Melatonin is one of the essential hormones in regulating human sleep and the body’s biorhythms, for what some call the sleep hormone.
Taking melatonin can help you sleep better. This is useful when your body does not produce it naturally. However, is it safe?
This article discusses the benefits, side effects, and contraindications of taking melatonin for sleep.
Melatonin – The Sleep Hormone
The increase in melatonin naturally occurs at night. When a person undergoes any change in their rhythms, they can take melatonin in the form of tablets to normalize them.
According to research, the natural production of this hormone decreases over time, which is why it is one of the leading causes of falling asleep in adulthood. (2,3,4)
Another of the most common uses is to take melatonin to soften jetlag during air travel. (1)
Melatonin tablets fall into the category of sleep inducers. Unlike psychotropic drugs, melatonin has practically no contraindications. In general, melatonin for sleep is prescribed for people over 55 with insomnia disorder.
Melatonin for Sleep – Benefits
Melatonin acts as an antioxidant. (5,6,7)
This molecule can counteract the effect of free radicals and prevent oxidative effects.
When sleeping, the sleep hormone penetrates the tissues and cells of the body, successfully neutralizing the effects of free radicals that exist in the body. This is one of the primary mechanisms the body has to protect DNA. (6)
There is sufficient scientific evidence to say that when there are imbalances in the natural production of melatonin, it can be counterproductive for cancer.
Therefore, even melatonin combined with other compounds has been used to treat patients with malignant tumors. (7)
Lack of melatonin leads to a slower reasoning process and low mood. Just as a relationship has been recorded between the levels of this hormone with diseases associated with memory and cognitive functions, such as Alzheimer’s. (7)
Effects of melatonin on sleep
A scientist from Turco, Aziz Sancar, won a Nobel Prize for his contribution to relating the effects of melatonin to the genes of the biological clock. (5).
Following this discovery, several pharmaceutical companies began producing melatonin tablets.
However, studies today are still not consistent on the effectiveness of taking melatonin for better sleep. (5.6)
Other studies are more encouraging and claim that consuming 5 mg of this hormone before sleeping reduces wakefulness by 1.5 hours. (7)
What is known is that at night the hormone melatonin is synthesized in greater quantity. This is one of the body’s mechanisms to achieve sleep and rest better.
Not making enough melatonin makes the transition to deep sleep difficult. With low levels of this hormone, sleep becomes shallow. That is, not restorative. If the situation continues for long periods, it generates insomnia disorder and other sleeping problems.
How to take melatonin to sleep?
The recommended dose is 2 mg once a day, 1 to 2 hours before bedtime and after eating a meal. (3) This pattern can be maintained for thirteen weeks. The safety of sleep hormones in children under the age of 0 to 18 has not yet been established.
It is important to remember that bright light destroys its action. Taking melatonin to sleep and using a cell phone in bed doesn’t make sense. If your doctor indicates it to sleep well, it is advisable to take a 1 mg tablet and avoid stressful situations.
How is melatonin produced?
The pineal gland produces melatonin from tryptophan. (8) In fact, tryptophan is the raw material for both the sleep hormone. The maximum peak in its production occurs between 2-4 am in healthy people. (2)
This period represents more than half of the total melatonin production in the body. (1)
The concentration of the sleep hormone in the blood is relatively stable from one day to the next; the intensity of light and age mainly influences the changes in its synthesis.
The natural production of this hormone is also interrupted by using electronic devices. For this reason, people who have insomnia or other sleep disorders are recommended to take melatonin to sleep and limit the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices 2-3 hours before going to bed.
Not resting as much due to a low level of natural melatonin production causes an increase in the stories of the stress hormone cortisol. What is associated with anxiety; leads to a bad mood and the development of depression and hinders muscle recovery processes.
In addition, taking melatonin to sleep indirectly affects your mood. Its synthesis is closely related to the synthesis of the hormone of happiness: serotonin. (4)
Melatonin for sleep – contraindications and side effects
Taking melatonin to sleep is considered relatively safe. However, some people may experience excessive drowsiness or allergy to any tablet’s components.
The side effects of melatonin are:
- it may make bleeding worse in people with bleeding disorders.
- It could make depression symptoms worse.
- It can increase blood sugar in people with diabetes.
- It can increase the risk of having a seizure.
- It can improve immune function and interfere with immunosuppressive therapy people receive transplants.
Contraindications of taking melatonin tablets to sleep are:
- allergies or hypersensitivity to any of the components
- work or drive
- stomach ulcers
- take antidepressants
- drink alcohol
- people with high blood pressure
- people with clotting problems
- uncontrolled diabetes
- pregnant or lactating women
- Melatonin is the essential hormone in regulating sleep and the body’s biorhythms. The stress hormone cortisol impairs its natural production.
- One of the benefits of melatonin is that it is a potent antioxidant.
- The foods with the most melatonin are nuts; however, they are not recommended for sleeping due to their high caloric content.
- The sleep hormone is synthesized from tryptophan, including foods with tryptophan, such as chocolate is a good strategy to stimulate its production.
- Current studies confirm the effects of melatonin to sleep better when taking doses greater than 0.5 mg. Ideally, take 1-2 mg before bed and 60 minutes after dinner.
- Melatonin sleeping tablets do not present serious contraindications. However, it is not indicated for people with liver problems and lactating women, as well as it can interact with other medications.