All You Ever Wanted To Know About Melatonin
Updated: Dec 16, 2021
What are the Benefits of Melatonin?
Most of you probably think of Melatonin as the “sleep hormone.” And it is! Melatonin is produced by the Pineal gland and helps to regulate your sleep and your mood. Melatonin is higher in the autumn and winter and lower in the spring and summer. Light inhibits Melatonin production, and darkness increases it. Aside from sleep (which is very important!), you might be surprised at some other benefits as well:
A recent study from the Cleveland Clinic showed that people who used Melatonin had a 30% reduced likelihood of testing positive for COVID-19
Treatment of sleeping disorders due to shift work
Reduces side effects of quitting smoking
Reduces the side effects of chemotherapy
Helps with insomnia due to Attention Deficit Disorder, Alzheimer’s, depression, and ADHD
Helps to manage the immune system and blood pressure
Melatonin can help control Cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone that, when released over time, can cause weight gain, high blood pressure, fatigue and contributes to diabetes
Studies have shown that Melatonin may improve eye health and help treat seasonal affective disorder
Women with severe premenstrual syndrome symptoms have low Melatonin. Peri-menopausal and menopausal women ages 42-62, when administered 3 mg of melatonin at bedtime caused most women to report improvement of mood and a reduction in symptoms of depression, and significant improvement of thyroid function.
In animal studies, Melatonin slows down the effects of aging
Low levels of Melatonin are associated with several headache types
What Interferes with Melatonin?
Especially when it comes to sleep, creating an environment conducive to Melatonin production is a good place to start. Since light decreases Melatonin, here are some good tips on keeping your Melatonin levels high when you need them- at bedtime.
Light from the Outside
Whether it is streetlights, moonlight, or sunlight, any light from the outside will interfere with Melatonin production. The easiest solution is light-blocking shades if you don’t like wearing eyeshades. People swear by the effectiveness of light-blocking window coverings, which are especially helpful during the summer months.
Get your sunlight earlier in the day when you can. Sunlight will increase serotonin, the feel-good hormone, which converts to Melatonin at night. Exposure to sunlight late in the day could interfere with sleep later that night.
Computers, phones, and TV’s are Melatonin killers! Turn off all devices at least an hour before bedtime, or at the very least turn on the blue light blocker (or nighttime mode).
The other option is blue blocker glasses, which can be very effective. They are relatively inexpensive, but it does mean wearing glasses, which some people are not comfortable with. The evidence shows that blue blocker glasses work better than nighttime mode for electronic devices.
Bright Indoor Lights
Brighter lights, as opposed to dimmer lights before bed, have also been shown to decrease Melatonin. Dim your lights or at least turn a few off before going to bed. That means no reading in bed!
It is estimated that the night time Melatonin levels of a 70-year-old are one quarter of a young adult. But the real complication comes in people with Alzheimer’s disease who sundown. Sundowning affects over half of people with dementia and is characterized by agitated wandering at night. Melatonin decreases in people with Alzheimer’s disease, so Melatonin's use in this population might be indicated. Melatonin has to be used very carefully in people with dementia and should only be prescribed by a physician.
If someone is older without cognitive impairment and has trouble sleeping, Melatonin is worth consideration. Keep in mind that there might be other modifiable factors affecting sleep as well. These include urinary incontinence, other medication side effects, chronic pain and napping during the day.
How do I Get Melatonin?
Dietary sources of Melatonin include eggs and nuts, and cherries. Some kinds of mushrooms, cereals, and germinated legumes or seeds are also good sources of Melatonin.
The other way to get Melatonin is through supplements. Before deciding how much Melatonin to take, consult with your healthcare provider. Generally speaking, dosing is between 0.5 mg to 3 mg for sleep. Taking more is not necessarily better because then you might be tired during the day.
Dosing for older adults should take into consideration several factors, including weight and other prescribed medications. Starting at lower doses is recommended for older people, since it stays longer in their system and can cause day time drowsiness.
Melatonin: Wonder Hormone?
Like most supplements, Melatonin needs to be used with caution and in consultation with your health provider. But we can add the hormone Melatonin to a long list of vital hormones for immunity, vitality, and well-being.