Sleep is vital to our health and well-being. It allows us to rest, recharge and repair, so we’re ready for the next day. Sleep is also often neglected, with late nights that can lead to severely disrupted circadian rhythms. And most of us don’t realize the toll that a lack of quality sleep is taking on our bodies and overall health.
Melatonin is a reliable solution for those who need help getting to sleep and staying asleep. But not all melatonin supplements are created equal. Here we’ll explore melatonin options, such as controlled-release, the effects of melatonin on the body, and how to find the best supplement for the best night’s sleep.
In This Article
- 1. Regular melatonin supplements
- 2. Controlled-release melatonin supplements
Your circadian rhythm is the natural cadence of your body that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. As part of this process, your body naturally produces melatonin to regulate your circadian rhythm. Your body produces more melatonin when it’s dark and less during daylight hours. An increase in melatonin is what makes you feel sleepy — signaling you to go to bed.
This process can be influenced by light sources — natural and artificial — present during night and day. Because your circadian rhythm is dependent on environmental factors to help keep a healthy sleep cadence, there is a lot that can throw your rhythm off, including your lifestyle, overexposure to artificial blue light, eating habits, exercise and more.
When your circadian rhythm is interrupted, it can have ongoing detrimental effects on your health. Many suffer from cognitive disruption in the short-term and neurological disorders in the long-term. It can lead to dysfunction across all your systems, causing physical, mental and behavioral problems. Getting your system back on track is vital. This is where a melatonin supplement can come in.
As a supplement, melatonin is commonly used to help those with trouble sleeping or who suffer from sleep disorders. Others who may benefit from the support of a melatonin supplement:
- Those who take medications that impact their ability to sleep.
- People who have jet lag or other lifestyle influences and need to get back on track.
- Shift workers who need to amplify melatonin production during the day when they sleep.
- Children with autism or neurological disorders.
- Adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease who need to feel calmer around bedtime.
- People who are blind and may have limited daylight receptors.
- Anyone with insomnia or other sleep disorders or who experiences temporary sleepiness.
- Those whose melatonin production has naturally dropped due to age.
There are two types of melatonin supplements, the regular supplements most people are familiar with, and controlled-release supplements. Both can be useful depending upon the reason you are taking supplements, however controlled-release melatonin supplements are gaining popularity.
1. Regular melatonin supplements
Typical melatonin supplements supply an immediate release of melatonin to the body. By design, this process helps you get to sleep faster, letting your body’s natural sleep rhythm take over to deliver restful, regenerative sleep.
While it is considered safe and effective with few side effects, conventional melatonin supplements only remain in the body for a short time. It has a half-life of 40 to 60 minutes, which means it is only at peak effectiveness during the first hour after taking the supplement. For this reason, regular melatonin is effective when helping people get to sleep, but it doesn’t last long enough to ensure you’ll stay asleep.
2. Controlled-release melatonin supplements
Given the regular melatonin supplements only help you fall asleep, you only receive help for half the battle. And staying asleep is a crucial part of the rest and rejuvenation process that your body requires.
Controlled-release melatonin will help you fall asleep and stay asleep for longer by releasing small amounts of melatonin throughout the night. While regular melatonin loses its effectiveness after 40 to 60 minutes, controlled-release melatonin lasts longer, ensuring your body gets the sleep it needs to be productive and alert the next day. In fact, among the many uses and benefits of melatonin, controlled-release melatonin is documented as increasing the quality of sleep, mood and quality of life among those with seasonal and other mood disorders as well as those who have insomnia and other sleep challenges.
Humans have what’s called the endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in several bodily functions such as appetite, mood and sleep. Cannabinoids (CBD) are thought to interact with the endocannabinoid system to positively support these functions, including quality sleep. Even though melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced by your body, melatonin supplements alone don’t work for everyone. And layering in other natural remedies, such as CBD, are linked to improvements not only with sleep but also in stress, mood and more.
Melatonin is naturally occuring in the body, but there are considerations to take into account when using melatonin supplements. Generally, melatonin is considered safe for short-term use. It is categorized as a dietary supplement, which means it is available over the counter. Dosage is recommended not to exceed 10 milligrams per day by the Council for Responsible Nutrition.
Melatonin is non-habit forming and offers the added benefit of less grogginess the next day compared to prescription sleep aids and sedatives. Those who take other over-the-counter drugs to help with sleep, such as benadryl, also report more grogginess and the sensation of a hangover than those using natural aids like melatonin supplements.
In fact, there are concerns that over-the-counter drugs, such as Diphenhydramine (Benadryl® ) can be more risky because they cross the blood-brain barrier, which can have long-term effects on the user’s brain. Melatonin is an ideal substitute with no risk of toxic accumulation in the brain that can lead to neurodegenerative disorders.
When your body naturally produces melatonin for a healthy circadian rhythm, it begins to increase for about 2 hours around sundown. It will remain elevated throughout the night, decreasing substantially in the morning. Too much artificial light after sundown can suppress the production of melatonin. A healthy circadian rhythm will average 8-hour nights and 16-hour days.
Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.S.M., a sleep expert at Johns Hopkins University, recommends programming your body for sleep while supporting the work of the controlled-release melatonin you choose to take. “Create optimal conditions for it to do its job by keeping the lights low before bed. Stop using your computer, smartphone, or tablet — the blue and green light from these devices can neutralize melatonin’s effects. If you watch television, be sure you’re at least six feet away from the screen. Turn off bright overhead lights too.”
Melatonin is a sleep aid, not a long-term sleep solution. By programming the body for sleep and building good habits into bedtime routines, the natural sleep cycle of the body can then take over for most people. Melatonin is a great way to support this programming phase. It’s always a good idea to consult with your physician if you’re having trouble sleeping to see if a melatonin supplement is right for you.
Programming your body for sleep with melatonin as one of several natural sleep remedies is an excellent way to support better sleep in the long-term. While conventional melatonin supplements will help you fall asleep, controlled-release melatonin ensures you fall asleep and stay asleep, so you get the rest and rejuvenation your body needs.
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