeping pill?
Yes and no.
Yes in the sense that you're taking melatonin for sleep. And it looks like a pill.
No in the sense that doesn't make it a conventional sleeping tablet.
Sleeping tablets usually refer to those addictive prescription medications which you're better off avoiding in the first instance.
Melatonin is simply a non-prescription supplement designed to improve your sleep. (Although it is only available by prescription in some countries like the UK.)
Is melatonin safe?
This is the big question we should be asking: is melatonin safe for use?
Melatonin appears to be safe for short-term use.
However, research is still ongoing to investigate the effects of long-term use, which is why it's best to take only what you need and to try to use it only for a short period of time.
You should always see a doctor before you take any new medication or supplement.
And this is no exception.
This is especially important if you have a pre-existing medical condition or if you take any other medication. It's always possible that melatonin can interact with other medications.
The other issue is that although manufacturers of melatonin (and other supplements) are expect to abide by the standards set by the FDA, there isn't an established process to ensure this is always the case.
Translation: some melatonin supplements can be dodgy and you need to know which one to pick.
Why is melatonin banned in the UK?
I just thought I'd clear this up as it appears to be a popular question on Google!
However, melatonin is a prescription-only tablet in the UK.
And it's an over-the-counter supplement in the US.
This difference also exists in other countries, so double check the regulations wherever you are.
Hope that clears things up.
What should I do now?
Good question. Before you choose a melatonin supplement, consider the following summary of melatonin's promise and cautions!
- Melatonin certainly helps with delayed sleep-wake phase disorder and jet lag
- Melatonin is likely to be useful in some people with insomnia, but further research is needed to establish the full details and the potential long-term effects
- Pick your supplement wisely: supplements aren't as regulated as presciption drugs, so even certain over-the-counter drugs may have inaccurate dosing information or other dodgy quirks
- It is not clear whether melatonin is safe for pregnant women or children aged under 18, so it is currently not recommended for these groups of people
- See a doctor before starting any new medication or supplement
- Always read the box and follow the instructions carefully
What is the best melatonin supplement?
If you think melatonin is right for you, you may be wondering where you can find the best melatonin supplement.
After all, you want to avoid the dodgy supplements like the plague and just get a good night's sleep.
While you research the best option for you, look into Sleep Support Plus - click here to learn more about how it can help you.
Sleep Support Plus is an over-the-counter supplement that not only contains melatonin, but also other natural ingredients that may help you sleep better, according to research findings.
The main selling point of this product is its honesty. While a lot of products claim to be magic cures for insomnia, Sleep Support Plus is very honest with it's claims. It states to be suitable for the relief of occasional sleeplessness and that it supports the body's natural processes to help you sleep.
That's exactly what these supplements do. They supplement your sleep and support you as your efforts to address the underlying reasons why you're not sleeping, including: continuing to see your doctor, optimizing your sleep hygiene, and using therapy to help you sleep.
Some of the main ingredients in Sleep Support Plus include tryptophan, goji berry, lemon balm, chamomile, and valerian.
Sleep Support Plus has got some great reviews and it's very well-received with its users.
Will melatonin cure my insomnia?
It's important to keep in mind that there is no quick or easy solution for insomnia. These recommendations are meant to help you manage it as effectively as possible.
It's also crucial to manage your own expectations and remember that it's not realistic to expect a perfect night of sleep every single night. As long as you're getting enough good nights of sleep to feel happy and function well most of the time, that's a success.
Be kind to yourself and remember to take care of your own needs.
That being said, a combination of lifestyle changes, therapy, and over-the-counter supplements like Sleep Support Plus can be helpful for the majority of people with insomnia.
Your doctor is also very helpful and somebody you should certainly visit for help in the first instance, before trying or changing any management strategy.
How to get the most out of melatonin
It's important to manage your expectations when considering the use of melatonin for sleeping difficulties. Let me explain.
Melatonin, as I previously explained, puts you into a calm wakeful state that promotes sleep. It won't put you to sleep like a tranquilizer, but it encourages your body to do what it does best and naturally. Therefore, if you do decide to try melatonin, you need to work with your body to get the most use out of it.
And how do you do that?
By doing the following:
- Optimising your conditions by improving your sleep hygiene
- Try CBT-I to improve the thought processes and behaviors that stop you from sleeping soundly at night - read more here
Here are some tips to improve your sleep hygiene:
- Reduce consumption of caffeine and alcohol
- Avoid nicotine
- Stay physically active
- Avoid taking naps
- Don't eat or drink heavily before bedtime
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule (including weekends)
- Reserve your bedroom for sleep and intimacy only
- Engage in relaxing activities before bed such as taking a bath, listening to soothing music, or reading
- Review any medications that may contribute to insomnia
- Seek a medical evaluation to rule out underlying conditions
- Minimize exposure to blue light (from screens) and bright light in the evening.
You're much more likely to get the sleep you want and deserve by maintaining good sleep hygiene and using CBT-I in combination.
So, to summarise:
- Melatonin is useful for delayed sleep-wake phase disorder and jet lag
- Melatonin is likely to be useful in the short-term for insomnia in some cases, but more research is needed
- Adding in good sleep hygiene and CBT-I will increase your chances of improving your sleep
I hope this article was useful.
Now, take care of yourselves and get that good night's sleep you deserve.
And if you feel like you need a little more help, Ask Doctor Jad will be here for you too.