All about Vitamin M the darkness hormone! (Melatonin)

03 Aug 2022 / Mohit Bhatia

Sleep is one of the most inexpensive forms of improving your health that many unfortunately don’t get enough of! 1 in 3 adults worldwide are lacking in 7-9 hours of good quality undisturbed sleep. Due to this phenomenon, there has been a rise in supplements aiding sleep such as melatonin.

What is Melatonin: Melatonin is known as the sleep hormone which is released by a glad in your brain called pineal gland at night (2). Studies have shown its association with the sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythm of our body which is your body’s internal clock system (1). Melatonin does not induce sleep but instead it helps your body wind down which in turn helps promote sleep. Some ways of increasing body’s 

History of melatonin: It was first discovered in 1958! In the early 1900s Scientists discovered changes in colour of skin in reptiles and amphibians due to changes in the melatonin levels in their system. Decades later, it was found to be present in different parts of plants as well. 

Uses: Melatonin is widely used as a dietary supplement for ailments revolving around sleep concerns.Other than sleep, melatonin has also shown benefits in other areas of health such as eye health, mental health, GERD, and promoting HGH (Human growth hormone) (3, 4, 5, 6).

Sources of Melatonin: It is naturally found in low levels in some food items such as tart cherries, bananas, plums, grapes, rice cereals, some herbs, olive oil as well as in alcohol beverages such as wine and beer.

Is it safe: Melatonin is a safe and non-addictive option for adults suffering from mild to chronic sleep issues whether its due to lifestyle or other reasons including but not just jet lag. Although melatonin has been studied in children as young as 3 months old, most of the studies are limited to adult population (8). Therefore, we urge you to consult your doctor/physician for recommendations for anyone under 18 years of age.

Who needs it: 1. Individuals suffering from sleep issues such as insomnia, jet lagged people, or someone looking to change their circadian rhythm and lifestyle (from sleeping late at night to sleeping early so as to wake up earlier).

How is it made: Melatonin dietary supplements are predominantly made from synthetic ingredients in labs. However they can be made from animals and microorganisms as well.

What affects natural melatonin production: Your body produces melatonin naturally however in some individuals this production is hindered due to lifestyle choices such as night shift and being a night owl! Some factors that inhibit melatonin production include aging, not getting enough natural light, blue light exposure from electric gadgets before bedtime, stress and smoking. 

How to increase melatonin: Your body’s natural melatonin levels rise a few hours before bed time. Indulging in unwinding activities while reducing the brightness of lights in your room will benefit your melatonin levels. Do remember to reduce your blue light exposure (mostly screen devices) post sunset to help with your natural melatonin levels as well. You can also increase your body’s production of melatonin at night time by having active exposure to daylight in the start of your day and during afternoon time. This will help the body in recognising the new rhythm of your lifestyle and work in your favour by gradually increasing natural production of melatonin after sun sets. Other than this, taking a melatonin supplement can also help get a good night's sleep (7).

Other benefits of Melatonin: Melatonin has shown to support eye health as well as help reduce stomach ulcers and heartburn. Since it improves the quality of your sleep it can also increase growth hormone levels. Individuals suffering from minor to acute tinnitus can find relief from melatonin. However, more research and evidence is required for proving such health benefits.

Side effects: Some mild side effects reported in a scientific study () Include: headache, dizziness, sleepiness, drowsiness and nausea. Melatonin can interact with prescription medication. If you’re suffering from any ailments due to which you’re on any prescription medications then please do consult with your doctor/physician before starting.

Myths Debunked :

1. Melatonin is unsafe because it’s a hormone: Melatonin is a sleep hormone that is naturally produced in our body. Due to various factors sometimes in an individual this natural production is limited which can affect their sleep. Melatonin is not unsafe just because it is termed as a hormone. Melatonin is also naturally found in many healthy to consume (eggs, fish, fruit and veg).

2. Melatonin is a sedative: Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by our body. When taken in the right dosage it can help your body wind down and promote sleep. It does not have any sedative properties.

3. Melatonin is addictive: Research has shown that this is just a myth.

4. Melatonin can completely cure chronic sleep disorders like insomnia: The use of melatonin is purely for supporting your sleep-wake cycle i.e. your circadian rhythm by increasing the natural hormone in your body. This added support in turn helps aid your sleep. There are various factors at play which need to be diagnosed if you are suffering from severe sleep issues. If such is the case then kindly consult a medical professional and get the right diagnosis and treatment plan for it.

Conclusion: Melatonin can improve quality as well as time taken to fall asleep. It can also be used to improve quality of life for individuals who have an erratic sleep schedule due to night shift work or due to constant jet lag. Other than sleep benefits, melatonin has also shown benefits in other areas of health including but not limited to  eye health and mental health. When it comes to this supplement, less is better. Just like any other nutrient out there it can have very mild side effects and can interact with some strong prescription medications (get a consult with your doc if you are on these!).


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