Melatonin: one of the most commonly known and commonly used sleep aids. You can find it in a million places, drugstores, grocery stores, you name it… and it comes in a ton of forms like gummies, tablets, capsules and more.
Why is it such a craze? Because it improves sleep! And let’s face it, almost everyone is looking for ways to improve their sleep.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone in the body. It tells your body it’s nighttime and time to sleep.
Melatonin does more than just make it easier to sleep, though. It’s also a strong antioxidant and can support many different parts of the body.
Melatonin is made by the pineal gland, a small gland located just above the middle of the brain. During the day, the pineal gland is inactive, but when the sun goes down, it is activated and produces melatonin to help you sleep easier. Melatonin is related to the body’s internal clock, which is known as the circadian rhythm.
The Circadian and Homeostatic Pressures
Your body has two important pressures that influence your energy levels: the circadian rhythm and the homeostatic pressure.
Circadian rhythms are based on the sun. They usually run under a 24-hour cycle and resync each day to sunlight. This is why time changes can have such a serious effect on the body; your rhythm readjusts every day and if the sun is out at unusual times, your body will react.
Your circadian rhythm is what makes you have energy when the sun is out to do things, then helps you feel sleepy at night when it’s dark. This is also when melatonin starts producing, as mentioned earlier.
Homeostatic pressure is less dependent on the sun and more dependent on when you are awake. The longer you are awake, the higher homeostatic pressure rises. This is what makes sleep so vital and can be compared to an override switch. The longer you stay awake, the more your homeostatic pressure will tell you that you need sleep.
Eventually, your homeostatic pressure will override that circadian rhythm no matter where you are in the daily cycle. So, say you pull an all-nighter… You might get a second wind once the sun comes up, but shortly after you will crash thanks to this override.
A little fun fact: sleep aids usually work by affecting these systems! With melatonin, it helps to sync your circadian rhythm and get you to sleep easier. But many have actually used antihistamines such as Benadryl at least once in their lifetime to help them sleep. These generally work because it’s applying direct sleep pressure to the homeostatic system.
If you really want to knock out, combining the two is a great way to do it, because both systems are being affected at the same time.
When to Take Melatonin
Based on how melatonin impacts our circadian rhythms, the time at which you take a melatonin supplement is really important. If you take a melatonin supplement, it usually will reach maximum concentration in your bloodstream about thirty minutes after ingestion.
Advanced Sleep Solutions of Virginia recommends Pure Encapsulations – Melatonin 3 mg
Here are a few scenarios you might want to consider taking melatonin for and the times at which you should take it:
- For delayed sleepers: If you have a delayed sleep phase (which means you are falling asleep significantly later than a normal time), melatonin could help. You will want to take it at least a couple hours before bed. So if you want to be asleep by 10 p.m., consider taking the supplement at 7 or 8 p.m..
- For difficulty falling asleep: Melatonin can help alleviate insomnia symptoms. If you are simply struggling to fall asleep at night, take a melatonin supplement 30 minutes before going to bed.
- For early wakers: Maybe you can fall asleep easily at night, but wake up way too early. Melatonin extended release is a great aid for extending sleep. If this is your case, the best time to take it is immediately after you wake up in the morning; then you can fall back to sleep and get a few more hours in. This condition tends to be more rare, though, so if you want to try this, consult with a sleep professional at Advanced Sleep Centers of Virginia for the best treatment plan.
The best way to start using melatonin is to begin with the lowest dose possible and work your way up to the dosage that works best for you.
Start with 0.5 – 1 mg and take it according to your needs. Go a few nights, then if you don’t see much of an improvement, increase a mg. Repeat this process until you see a difference in your sleep.
The standard dosage is about 3 mg, but you could feasibly take more if necessary. Keep in mind that you want to find the lowest dose that works for you. It isn’t recommended taking more than 5 mg, because higher dosages often cause more grogginess during the day.
Safety and Side Effects
It’s very important to note that melatonin supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that production and/or quality standards aren’t enforced on these products, so the labelled dosage could vary in strength.
Advanced Sleep Solutions of Virginia recommends and has significant success with: Pure Encapsulations Melatonin in the following Strengths:
When you look for a brand of melatonin supplements, look for supplements that have been certified by either by Consumer Labs, The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, or NSF International. This way, you don’t have to worry about the quality of the supplement.
Melatonin is considered very safe, in part because it’s a naturally occuring hormone in the body. Therefore, it won’t hurt you to take it every night and there are no serious side effects to worry about.
Any side effects encountered are usually mild and uncommon, but some have reported experiencing dizziness, headaches, or nausea after taking a strong dose of melatonin. The most common side effect is extensive sleepiness. This usually happens after exceeding a standard dosage, so you wake up feeling groggy or drowsy. Not to worry; the symptoms wear off within hours.
Other Benefits of Melatonin
In addition to improving sleep, there are many other benefits associated with melatonin that could help you, including:
1. Reducing Tinnitus Symptoms
Tinnitus is the perception of ringing or buzzing in the ears and is usually caused by trauma or an underlying condition like hearing loss. It affects almost 20% of people, but unfortunately, there is no cure.
Tinnitus ringing can be very annoying or distracting, and it’s usually worse when there’s less background noise. This can make sleeping especially difficult!
Research has shown that melatonin can aid in reducing tinnitus symptoms in addition to helping sleep. One study had 61 adults with tinnitus take 3 mg of melatonin before bed for 30 days. The results? There was significant decrease in the intensity of tinnitus symptoms!
2. Could Help with Seasonal Depression
Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder related to changes in the season. People with SAD experience intense symptoms of depression around the same time each year, usually in the fall and winter, but sometimes in the spring and summer.
SAD is becoming increasingly common in the United States. Research suggests that it could be a result from light changes and sleep cycles.
Some evidence has found that melatonin production is hindered in SAD patients. Because melatonin impacts sleep cycles, it is possible it can help with SAD symptoms.
3. Can Treat Stomach Ulcers and Heartburn
We all know how irritating and uncomfortable stomach issues can be. Heartburn is a common problem in America that can be debilitating in some cases.
Due to melatonin’s high antioxidant levels, melatonin could play a role in reducing heartburn symptoms and treating stomach ulcers.
4. May Promote Eye Health
Because melatonin has such strong antioxidants, it is possible to help with eye health.
Healthy levels of melatonin could lower risk of eye disease. One specific study shows that melatonin can reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
5. Can Increase Growth Hormone in Men
Human growth hormone (HGH) is a hormone that boosts energy and is released during sleep.
Studies show that taking a melatonin supplement can stimulate growth hormone release in men.
Give Your Sleep a Boost
It is pretty clear that melatonin is significant to the body and has many benefits. Thankfully, this sleep aid is widely available (without prescription!) throughout the United States.
If you are struggling with your sleep, melatonin might be a great option for you. Of course, significant sleep disorders and other sleep issues should be checked out by a sleep professional.
At Advanced Sleep Centers of Virginia, we have a highly-trained team of sleep specialists ready to help you with whatever sleep struggles you may have. We make the process of improving sleep easy with at-home sleep tests, online scheduling, and a secure telemedicine portal where you can communicate with specialists anytime, anywhere.
Interested in melatonin? Need help with your sleep! We want you to get the best night’s rest possible. Schedule an appointment online today or call (703) 689-2480 for a free consultation.