Before going into the details, let’s know the answer to the question – “what is melatonin?”. Melatonin is a hormone that your pineal glands produce naturally. It helps induce sleep by calming the body before going to bed. It regulates the sleep-wake cycle. People who have sleep disorders normally have low melatonin levels. Regulating the melatonin levels by using supplements can help improve the sleep cycle. So, this World Sleep Day, let’s understand how melatonin can help you have a sound sleep.
The production of melatonin is triggered as the light fades. The melatonin production gets higher as the darkness starts setting in. The body receives signals that it is time to go to sleep. If you are unable to get sleep hours after going to bed, it implies that your melatonin levels are low. Persons who work night shifts or are glued to digital devices just before going to bed and the ones who have jet lag find it hard to fall asleep. Using a melatonin supplement either in the form of tablets, pills, or strips can help improve the melatonin levels and induce sleep.
What is Melatonin Beneficial For?
Melatonin is produced in your body in response to darkness. Exposure to light will decrease the production of melatonin and thus disturbs your sleep cycle. The body produces melatonin. But what is melatonin used for? Melatonin is used to tackle sleep disorders caused due to various reasons. Melatonin supplements can help you with certain conditions like:
1. Jet Lag
Persons who travel by air across multiple time zones experience jet lag. Disturbed sleep, daytime fatigue, digestive issues, impaired functioning, and overall uneasiness are the results of jet lag.
2. Delayed Sleep-Wake-Phase Disorder
People with delayed sleep-wake-phase disorder tend to sleep at unusual hours. They will have trouble falling asleep and would normally sleep late and wake up late. They will not be able to sleep before 2.00 a.m and wake up before 10 a.m. Melatonin supplements help in normalising this sleep-wake-cycle.
3. Sleep Disorders in Children
Children with certain conditions like ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), asthma, dermatitis, or autism are susceptible to sleep disorders. Sleep problems affect the behaviour of children. Their daytime functioning will also be affected which in turn brings down their quality of life. Introducing parent education and behavioural treatments like good bedtime habits along with melatonin supplementation can help these disorders to a great extent.
Note: It is advisable to give children these supplements under medical supervision.
4. Anxiety Before and After Surgery
A majority of individuals experience anxiety before undergoing a procedure. Melatonin supplements can help in reducing anxiety before surgery but there have been no convincing studies regarding the reduction of anxiety after surgery with melatonin supplements.
Other Benefits of Melatonin
Apart from the above benefits, melatonin is also helpful in the following conditions:
- Certain medications for blood pressure can cause sleep disorders. Melatonin supplements reduce sleep related issues in patients who are on beta-blocker drugs.
- Melatonin supplements help reduce the extreme pain caused by uterine disorder.
- Consuming control releases melatonin before bedtime tends to reduce blood pressure levels.
- Melatonin supplements reduce the time taken to fall asleep in people suffering from insomnia.
- It can also be used before bedtime to prevent migraines.
- The amount of sedation for children before a procedure can be reduced by giving melatonin supplements.
- The topical application of melatonin gel reduces sunburns.
- Melatonin levels will decline with age. Enhancing the level of melatonin can help in preventing age-related neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
- Age-related macular degeneration is one of the conditions that is caused due to decline in melatonin levels in older people. Using a melatonin supplement to boost the level can help prevent the condition.
What are the Side-Effects of Melatonin?
Now that you have learnt about what is melatonin beneficial for, let’s discuss some of its negative effects as well. Melatonin supplements are safe to use as they are made from natural ingredients and scientifically formulated. You do not get habitual to it unlike sleeping pills and can be discontinued once the sleep cycle is restored. However, some side effects rarely found are headache, daytime sleepiness, nausea, and dizziness. You should avoid driving or working on machines for about four to five hours after consuming melatonin supplements.
Pregnant women or women planning a family and lactating mothers should exercise caution before using this supplement. Consulting a physician before starting on the supplement is recommended.
Persons with bleeding disorders should avoid taking the supplement as it may worsen the disorder and cause excessive bleeding.
Extra caution should be exercised while administering melatonin supplements to children. A dosage of up to 3 mg daily is supposed to be safe for children. But there is an apprehension that it might interfere with their development during adolescence. Avoid giving the supplement to children for the long term.
Which Food Contains Melatonin?
The recommended dietary intake has not been specified for melatonin. However, if you are contemplating using melatonin supplements, the suggested dosage is between 0.5 mg and 3 mg for any sleep disorders. Higher doses have to be looked upon only in consultation with a physician. It may cause drowsiness during the daytime.
To procure melatonin from food sources, you should know what food contains melatonin. Melatonin is not found in most foods. Food sources for melatonin are very limited and some of them are listed below.
1. Goji Berries
Goji berries are native to China and are known for their anti-ageing properties. But they are also a good source of melatonin and can help you sleep better.
Eggs are rich in essential nutrients like protein and iron. Besides this, they are also one of the best sources of melatonin and help deal with sleep disorders.
3. Tart Cherries
You can either make a delicious juice with tart cherries or just eat it. Studies have shown that tart cherries can restore the sleep-wake cycle by improving sleep quality as they increase melatonin levels. Persons who are conscious of calorie intake and are diabetic should keep in mind that tart cherries are high in sugar and can also enhance your calorie intake if consumed every night. Eating cherries are a better option than drinking the juice to get the required levels of melatonin.
Oily fish like salmon and sardines can help you get the required levels of omega 3 fatty acids while improving the levels of melatonin.
Including nuts in your diet will provide you with multiple advantages. They not only increase melatonin levels but also provide essential minerals and nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids. Their antioxidant properties also offer you various benefits. Pistachios and almonds are the best-recommended nuts for this purpose.
If you are not lactose intolerant, then consuming milk before sleep is the best idea to keep away from sleep disorders. Warm milk is known to improve melatonin levels and aid sleep.
Do Melatonin Supplements Interact with Other Medications?
Though melatonin is safe to use, it is observed that when taken with certain medications, it has both positive as well as negative interactions. Given below is the list of medications with which melatonin supplements may interact:
- Melatonin supplements help in lowering blood pressure levels. If you are already on medications for high blood pressure, then you need to monitor your blood pressure levels if you are consuming melatonin supplements as it may lower the blood pressure further which is not a healthy sign.
- Blood sugar levels come down with the consumption of melatonin supplements. If you are on medication for diabetes, then you should exercise caution as your blood sugar levels can reduce further with melatonin supplements.
- A combination of birth control pills and melatonin supplements increases the effects and side effects as birth control pills are already known to enhance melatonin levels.
- If you are on medication after a transplant, these medications tend to weaken the immune system. Taking melatonin supplements along with this medication may decrease the effects of these medications.
- If you are on sedatives, then avoid taking melatonin supplements along with sedatives. It may cause extreme drowsiness as sedatives already make you sleepy. The combination may also induce breathing issues.
- Avoid taking melatonin supplements if you are on medication for preventing seizures as it will reduce the effect of the seizure medication.
Hopefully, you now have the answer to the question – “what is melatonin?”. Make the best use of the information and go in for melatonin supplements if you have sleep disorders but exercise caution wherever necessary. If need be, start on the supplement only in consultation with a health expert or physician.
This World Sleep Day, let’s help anyone dealing with sleep disorders understand the importance of incorporating melatonin in their lifestyle.
Frequently Asked Questions About Melatonin
Q1. What role does melatonin play in the body?
Melatonin is one of the hormones that play a key role in the optimal maintenance of bodily functions. Melatonin can help maintain your sleep-wake cycle by working against sleep disorders.
Q2. Is the consumption of melatonin every night safe?
Studies suggest that the use of melatonin is only beneficial in the short-term. Prolonged use can lead to mild side effects in adults and delay in the onset of puberty in children.
Q3. What are the side effects of consuming melatonin?
The commonly observed side effects of melatonin include dizziness, headaches, daytime drowsiness, and nausea. The not-so-common side effects may include diarrhoea, constipation, mood swings, nightmares or vivid dreams, and so on.
Q3. Who should not consume melatonin?
Individuals consuming blood-thinning medications, blood pressure or diabetes medications, immunosuppressants, epilepsy medications, and contraceptive drugs should not consume melatonin. You can also consult your doctor for better clarity on suitability.