Millions of people are affected by poor sleep. Although it is a common problem, poor sleep can have severe consequences. Poor sleep can deplete your energy, lower your productivity and increase the risk of diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes.

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone made naturally by your body, that tells your body when it is time to head to bed. It is produced by the pineal gland in the brain but also found in other areas, such as the eyes, bone marrow and gut. It is often called the “sleep hormone,” as high levels can help you fall asleep.

How Does It Work?

Melatonin works together with your body’s circadian rhythm. In simple terms, the circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock. It lets you know when it’s time to sleep, wake and eat. Melatonin also helps regulate your body temperature, blood pressure and hormone levels.

Melatonin levels start to rise in your body when it is dark outside, signaling to your body that it is time to sleep. It also binds to receptors in the body and can help you relax. For instance, melatonin binds to receptors in the brain to help reduce nerve activity. In the eyes, it can help reduce dopamine levels, a hormone that helps you stay awake.

As melatonin helps your body prepare for sleep, people who don’t make enough of it at night can struggle to fall asleep. There are many factors that may cause low levels of melatonin at night. Stress, smoking, exposure to too much light at night (including blue light), not getting enough natural light during the day, shift work and aging all affect melatonin production.

Taking a melatonin supplement may help counter low levels and normalize your internal clock. Evidence shows that taking melatonin before bed can help you get to sleep. 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.

Additionally, melatonin can help with jet lag, a temporary sleep disorder. Jet lag occurs when your body’s internal clock is out of sync with the new time zone. Shift workers may also experience jet lag symptoms since they work during a time normally saved for sleep. Melatonin can help reduce jet lag by syncing your internal clock with the time change. For instance, an analysis of 10 studies explored the effects of melatonin 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 both lower doses (0.5 mg) and higher doses (5 mg) were equally effective at reducing jet lag.

How Does It Work?

5 Health Benefits of Melatonin

  1. Support Eye Health

    Melatonin has powerful antioxidant benefits that could help lower the risk of eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In one study, scientists asked 100 people with AMD to take 3 mg of melatonin over 6 to 24 months. Taking melatonin daily helped protect the retinas and delay damage from AMD, without any significant side effects.

  2. Help 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.

  3. Reduce Symptoms of Tinnitus

    Tinnitus is a condition characterized by a constant ringing in the ears. It is often worse when there is less background noise, such as when you’re trying to fall asleep. Interestingly, taking melatonin may help reduce symptoms of tinnitus and help you get to sleep. In one study, 61 adults with tinnitus took 3 mg of melatonin before bed for 30 days. It helped reduce the effects of tinnitus and significantly improved sleep quality.

  4. Help Increase Growth Hormone Levels in Men

    Human growth hormone is naturally released during sleep. In healthy young men, taking melatonin may help increase growth hormone levels. Studies have shown that melatonin can make the pituitary gland, the organ that releases growth hormone, more sensitive to the hormone that releases growth hormone.

  5. Help With Seasonal Depression

    Seasonal depression is commonly known as the “winter blues” or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It may affect up to 20% of adults in the US. Some evidence shows that seasonal depression is affected by changes in light and sleep cycles.In turn, melatonin could possibly help reduce symptoms of seasonal depression by helping with the sleep cycle.

Safety and Side Effects

Current evidence suggests that melatonin supplements are safe, non-toxic and not addictive. That being said, some people may experience mild side effects, such as sleepiness, dizziness, headaches and nausea. Melatonin may also interact with a variety of medications. These include blood thinners, blood pressure medication and antidepressants. If you take any of these, it’s best to check with your doctor before using this supplement.

The Bottom Line

Melatonin is an effective supplement that can help you fall asleep, especially if you have insomnia or jet lag. It may have other health benefits, as well. If you would like to try melatonin, start with a lower dose of 0.5–1 mg, taken 30 minutes before bed. If that doesn’t work, you can increase your dose to 3–5 mg.

source: healthline.com