Sleep is a vital physiological process that occurs in most living organisms, including simpler life forms, such as single-cell organisms, which exhibit patterns that resemble sleep.
Unfortunately, people often take sleep for granted and consider it a passive activity that doesn’t require any effort. However, if your sleep is irregular, many health problems arise.
After decades of research, scientists were able to determine the chemicals that interfere with the sleep cycle. As a result, they were able to produce dietary supplements which contain the leading chemical that promotes sleep – Melatonin.
In this article, we will cover the effects of melatonin supplements and how it helps with sleep regulation. We will also briefly go over the most common indication to use melatonin – Insomnia.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that’s naturally produced in the pineal gland, which is a small gland located in the brain. The hormone plays a crucial role in regulating sleep and the body's circadian rhythm, which is the internal clock that helps us maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin levels rise in the evening and stay elevated throughout the night, which helps us fall asleep and stay asleep.
Aside from its role in sleep regulation, melatonin also provides a number of other health benefits. For instance, it may boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and protect against certain types of cancer.
In the supplement form, people use melatonin to treat sleep disorders such as insomnia, jet lag, and shift work disorder.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is an extremely common condition that affects a large portion of the population. The exact causes of insomnia are multifactorial and involve several components, including stress, anxiety, and poor sleep hygiene.
In fact, researchers estimate that around 24-36% of insomniacs also have some sort of anxiety disorder.
The second type of sleep disorder is hypersomnia, which refers to sleeping excessive hours every night. These patients also experience daytime sleepiness that negatively impacts their professional and personal lives.
Of course, insomnia is way more prevalent than hypersomnia, and it could lead to serious health complications, such as an increased risk of several ailments and the weakening of the immune system.
Here is a detailed list of melatonin’s benefits:
- Improves seasonal affective disorder (SAD) symptoms – Melatonin may help alleviate symptoms of SAD, a type of depression that occurs during the winter months when there is less daylight.
- Reduces symptoms of tinnitus – Melatonin can reduce the intensity of tinnitus.
- Optimizes eye health – This hormone is able to protect against certain eye conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma.
- May possess anti-cancer properties – Some studies suggest that melatonin may have anti-cancer properties.
People often link insomnia with difficulties when trying to fall asleep; however, the definition of insomnia extends beyond that.
For instance, if you fall asleep easily but wake up multiple times during the night, it is called maintenance insomnia, which means you’re unable to maintain sleep.
In summary, there are several types of sleep disorders that wreak havoc on the entire body, including your cognitive function. Insomnia, hypersomnia, and obstructive sleep apnea are by far the most common.
How do you know if you have insomnia?
According to the Diagnostic and statistical manual of psychiatric disorders V, or DSM-V for short, insomnia is part of a broad spectrum of sleep disorders that also entails narcolepsy and sleepwalking.
For most people, insomnia is synonymous with difficulty falling asleep; however, the DSM-V also classifies insufficient sleep and difficulty maintaining it as types of insomnia.
Here are some signs and symptoms of insomnia:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty maintaining sleep
- Feeling exhausted and drowsy during the day
- Non-refreshing sleep (exhaustion even after sleeping)
- Distractibility and reduced concentration
Insomnia is further divided into two types depending on its duration. We have acute insomnia, which lasts for several nights to weeks and can often be attributed to certain life events, such as stress and anxiety.
On the other hand, we have chronic insomnia, which must occur at least three nights a week for longer than 3 months.
Chronic insomnia is challenging to deal with since the underlying cause is usually unidentified.
How does melatonin help with sleep
Melatonin is a vital substance that regulates sleep.
In general, when light hits the receptors of the eye, signals get sent to the brain to induce feelings of alertness and vigilance. As light becomes dimmer, the pineal gland ramps up the production of melatonin, which leads to a general feeling of drowsiness and sleep.
As you can probably guess, this system is not perfect, and any disruption to the secretion of melatonin can lead to sleep disorders (e.g., insomnia).
For instance, if your brain doesn’t secrete melatonin properly, you can expect difficulties falling asleep or experience shallow, fragmented, and poor sleep quality.
The good news is that melatonin supplements solve this issue by providing the body with the master regulator of sleep to restore a regular sleep schedule.
How much melatonin should you take
The appropriate dosage of melatonin varies depending on several factors, including a person's age, weight, and the reason for taking it.
As a general rule of thumb, the recommended dose for adults is 0.5 to 5 milligrams (mg) taken 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. However, some people may require a higher or lower dose based on their individual needs.
Remember that melatonin supplements should be taken in moderation. It is not a long-term solution for sleep problems. Therefore, it is always best to consult with your healthcare provider before taking melatonin supplements. They can help determine the appropriate dosage and discuss any potential interactions or side effects.
You also need to remember that the quality of melatonin supplements is not always equal. For this reason, you should look for a reputable brand to ensure that you are getting a safe and effective product.
We hope that this article introduced today’s topic in a simple manner; however, if you still have unanswered questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below.
If you are ready to make the smart move like many of our readers have, click on this link to get your own melatonin supplement.
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