Does Melatonin Help Induce Sleep?
Roughly 70 million Americans are affected by poor sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that tells your body when it is time to head to bed and has become a popular supplement among people struggling to fall asleep.
Sleep is as essential to your health as eating healthy or getting regular exercise. Poor sleep is often characterized as a sleep disorder and affects 1 in 3 adults around the world. Most adults need more than 7 hours of sleep per night for the best health and well-being. Unfortunately, not many people get that much sleep per night. Many people also have insomnia, a disorder characterized by loss of sleep, fatigue, and wakefulness during the night.
Melatonin is a hormone in your body that tells your body when it is time to go to bed. As a result, a deficiency of this hormone might cause mild insomnia. Melatonin is now being used as a supplement by many people worldwide due to its sleep-inducing properties.
What is melatonin?
Often nicknamed “the sleep hormone,” melatonin is a chemical naturally produced by your body. High melatonin levels can help you fall asleep fast, but most times, it isn’t enough by itself. It merely lets your body know when bedtime is approaching so that you can start to relax and get into sleep mode. Melatonin is an effective remedy against jet lag and is a powerful antioxidant. It has previously helped people with eye health, treatment of stomach ulcers, heartburn, relief of tinnitus symptoms, and can help increase the amount of growth hormone in males.
How does melatonin work?
Melatonin works in conjunction with the body’s circadian rhythm, a system which is commonly known as the internal clock. It lets your body know when it is time to eat, sleep, or wake up. Melatonin levels in our bodies start to rise when it is dark outside, signaling the body to start relaxing as bedtime approaches.
Melatonin also binds itself to receptors that induce relaxation. For example, it attaches itself to brain receptors to limit nervous activity and put muscles at ease. Melatonin helps reduce dopamine levels in the eyes, a hormone that keeps them awake even when tired.
How is melatonin related to sleep?
Research has shown that melatonin secretions in the brain can help you get to sleep. Whether melatonin is produced naturally by the body or taken into the body as a supplement,
In an analysis of 19 studies on people with sleep disorders, scientists found that melatonin helped reduce the time it took to fall asleep by an average of 7 minutes. In many of these studies, people also reported significantly better quality of sleep.
An analysis of 10 studies explored melatonin’s effects in people who traveled through five or more time zones. Scientists found that melatonin was remarkably effective at reducing the effects of jet lag. The analysis also found that lower doses (0.5 mg) and higher doses (5 mg) were equally effective at reducing jet lag.
What are some of the reasons I can’t go to sleep at night?
As melatonin helps your body prepare for sleep, people who don’t make enough of it at night can struggle to fall asleep. Many factors may cause low levels of melatonin at night. Stress, smoking, exposure to too much light at night, not getting enough natural light during the day, shift work, and aging are some of the causes of lack of sleep that also affect melatonin production.
- Effect of blue light
Johns Hopkins sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.S.M., advises that you keep the lights low in the evening to help your mind and body prepare for sleep. If you have to work in the evening or answer emails, you can use filters to screen out the blue and green wavelengths of light emitted by your smartphone and computer. Your brain associates this blue and green light with daytime, and it can interfere with melatonin’s sleep-promoting effects. Readily available blue light filters can help you get to sleep.
Other positive effects of melatonin
- Helps support healthy eyes
In one study, scientists asked 100 people with age-related macular degeneration to take melatonin daily, which helped them protect the retinas and delay AMD damage, without any significant side effects. It has potent antioxidant benefits that could help lower the risk of eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration.
- Helps treat stomach ulcers and heartburn
A study with 21 participants found that taking melatonin and tryptophan along with omeprazole — a common medication for acid reflux — helped heal stomach ulcers caused by the bacteria H. pylori faster.
In another study, 36 people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) were given either melatonin, omeprazole (a medicine that helps treat GERD), or a combination of both to treat GERD and its symptoms. Melatonin helped reduce heartburn and was even more effective when combined with omeprazole.
Melatonin is a very active and useful supplement for people who have insomnia and other sleeping disorders. Although it cannot make you sleep all on its own, it can help reset your circadian rhythms, which help you relax. However, it is encouraged that you consult a trusted and certified medical practitioner before you start a regular melatonin medication regimen.