Melatonin-- Nature's Sleep Aid?

There are much discussion and debate about the benefits and effectiveness of using melatonin as a natural sleep aid.  With so many differing opinions, it can be hard to decipher the facts.  So, what is the truth about melatonin?

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, located in the center of the brain. [1] The production of melatonin is affected by the time of day and amount of light-- production decreases when it's light and increases when it's dark. [2] Melatonin does not induce sleep, but it prepares the body for sleep by decreasing motor activity, increasing fatigue, and slightly lowering body temperature. [1]

Why is melatonin used?

Melatonin is used in individuals who have sleeping disorders because it has a very low risk of dependency, the body will not become used to the hormone and become less sensitive, and there is no "hangover effect." Research has proven melatonin to be particularly useful in those with insomnia, shift work disorders caused by working at night and sleeping in the daytime, and individuals experiencing jet lag. [2]

Is melatonin beneficial for those without a diagnosed sleeping disorder?

There have been no conclusive research findings of the benefits or disadvantages of melatonin use in individuals without a diagnosed sleeping disorder. It is crucial to contact your health care provider before beginning any supplement.

What if I am taking melatonin?

If you are taking melatonin, it is important to create the right environment to reap the benefits of the hormone.  Blue and green lights from electronic devices hinder the production of melatonin, so stop device use two hours before bedtime.  Bright overhead lights can also have the same effect.  Try to create a relaxing and restful environment before bed to prepare your body for sleep. [3]

Who shouldn't take melatonin?

Individuals who are pregnant, breastfeeding, have an autoimmune disorder, a seizure disorder, or depression should not use melatonin.  Remember to talk with your health care provider before beginning any supplement. [3]

Where can I purchase melatonin?

Nature's Sunshine® Melatonin Extra® is a supplement option that also contains other herbs and vitamins for maximum effect.  It is offered in 3-mg tablets which also contain vitamin E, Gingko leaf and leaf extract, and eleuthero root for optimal benefits. [4]

Other natural sleeping tips

  • Keep a normal sleep routine- try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day

  • Get active- aerobic exercise has been shown to improve an adult's sleep quality

  • Watch your diet- stop caffeine intake (including coffee, soft drinks, and chocolate) by mid-afternoon. Make dinner your lightest meal and try to avoid spicy or greasy foods, which can increase indigestion and make it harder to sleep

  • Avoid smoking- studies show that smokers have less restful nights than non-smokers

  • Avoid alcohol before bed- while alcohol may help you fall asleep, it disrupts your brain waves and decreases sleep quality

  • Put down your phone- technology use (from phones, television, computers, etc.) should stop at least one hour before bedtime because the light from these devices stimulates the brain and makes it harder to fall asleep

  • Keep it cool- studies say that individuals with a lower core body temperature sleep better and longer, so lower your thermostat before bedtime

  • Use your bed for sleep only- doing other activities, such as working, eating, or watching TV, creates an association between these activities and your bed, making it harder to relax and fall asleep [5]







Disclaimer: We do not directly or indirectly give medical advice or prescribe through alternative treatment.  We recommend that people contact their doctor if they need a medical diagnosis. We assume no responsibility if anyone decides to use this information, which is of historical value, for they are choosing to prescribe for themselves. Healing is sometimes a slow process, and we suggest that you do not stop taking any medications without the guidance of a doctor.