Melatonin - What You Should Pay Attention To?

Melatonin - What You Should Pay Attention To?

Oct 10, 2022Liza Solodovnikova

Do you feel tired but toss and turn in bed for hours? Are you still wondering if you need to buy melatonin? We prepared all information about the sleep hormone in our FAQs.

What is Melatonin?

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Melatonin is the antagonist to cortisol. Together, these two hormones regulate the sleep-wake cycle in the body. It is probably the best-known circadian system. You can also understand it as an internal clock regulated by light.

Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland (epiphysis) in the brain. The starting substance for melatonin is the amino acid tryptophan. Serotonin, the "happiness hormone," is produced from it, and melatonin forms via other intermediate products.

The production of cortisol and melatonin is dependent on light. If the eye perceives light, melatonin formation is suppressed. Thus, the body releases hormones mainly in the dark.

The production of melatonin begins between 9 and 10 p.m. Naturally, melatonin levels are highest between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Then, the hormone level decreases, and production stops between 7 and 9 a.m., and cortisol is increasingly released. As a result, you wake up. If this system works well, you are fit and relaxed for the coming day.

Melatonin impacts the sleep-wake cycle and the immune system, antioxidant defense, body temperature, and the balance of glucose regulation. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Melatonin

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Since the natural effect of melatonin ensures restful sleep, it makes sense to try supplements if you have insomnia. Melatonin from capsules can have a normalizing impact on rest. However, certain conditions must be met. Here is what you need to consider if you want to try melatonin supplements:

Who is Melatonin Suitable For?

If you already have a good night's sleep, buying melatonin would be superfluous. The hormone cannot further improve healthy sleep. But if your sleeping rhythm is disturbed by shift work or a long-haul flight, the sleep hormone becomes interesting because it is supposed to bring the internal clock back into balance and shorten the time it takes to fall asleep.

If you have more of a problem staying asleep and waking up frequently during the night, then melatonin (at least over-the-counter) will not be a suitable solution. It is broken down relatively quickly by the body, and the melatonin level only increases when falling asleep.

In addition, the sleep hormone in tablets is only suitable for adults. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid taking it.

What is There to Consider When Dosing and Taking?

The usual dosage of melatonin supplements is 1 mg per day. You shouldn't exceed this amount either, as there is evidence that low doses of melatonin produce even better results than high doses.

The time of ingestion and the duration of the application is also essential. Ideally, take melatonin about 30 minutes before you go to bed, between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Under no circumstances should you use the tablets or capsules with melatonin for a day's sleep after a night shift because you'll mess up your entire sleep-wake cycle.

You should also take the products regularly over a defined period. For example, you can take melatonin daily for two to three months to restore your circadian rhythm. However, taking the sleep hormone is not a permanent solution.

Are There Side Effects of Melatonin?

The risk of an overdose is relatively low because the body quickly breaks down melatonin. Therefore, you can hardly unbalance your melatonin level in the long term with over-the-counter capsules or sprays. However, you should not exceed the recommended dosage, as it can cause nausea that prevents you from falling asleep.

Taking melatonin at the wrong time can disrupt your entire sleep-wake cycle. It would lead to poor sleep and more fatigue.

Furthermore, side effects such as headaches, slight fever, and malaise have been observed with melatonin intake. So far, there are no meaningful studies on long-term outcomes: nightmares, increased nervousness, and irritability have only been reported after prolonged use. Therefore, you should not take products with melatonin for longer than two to three months.

Interactions with anti-rheumatic drugs and antihypertensives have also occurred. If you take any of these medications, it makes sense to ask your doctor before purchasing melatonin.

Where Can I Buy Melatonin Over the Counter?

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Melatonin drug must be prescribed to you by a doctor. However, you can get melatonin as a dietary supplement in the USA, Germany, France, and some other countries. The dosage and the effect are different here than over-the-counter melatonin as a dietary supplement. The drug works in stages and keeps melatonin levels high over a more extended time.

Over-the-counter melatonin products, such as capsules or sprays, on the other hand, do not promote sleeping through the night but instead fall asleep faster. Melatonin levels are only increased for a short time. You can purchase capsules, tablets, or a spray at a pharmacy, drug store, or online. Always pay attention to a manufacturer, quality certificates, and recommendations.

Does Melatonin Help Against Jet Lag?

Jet lag is a specific application area for melatonin products. If the time difference has messed up your natural clock, melatonin can make it easier to fall asleep and normalize your sleep-wake cycle. Therefore, melatonin is beneficial for people who work on flights. But even shift workers can use melatonin better to balance their sleep.

What Else Can You Do to Improve Your Sleep Naturally?

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You can support natural melatonin production by ensuring enough tryptophan through your diet. It is contained, for example, in legumes, eggs, and nuts.

Since serotonin is an intermediate product of melatonin production, you promote melatonin production through serotonin. For example, sun exposure is vital for serotonin.

Another trick to sleep better is to avoid light sources before bed. Blue light, in particular, makes your sleep worse. You can set up a blue light filter on many screens or wear blue-blocking glasses. It activates the release of melatonin and inhibits the release of cortisol. In general, good sleep hygiene can be helpful. It can include, for example, relaxation exercises or a cell phone-free time before bed.

In addition, purely herbal sleeping pills made from valerian or hops can have a calming effect and improve sleep. 

Conclusion: Melatonin For a Good Sleep

Melatonin is a hormone that plays a crucial role in the sleep-wake cycle. Taking melatonin as a dietary supplement can be helpful if you have trouble sleeping, are jet-lagged, or work shifts. If you stick to the recommended dosage and the right time of intake, there are hardly any side effects. Dietary supplements, available over the counter, can shorten the time you fall asleep and thus help you get healthy sleep. 



Disclaimer: This article is a collaborative effort of the CLAV editorial team, created on the current literature base. All our publications are supplemented with passion and expertise for naturopathy and a healthy lifestyle. Our medical experts approve all texts before publication. Please Note: Dietary supplements are no substitute for a balanced, healthy diet or medical advice.