Sleep problems are becoming an increasing issue among people all around the world. In the US alone, about 60 million people suffer from some sort of sleeping disorder. Whether you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, are jet-lagged, or have insomnia, the root of the problem is usually your melatonin production.
Melatonin is a hormone that makes us sleepy before bed and it’s what helps us maintain a balanced sleep-wake cycle. Our sleep-wake cycle is essentially our body’s 24-hour clock that determines when we sleep and how long we sleep. So can melatonin supplements help you sleep? Let’s find out!
Melatonin, the Hormone of Darkness
The hormone is produced in the pineal gland of our brains and when you have high levels of it, you get sleepy. Normally, melatonin production surges when the sun goes down and you aren’t exposed to as much light, hence the name, the “hormone of darkness”. The problem is, our bodies can’t tell the difference between sunlight and blue light from our phones and computers. This may confuse your brain and keep it from producing enough melatonin for you to get a good night’s sleep.
The hormone production may also be off if you’re often stressed or anxious, work the night shift, take long naps throughout the day, or are jet-lagged. Luckily, melatonin sleep aids can be of great help. These supplements are made from a synthetic version of the same melatonin that your body produces, giving your body a natural boost that will help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Melatonin for Sleep: Scientific Evidence
As for scientific evidence, there are plenty of studies suggesting a positive correlation between taking melatonin sleep aids and improved sleep quality. This study by Scheer et. al observed patients who were taking beta-blockers and found that supplemental melatonin greatly improved their sleep quality. This literature review by Costello et. al found that melatonin was great for people who have jet lag or insomnia. Finally, this meta-analysis by Ferracioli-Oda et. al also confirms the hypothesis that melatonin improves sleep quality. So the evidence on the efficacy of taking melatonin for sleep is clear. Now, let’s move on to some of the things to know before taking melatonin for sleep.
What to Know Before You Take Melatonin
So does melatonin help you sleep? Yes. However, just like with any other supplement or medication you take, you must be mindful and follow certain guidelines when taking melatonin. Below are four simple tips you should know before taking melatonin for sleep.
Start small and don’t overdo it
The dosage of melatonin you need depends on a variety of factors, such as weight, age, and overall health. Since you don’t know the optimal dosage for you, it’s best to start off small.
For adults, it’s best to take 1-2 mg and go up to a maximum of 5-10 mg. For children, start with 0.5-1 mg and don’t go over 3-6 mg. If the minimal dosage isn’t enough for you, go up very gradually until you begin to notice the desired results.
Talk to a doctor about sleep problems
If you’re just taking melatonin for jet lag or because you work the night shift, then you probably don’t need to see the doctor. However, if you’ve been experiencing trouble sleeping for several months, you should probably see your doctor and figure out if melatonin is really the best option for you.
Be cautious about long-term use
Although there isn’t much evidence to suggest that long-term melatonin use is bad for you, there also isn’t much evidence to suggest otherwise. So try not to take melatonin for more than three months. As I already mentioned, if your sleeping problems persist, you should talk to your doctor to find out the real problem.
Don’t rely on melatonin alone
So we’ve already established that melatonin is a great way to improve your sleep quality. However, if you want optimal results, you’ll need to do some other things to improve your sleep quality. As I already mentioned, you should avoid looking at your phone, computer, tablet, TV, or any other blue light screen before bed.
Also, try to go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day to make sure your body isn’t confused about when it should start producing melatonin. Finally, try to relax as much as you can before bed because if you go to bed stressed, you’ll likely have trouble falling asleep. Do something calming like reading a book, taking a walk, or just sitting down and having some tea with your family. By adopting these habits and taking melatonin, you should be able to greatly improve your sleep quality.
How to Choose a Melatonin Supplement?
Now that you know all about how to use melatonin for sleep, feel free to try it out! However, with the huge selection of melatonin supplements, it’s easy to get lost. So what’s the best melatonin supplement for you? First of all, you should know that supplements are not regulated in the United States as heavily as medicine, so the most important thing when it comes to melatonin is to always choose a certified and reliable company.
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