What is melatonin?

Melatonin
It is safe to take melatonin supplements every night, but only for the short term.

Melatonin is a natural hormone that plays a role in your sleep-wake cycle. It is synthesized mainly by the pineal gland located in the brain.

Melatonin is released in response to darkness and is suppressed by light. As the sun goes down and darkness increases, the pineal gland begins to secrete melatonin, which usually happens after 9 p.m. The increased levels of melatonin in the blood send signals to the brain to become less alert and you feel sleepy. 

Melatonin secretion peaks in the middle of the night (between 2 and 4 in the morning) and decreases gradually during the second half of the night. Nearly 80 percent of melatonin is synthesized at night. 

The production and secretion of melatonin start to go down in response to the sunlight. This makes you alert and wakes you up in the morning.

For people with sleep issues, melatonin is available as a sleeping aid supplement in the form of pills, liquids, and chewable.

Who can take melatonin?

The following issues can benefit from taking melatonin supplements:

  • Jetlag: Travelling across multiple time zones gives you jetlag and disturbs your sleep pattern.
  • Shift work sleep disorder: Shift work disorder can be caused by working night shifts, rotating shifts, or even an early morning shift. This leads to sleep deprivation and the inability to fall asleep when you need to.
  • Insomnia: Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD): You cannot fall asleep fast, so you end up staying awake beyond midnight and find it difficult waking up early in the morning when you need to.

Doctors have also recommended melatonin supplements for the following conditions:

How long does it take for melatonin to kick in?

With the recommended dose of melatonin (1-3 mg), it takes around one to two hours to induce sleep. Hence, you should take melatonin supplements two hours before your bedtime. 

If you want to take melatonin to avoid getting jetlag, you need to start taking the pills a few days before you make your trip. Once you reach the new time zone, take the melatonin sleeping aid two hours before you go to bed.

Is it OK to take melatonin every night?

It is safe to take melatonin supplements every night, but only for the short term. This is because less information is available about its long-term safety. Administering melatonin in children also needs caution. Kindly contact your healthcare provider or pediatrician for more advice.

Taking the recommended dose of melatonin may increase your blood melatonin levels up to 20 times more than normal and give you side effects that include:

It will be safer to use melatonin for a short time. Consult your doctor if you wish to continue taking it in the long term. 

You can try shifting from melatonin supplements to other options like meditation, muscle relaxation, biofeedback therapy, and more for your sleep issues.

If you find yourself getting addicted to melatonin supplements or suffer from any of its side effects, you need to reach out to your doctor.

Which foods contain melatonin?

Due to their melatonin content, certain foods and liquids could make you fall asleep faster and improve your sleep quality. These include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Olives
  • Rice
  • Barley
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Cow’s milk
  • Bananas
  • Pineapple
  • Oranges

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Medically Reviewed on 6/26/2020
References
References:

What Is Melatonin? Available at: https://www.sleep.org/articles/melatonin/

Melatonin and Sleep. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/melatonin-and-sleep

What Is Melatonin? Available at: https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/what-is-melatonin

Melatonin: What You Need To Know. Available at: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know

Food and Drink That Promote a Good Night’s Sleep. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/food-and-drink-promote-good-nights-sleep

Cases in CAM: Melatonin for a Natural Sleep: What's the Evidence?: Discussion. Available from: https://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/580248_2.
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