What You Should Know About Taking Melatonin As A Sleep Aid
Having trouble sleeping? There are few things that feel more frustrating than lying in bed.
While there are many reasons for a sleepless night – like stress, anxiety, poor diet, health problems, lack of exercise, allergies/asthma, heartburn, kidney disease, heart disease, and much more – one of the common issues boils down to sleep cycles.
You find yourself sleepy all day long, and then you find yourself wide awake and unable to fall asleep once you are actually in bed.
It’s an extremely common problem, but there just may be a really simple solution: melatonin.
Let me introduce you melatonin: what it is, how it works, and how you can take it. Hopefully this all-natural remedy will have you sleeping soundly in no time.
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What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is one of your many hormones. Its main purpose is to help you balance out when you sleep and when you wake.
Though some of us have unique schedules, our bodies are generally supposed to be awake and alert during the day and at rest/asleep during the night.
Melatonin works in our brains to create that cycle. Your melatonin level begins rising in the evening, it gets nice and high during the night, and then it drops off in the morning.
One of the most incredible things about melatonin is how it reacts to light. Our sleep cycle (or circadian rhythms) was created – quite obviously – to follow the pattern of night or day.
Once the daylight starts getting low, melatonin kicks in. Then when the sunlight starts peaking through, melatonin backs off.
And this is where we see the way melatonin aids sleeping problems.
When people have messed up circadian rhythms (maybe they are tired during the day and then wide awake at night), there is often a problem with the melatonin.
The sad news is melatonin decreases with age.
In fact, some older people stop developing melatonin altogether – which is one of the reasons older people typically struggle to get a good night’s rest more than younger people.
Does Taking Melatonin Really Help You Sleep?
So we know without a shadow of a doubt that melatonin affects your sleep, but does consuming extra melatonin (through supplements or food sources) help those with sleep problems?
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After all, it logically makes sense that taking more melatonin can help you sleep during the night since that is its main function in the body…
… But does science support that idea?
One large-scale scientific literature review discovered that melatonin has been shown to:
- Make it easier to fall asleep
- Increase the total amount of sleep time during the night
- Improve overall sleep quality
To top it all off, since melatonin is sensitive to light, it can be a great tool for helping people whose sleep problems are connected with their circadian rhythm.
Perhaps they have just switched to dayshift from graveyard shift and are having trouble getting back on track.
Or perhaps jet lag is making it difficult to fall asleep at the right time. Melatonin can help.
Melatonin can also be a great sleep aid for people who label themselves “night owls” (they are more awake and productive in the evenings/nights), but still have to conform to the typical 9 to 5 life.
Here’s a short YouTube video from a psychiatrist telling “night owls” how melatonin can help them balance their sleep cycle:
The first thing to realize when you are taking a melatonin supplement is it will not knock you out. It’s not like taking a sleeping pill that essentially forces you into a deep, drugged sleep. Instead it reinforces the ability of your brain switch you into sleep mode.
Normally you will find anywhere between .03 mg to 5 mg of melatonin; however, those higher doses may be unnecessary.
Melatonin supplements are generally considered to be safe. One of the side effects is normally sleepiness. For most people, this is a positive side effect, not a negative one, but you should maybe avoid taking it during the day.
Some have also reported having more vivid dreams; others say they feel extra groggy in the morning.
If you have any serious health conditions, you should – of course – talk to your doctor before taking a melatonin supplement.
Foods With Melatonin
One of my favorite ways to boost my melatonin consumption is through the foods I eat. Luckily, melatonin can be found in a large variety of foods from fruit and veggies to nuts and grains.
But it is important to realize melatonin is not the star of the show in these foods – it’s in small amounts.
So you don’t have to worry about overdoing it – especially when you are already taking a supplement with melatonin. Instead, just think of these as a little healthy helping hand:
- Tart cherries
- Mustard seed
- Sweet corn
- Orange bell peppers
- Goji berries
The awesome thing is all of these foods are incredibly healthy for you too. So beyond boosting your melatonin levels, you are also boosting your health.
Added Benefits Of Melatonin
My goal here is to present a way to help you sleep. But I don’t want to leave you without mentioning the other benefits of melatonin. Though regulating sleep is undoubtedly the #1 use of this hormone, melatonin can also:
- Provide antioxidant support
- Boost your immune system
- Improve your mood
Another surprising use for melatonin is a cancer treatment. Though more studies are needed to fully understand its effectiveness, preliminary findings show lower rate of death.
Melatonin And Your Restful Sleep
Though melatonin is a fabulous sleep aide, it is not always as effective by itself to cure people of all their sleep woes. You’re going to want to add melatonin to other helpful sleep supplements.
Great options include valerian root, magnesium, chamomile, and l-theanine.
Using them in combination helps all these sleep aids to work together with their different strengths, so you get a restful night’s sleep.
If you also want to improve your own body’s melatonin, make sure you try to expose yourself to the outside light conditions.
If you keep your house extremely bright at night, or if you completely black out your bedroom in the morning, your melatonin is not getting the natural light cues it needs.