What is Melatonin Really Doing to My Body Anyways?

What is Melatonin Really Doing to My Body Anyways?

Melatonin is in almost every sleep aid we see on the market today.  But what is melatonin really and how does it work?  Melatonin is a hormone that naturally occurs in the body. It’s produced by the pineal gland and sends a signal to regulate the sleep-wake cycle—your circadian rhythm.   Melatonin levels go up at night to tell your body that it’s nighttime and it’s time to go to bed.  Melatonin levels lower in the early morning to tell your body that it is time to wake up.  So a melatonin supplement is a synthetic form of the natural hormone produced in our bodies.

Melatonin's effect on the reproductive system:

Melatonin does more than just influence sleep. Melatonin also regulates the start of menstruation, the length of ovulation cycles, and menopause, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.  Because of this, experts say melatonin supplements should be avoided in pregnancy, during breastfeeding or when trying to conceive. They also say that children or adolescents should not use melatonin supplements as melatonin may interact with other hormones and interfere with their development.

Unfortunately, many of the “natural” sleep aids that contain melatonin don’t warn consumers of this potentially harmful side effect.  While melatonin may be useful to help children and adults get more sleep, it may be causing irreversible side effects to our reproductive systems.

Some other reported side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Next-day grogginess
  • Vivid dreams and nightmares

Other, less common melatonin side effects might include short-lasting feelings of depression, mild tremor, mild anxiety, abdominal cramps, irritability, reduced alertness, confusion or disorientation, and abnormally low blood pressure (hypotension). 

In addition, melatonin supplements can interact with various medications, including:

  • Anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Contraceptive drugs
  • Diabetes medications
  • Medications that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants)

So should we never use melatonin? 

Generally speaking, melatonin can be safe for short-term use. It’s best used for managing things like jet lag or a rare occasion of sleeplessness. 

However, ensuring that you are taking the correct dosage of melatonin can be a challenge. According to research conducted at MIT, the correct dosage of melatonin for it to be effective is 0.3 - 1.0 mg. Many commercially available forms of melatonin are in 3 to 10 times the amount your body would need. In fact, there is some evidence that higher doses may be less effective.

One recent study found that 71% of melatonin supplements surveyed did not contain exactly what they said on the label: Some had more than four times as much melatonin as they said they did!  In Europe, melatonin at very high doses has been used as a contraceptive!  

Boosting melatonin naturally

The good news is that you can boost your melatonin naturally without taking a supplement. Food therapy is one way to naturally boost melatonin levels along with other suggestions on how to protect your natural melatonin levels.

These foods have naturally occurring melatonin:

  • Fruits and vegetables (tart cherries, corn, asparagus, tomatoes, pomegranate, olives, grapes, broccoli, cucumber)
  • Grains (rice, barley, rolled oats)
  • Nuts and Seeds (walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, mustard seeds, flaxseed)

These foods are excellent sources of magnesium which is a powerful mineral that is instrumental in sleep and is a natural relaxant that helps deactivate adrenaline. A lack of magnesium can be directly linked to difficulty going and staying asleep.

  • Dark leafy greens (baby spinach, kale, collard greens)
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, cashews, pine nuts, flaxseed, pecans)
  • Wheat germ
  • Fish (salmon, halibut, tuna, mackerel)
  • Soybeans
  • Banana
  • Avocados
  • Low-fat yogurt

Lifestyle suggestions to boost melatonin:

1. Turn off electronics at least 1 hour before going to bed--Electronics such as tablets, laptops, smartphones, TV, and LED light bulbs emit blue light, which delays the release of melatonin, can keep you awake long into the night, and can affect sleep quality

2. Wear orange tinted glasses at least an hour before bed, but preferably from sunset to bedtime.  The orange tint of the glasses cancels out the blue light from both the lighting in your home and the light from electronic screens.  These glasses are also helpful to use during the day if you suffer with eye fatigue when reading a computer screen. Read more about the impact of artificial and blue light--How Artificial Light is Wreaking Your Sleep.  Below are some options for glasses:

  • Gamma Ray Computer Glasses.  They look like regular glasses with slightly tinted glass, and look like regular glasses. As a bonus, they combat computer-induced eye fatigue. Gamma Ray Glasses
  • Wrap-around Uvex glasses, which look more like safety glasses.  They may block blue light more effectively.  UVEX Glasses

3. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible at night with blackout blinds.  For optimal melatonin levels, your room should be as dark as possible, without ambient light from outside your home or from other rooms inside your home.  face. 

4. Install f.lux on your  laptop and enable Night Shift mode in the settings on your phone.   f.lux is a free program you can download, and it removes the blue light from screens after sunset. Your screen will have an orange tint, but the color isn’t unpleasant, and is easier on your eyes.   

We hope these suggestions help you get a better night's sleep!!

Be well,



#Circadianrhythms #melatonin #melatoninsideeffects #bluelight #bettersleep

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