In a world where sleep is often elusive, and the pressures of modern life keep us burning the midnight oil, the quest for a good night's rest has never been more critical. Amid this pursuit, one topic has sparked heated debates and divided opinions: Melatonin. Is it the magical elixir for sleep-deprived souls, or are we merely buying into an overhyped trend? Let's dive in to find out the truth.

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the Pineal gland, a small, pea-sized structure in the brain. This hormone regulates the sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm. This is a simplified pathway of production:

Tryptophan (amino acid) -> Serotonin -> Melatonin

Melatonin is typically released in response to the absence of light, signalling to your body that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep.

How much Melatonin does the body normally produce?

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What affects Melatonin production?

1) Age - In older adults, daily production reduces. This is why melatonin is often not recommended before the age of 55.

2) Light- Blue light exposure can delay the peak in melatonin. Red light exposure has no or minimal effect and can be viewed safely, especially useful as a bedside night light.

3) Caffeine - Coffee consumption too late in the day blocks adenosine receptors and has been shown to inhibit melatonin secretion.

4) Overseas travel & shift work - When your circadian cycle is out of sync, you will likely be getting light or consuming caffeine when your body attempts to signal you to sleep via melatonin release.

What dose are you REALLY getting of Melatonin?

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What can you expect from Melatonin?

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What about Tart Cherry?

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Side Effects of Melatonin

  • Daytime Drowsiness: Taking too much melatonin or consuming too late can lead to excessive drowsiness during the day, impairing concentration and performance. Melatonin levels should drop to baseline by 6-8 am. High dose melatonin supplements can prevent this.
  • Nausea: Some people may experience digestive issues, including nausea, stomach cramps, or mild gastrointestinal discomfort after taking melatonin.
  • Headaches: Occasional headaches have been reported as a side effect of melatonin supplementation.
  • Dizziness: Melatonin can cause dizziness in some individuals, mainly when used in high doses or combined with other medications or substances that affect blood pressure.
  • Mood Changes: While uncommon, mood swings and changes have been reported in some people taking melatonin supplements.
  • Interactions with Medications: Melatonin can interact with certain medications, including blood thinners, anticoagulants, and immunosuppressants.
  • Allergic Reactions: While extremely rare, some individuals may experience allergic reactions to melatonin supplements, such as itching, swelling, or skin rash.
  • Sleep Disruptions: Paradoxically, melatonin can disrupt sleep patterns in some individuals, leading to sleep disturbances or nightmares.
  • Suppression of endogenous production: There is insufficient evidence to say if taking high dosages of melatonin regularly will ablate your body's melatonin production. However, it is plausible based on how other hormone systems work in the body. It is unlikely to occur at small dosages, but the very high dosages available online could be problematic.

Why does Melatonin make me tired in the morning?

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When Melatonin doesn't work

For some people, especially those diagnosed with an applicable sleep disorder, melatonin may be helpful. For many people, however, melatonin does not get the job done as it is not a sleeping pill and is frequently misused. 

Try the following:

1) Increase melatonin naturally to assist with sleeping

  • Avoid excessive bright, blue light in the evening or near bed-time. This means phone screens, computers and TVs.
  • Use a sleep-mask, especially if you're a shift worker or your room is not dark enough.
  • Get sunlight in the morning after waking or use an artificial bright light.
  • Avoid caffeine after 2 PM (or 6-8 hours before bed).
  • Keep a regular sleep routine where possible.
  • If travelling, try to take flights that allow you to stick to your existing circadian rhythm or adjust to a new timezone if staying for an extended time.

2) Have a wind-down routine

  • Don't eat too close to bed-time
  • Avoid working until late
  • Calm the mind with meditation or music
  • Read a book rather than scroll on your phone
  • Take a warm bath
  • Ensure your room is cool when ready to sleep

3) Try natural relaxing sleep aids

Suppose you have done all the above and still need help. In that case, various medicines with evidence-based mechanisms assist with mind relaxation and sleep. See below.

4) Serious insomnia

It is best to see your medical doctor.

Best alternatives to Melatonin

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January 10, 2024 — Steven Musca

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