Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced in the body. It helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. A synthetic form of melatonin is also available as a supplement. Some people use it as a natural remedy for insomnia and other sleep disorders.
So, does melatonin work as a sleeping pill? Let’s take a look at the science behind this popular supplement.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It is involved in regulating the body's sleep-wake cycle. Levels of melatonin rise in the evening and fall in the morning.
Production of melatonin is stimulated by darkness and inhibited by light. It is thought to play a role in resetting the body's internal clock, which helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin levels are also affected by age, with older people generally having lower levels than younger people.
Melatonin and sleep: does it work like a sleeping pill?
You’ve likely heard of melatonin as a sleep aid. However, melatonin is not a sleeping pill and doesn't act similarly like sleeping pill.
Melatonin is a hormone that your body naturally produces. It’s sometimes called the “darkness hormone” because levels of it rise in the evening and fall in the morning. This rise and fall is linked to your body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm.
Circadian rhythm helps regulate when for you to feel sleepy and when you feel awake. So, it makes sense that taking melatonin could help you sleep, right? Well, kind of. Melatonin supplements can help reset your internal clock if it’s out of whack (like if you’ve been jet-lagged or switched to a new work schedule).
So, is it good to take synthetic melatonin every night?
While most people consider short-term synthetic melatonin use to be safe, there is limited evidence that it is effective for promoting long-term sleep. It's important to remember that synthetic melatonin is also a hormone, and that using any hormone on a regular basis has the potential to suppress your own production of that hormone.
Better alternatives to synthetic melatonin
If you need help falling asleep and staying asleep at night, there are a few things you can do to help your body's natural ability to produce melatonin.
To begin, seek out sunlight during the day and keep your environment dark at night. Getting up and going to bed at the same time every day will also help to regulate your natural melatonin production.
There are a variety of other supplements that can help improve sleep that won't mess with your hormones. And, unlike the neurohormone melatonin, which only helps you fall asleep faster, these can actually improve your sleep quality and help you wake up feeling more rested and ready to go.
Magnesium - Magnesium is also used by the body naturally, but it is a mineral and more of a multitasker. This essential macromineral ("essential" in the sense that we must consume it on a daily basis) is involved in over 300 biological reactions. Magnesium has been found to help improve various sleep measures.
Maizinol™ corn leaf extract - Unlike synthetic melatonin, Maizinol™ is a natural sleep aid, stress, and mood health ingredient that contains proprietary standardized natural compounds known to bind to melatonin receptors and produce melatonin-like effects for better sleep quality. Maizinol™ is also clinically proven to reduce levels of a stress hormone, cortisol, and to improve mood health.
Melatonin is a hormone that controls your sleep cycle. It does not work like a sleeping. Taking it as a supplement can help you adjust your body clock, but experts agree it should not be done every night for long term.
To improve your overall sleep quality, you should instead support your body's natural production of melatonin by getting plenty of light during the day, seeking out darkness at night, and sticking to a consistent sleep schedule.