Weighted Blankets Could Replace Your Daily Melatonin A New Study Suggests
You’re lying in bedactually, more accurately, tossing and turningwatching the clock tick from 2:03 a.m. to 2:04 a.m. You toss some more, count sheep, flip on a sound machine, slip on an eye mask yet still, come 4:03 a.m., the night crawls along and you still haven’t slept a wink. If you’re among the many Americans who struggle to snooze soundly, this is an all-too-familiar feeling.
Nearly 1 in 2 Americans admit that poor or insufficient sleep impacted their daily activities at least once in the past seven days. When you get the recommended seven to nine hours, you support everything from your heart health and brain health to your immunity and energy levels.
With nearly half of us struggling to score enough shut-eye, paired with all of the health claims about supplemental melatonin, no wonder the prevalence of melatonin usage skyrocketed 478% between 1999 and 2018, according to a February 2022 study published in the journalJAMA.
ICYMI, melatonin is a hormone that the pineal gland in our brain produces to help control the sleep-wake cycle. When it starts to get dark outside, melatonin production increases to act as a signal to the body that it’s time to rest. It’s an important part of our circadian rhythm. It also may offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and may aid in controlling blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, suggests a January 2021 review in the journal Cureus.
Sleep Tips To Support Your Sleep Cycle
Melatonin works best when taken as part of a healthy, active lifestyle. If you are struggling with sleep problems, making changes to your sleep habits can make a difference. Try these tips for better sleep:
- Cut down on caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol both have a detrimental effect on your sleep. While alcohol helps you get to sleep, it reduces your overall sleep quality. Meanwhile, caffeine makes it harder to drop off. Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime and keep alcohol to a minimum.
- Exercise. Physical activity is great for your sleep, because it relaxes your mind and makes you physically tired. Getting at least 150 minutes a week is recommended by doctors.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is known to affect the natural production of melatonin. As a result, quitting can help your sleep cycle.
- Create an environment that encourages sleep. People sleep better in spaces that are cool, dark, and quiet, with no distractions. Keeping the TV and any digital devices out of the bedroom is best.
- Aim for a regular sleep pattern. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help you train your body for sleep.
Eliminate Light Sources And Use Blueblocker
Lights out is the motto. Did you know that your skin contains light receptors that send signals to your brain? That’s why it’s not enough to wear a sleeping mask that covers your eyes. It is best to sleep in as dark a room as possible. Studies by Harvard University have shown that the level of melatonin in the blood can be up to 50% lower when you sleep in a bright room.
Definitely not recommendable and certainly not relaxing! You still read the latest news in bed and watch a series on your laptop? You’d better make sure that you don’t expose yourself to artificial blue light for at least an hour before going to bed. The blue light is stimulating and wakes you up.
Another study by Harvard University found that devices in the bedroom that emit the blue light can disrupt the sleep-wake rhythm and reduce the number of REM phases. The blue light inhibits the production of melatonin and promotes the production of cortisol.
It makes the feeling of tiredness disappear and makes sure that your sleep time increases. Don’t risk falling asleep because of blue light, but use Blueblocker or just reach for a book again. You can also find out more about blue light in our sleep guide.
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How Much Melatonin Can Adults Take
Typical melatonin doses are between 1 and 5 milligrams, although some products go to as high as 20 mg. Experts at the Cleveland Clinic recommend trying 1 mg of melatonin for a whole week, then upping the dose by 1 mg each following week. Stop once you get to 10 mg or until the time it takes for you to fall asleep has decreased. Speak with your physician about any dosage concerns.
Here are the best melatonin supplements on the market.
Dosage: 1 tablet, one hour before bedtimeMelatonin per serving: 5 mg
Nature Made is one of the best vitamin supplement brands on the market, if not the best. All of its supplements are USP-verified, meaning that the products and facilities have been tested for toxins and contaminants and that the label is correct. Nature Made Melatonin tablets contain 5 mg of melatonin and 80 mg of calcium , about only 6% of the daily recommended value of calcium. If you already take a multivitamin with calcium, this shouldn’t interfere. In addition, one tablet also contains sodium starch glycolate, magnesium stearate and croscarmellose sodium. Nature Made is free of added colors, preservatives, artificial flavors and gluten.
Take one tablet about an hour before you go to bed. One bottle will last about 90 days.
- Nature Made supplements are always USP-verified and affordable
- One bottle is enough for 90 nights
- May take up to an hour to kick in
- Not intended for anyone under 18 years of age
Dosage: 1 tablet at bedtimeMelatonin per serving: 5 mg
Next Steps If Youre Not Getting Relief
Taking melatonin supplements alone to treat insomnia wont be as effective as taking melatonin and also working on improving your sleep hygiene, Dr. Avidan said. Sleep hygiene refers to creating an ideal environment that promotes conditions good for sleep.
Powering down electronics and avoiding the news two hours before bedtime.
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule.
Eschewing alcohol and caffeine at night.
Trying to get as much natural sunlight during the day as possible to orient your internal clock.
Dr. Avidan suggests that people both try these habits and take melatonin for two to three weeks to see if it helps.
While melatonin can help with the promotion of sleep, for many it does not, Dr. Salas said.
If you are stumped as to why melatonin isnt working for you, Dr. Salas recommends talking to your physician. She says it may also be time to contact a sleep specialist, as there could be other, more serious sleep issues. Dr. Avidan says he and his colleagues are currently taking virtual appointments for anyone living in the United States, so its worth inquiring whether a sleep specialist can see you remotely.
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Which Type Of Melatonin Supplement Should I Choose
Melatonin supplements come in various forms and most customers should be able to find a type that works for them.
Plain Melatonin Capsules or Tablets Traditional capsules and tablets have a convenient and familiar format. They tend to contain less sugar, but they may need to be taken with a glass of water and they may have an unpleasant taste. Dissolvable tablets are available for people who dislike swallowing pills.
Melatonin GummiesMelatonin gummies often contain flavor enhancers and natural or artificial sweeteners. This makes them an attractive option for adults and kids alike, though it increases the calorie count and may contribute to tooth decay. Some gummies contain gelatin, which may not be appropriate for those who are vegetarian or vegan.
Melatonin SprayMelatonin spray is a convenient and portable option. Sprays generally offer smaller doses than many pills or gummies. Some manufacturers also offer melatonin in liquid droplets.
LozengesLozenges are traditionally used for sore throats, and some may find them a soothing format for taking melatonin before sleep. As with gummies, it may be necessary to brush your teeth after taking a melatonin lozenge.
When Should I Take Melatonin
Studies evaluating the effects of melatonin on sleep have administered melatonin up to 2 hours before bedtime. Its best to follow the instructions on the supplement label .
Melatonin has a half-life of 12 hours, depending on the formulation. The half-life is the time required for the amount of a substance in the body to be reduced by half .
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Melatonin For Jet Lag
For sleeping issues related to jet lag, the usual dose is a 3 mg tablet.
In this case, if you have travelled across more than five time zones, going east, the change in timing can affect your sleep, your thinking, your energy levels, mood, and digestion.
Typically, you would take the melatonin tablet after arriving at your destination, just before a normal bedtime at the new location.15
For Sleep Problems In Adults
Your doctor will prescribe 2mg slow-release tablets. These release melatonin gradually into your body during the night.
It’s important to follow the instructions carefully. Your doctor may tell you to take melatonin only 2 or 3 times a week, and not every night.
You’ll usually take melatonin for just a few weeks to help with short-term sleep problems . However, it is sometimes prescribed for up to 13 weeks.
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How To Increase Melatonin Levels Naturally
You can increase your melatonin levels without supplementing.
A few hours before bedtime, dim all lights at home and avoid watching TV and using your computer or smartphone.
Too much artificial light can reduce the production of melatonin in your brain, making it harder for you to fall asleep .
You can also strengthen your sleep-wake cycle by exposing yourself to plenty of natural light during the day, especially in the morning (
How And When To Take It
The dose will vary depending on why you’re taking it. Follow the instructions that come with your medicine if you’re taking melatonin to:
- prevent headaches
If your child is prescribed melatonin, follow the doctor’s instructions carefully. Find out more about giving melatonin to children from Medicines for Children.
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Does Melatonin Work For Shift Workers
Shift work that involves night shifts may cause people to feel sleepy at work and make it difficult to sleep during the daytime after a shift ends.
According to two 2014 research reviews, studies on whether melatonin supplements help shift workers were generally small or inconclusive.
- The first review looked at 7 studies that included a total of 263 participants. The results suggested that people taking melatonin may sleep about 24 minutes longer during the daytime, but other aspects of sleep, such as time needed to fall asleep, may not change. The evidence, however, was considered to be of low quality.
- The other review looked at 8 studies , with a total of 300 participants, to see whether melatonin helped promote sleep in shift workers. Six of the studies were high quality, and they had inconclusive results. The review did not make any recommendations for melatonin use in shift workers.
How Does The Sleep Hormone Melatonin Work In Your Body
A study of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences in Cambridge could prove two important effects of melatonin. 1] On the one hand, it can lead to a reduction in the time it takes to fall asleep. Especially the evening struggle to finally fall asleep is familiar to many.
No matter how tired you are, your thoughts cannot be turned off and sleep just won’t come. If this sounds familiar to you, taking melatonin could be interesting for you. On the other hand, the researchers also gained initial insights into the importance of a consistently high melatonin level at night. A good and natural melatonin level is therefore essential for falling asleep and therefore for your sleep.
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Make Sure You Are Getting What The Label Says
Before you buy melatonin, its important to make sure you are getting it from a reputable place. The F.D.A. does not regulate supplements, Dr. Kolla said. So youre trusting the manufacturer in terms of the dosing.
A 2017 study in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that the melatonin content of dietary supplements often varies widely from what is listed on the label. The study found that even within the same batch of product, variability of the melatonin varied by as much as 465 percent.
Without governmental oversight, there really isnt a way to ensure the levels of melatonin advertised on the package are accurate. Therefore, Dr. Kolla recommends looking for a GLP or GMP label on the product. Both labels refer to federal regulations designed to affirm a product has the quality and purity that appear on its label. He says this provides some assurance that you are getting close to what the label says youre getting.
Melatonin For Sleep: Does It Work
Melatonin sleep aids are growing in popularity, with 3 million Americansusing them in 2012, according to a nationwide survey from the Centers forDisease Control and Prevention. If youre among them or are consideringmelatonin for sleep, its smart to understand exactly how melatonin works.
Your body produces melatonin naturally. It doesnt make you sleep, but as melatonin levels rise in the evening it puts you into a state of quiet wakefulness that helps promote sleep, explains Johns Hopkins sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.S.M.
Most peoples bodies produce enough melatonin for sleep on their own. However, there are steps you can take to make the most of your natural melatonin production, or you can try a supplement on a short-term basis if youre experiencing insomnia, want to overcome jet lag, or are a night owl who needs to get to bed earlier and wake up earlier, such as for work or school.
If youd like to harness melatonins sleep-inducing effects, Buenaver recommends taking these steps.
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So Why Is Melatonin So Tightly Regulated Everywhere Else
Melatonin is a hormone that our bodies make naturally in small amounts to set our sleep-wake cycles. When melatonin is released by our brain’s pineal gland and a few other organs, we start to feel drowsy. But if you regularly take exogenous melatonin, it’s unclear how that will affect the rest of your hormones. There’s some research to show that melatonin supplements can negatively affect the function of hormones like estrogen and male growth hormone, for example.
And while taking melatonin for a quick reset can help you adjust to a new bedtime, there’s little credible evidence that it will improve your overall sleep quality. Instead, it can leave you feeling groggy, foggy, and dazed the day after a subpar restanother reason it’s not as widely available in other countries.
“The main concern for me,” Byrnes adds, “Is that you can develop a tolerance to it, so over time you need a higher and higher dose. In the long run, you’re just making it so much harder to fall asleep naturally.”
When Byrnes arrived in the States to work as a nutrition researcher at mbg, she was surprised to find not only melatonin online and on the shelves of stores she visitedbut very high doses of it. Some melatonin supplements contain 10 milligrams of the hormone or morethat’s 33 times higher than the amount your body produces naturally. “It blew my mind a bit, to be honest,” she says. “The contrast was so stark.”
Health Benefits Of Melatonin
Studies have shown that melatonin is safe and effective as a sleep aid. Medications are usually tested on just healthy adults, but researchers have tested melatonin on a lot of people, including children.
Here are what studies have shown about using melatonin for sleep and other possible health benefits of the supplement.
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Melatonin itself doesnt make you fall asleep it just tells your body that its time to fall asleep by lowering alertness and reducing your core body temperature. It works in tandem with the bodys circadian rhythms to let you know when you should rest and when you should be awake.
Melatonin is the hormone of darkness and you need it to start falling asleep, Dr. Avidan said. The reverse also happens. If you expose yourself to too much light at night, you actually delay the production and release of melatonin. This is why experts suggest you avoid computers and smartphones before bedtime.
Dosage And Side Effects: What Should I Watch Out For When Taking Melatonin
If you decide to buy melatonin , you should pay attention to a few more things. The natural sleeping pill should always be taken about an hour before going to bed so that the melatonin can develop its full effect.
We recommend not to exceed a low melatonin dosage of up to 1 mg. As described above, the results of research indicate that especially low doses can achieve better effects than too high doses. The good thing about this natural sleep-inducing substance: If you only take up a small amount of melatonin, no side effects are to be feared.
However, if taken at the wrong time or at too high a dose, melatonin may have the opposite effect. Children and pregnant women should not take the capsules.
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