Melatonin plays several roles in the body, including helping to regulate blood pressure, boost immune function, antioxidative, and manages cortisol levels, in addition to regulating the body’s circadian rhythm. That’s why melatonin is often referred to as the body’s sleep hormone.
Overview of Melatonin
Melatonin is a multitasking hormone produced by the brain’s pinecone-shaped pineal gland. [R]
But melatonin is probably best known for its soporific powers. Chief among its responsibilities is regulating the body’s circadian rhythm so it knows when to rest and when to wake up.
That’s why melatonin is often referred to as the body’s sleep hormone.
- Regulates Circadian Rhythm and Enhances Sleep Quality
- Alleviates Anxiety and Depression Symptoms
- Potent Antioxidant
- Supports BDNF
- Strengthens the Blood-Brain Barrier
- Replaces Benzos for Sleep
Regulates Circadian Rhythm and Enhances Sleep Quality
Melatonin increases the quality of sleep. The Circadian Rhythm influences the body’s sleeping habits. Think of it as a built-in clock that controls our bodies processes 24 hours a day. Scientists have observed that Melatonin normalizes the Circadian rhythm which can sometimes become distorted due to modern lifestyle. [R]
Alleviates Anxiety and Depression Symptoms
Conditions like depression and anxiety usually worsen by a disturbed, intermittent or a lack of a sleeping pattern. Having these disturbances regulated can alleviate the symptoms of these conditions, not mainly offering a cure but by far offering an improvement in the standard of life. [R]
Antioxidant enzymes roles within our bodies are to help clean the cells in our bodies and filter our bloodstream from harmful cells. Melatonin increases the rate at which our body produces these enzymes that would be naturally. These molecules in question can also bond to what is called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) & Reactive Nitrogen Species (NOS) which can decrease the level of damage each of these can cause respectively.
The benefits directly from this are that Melatonin prevents any harm coming to your organ systems or tissues. These advantages combined make Melatonin a very useful protectorate within your body internally. These antioxidants can also have benefits for the most critical organ in our body, our brain. [R]
Nerve cells are also protected by the increase of these enzymes produced by Melatonin, having a positive onward affect towards the spinal cord including white matter and optic nerves. Its regeneration is down to something called the ‘Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor’ (BDNF); in simple terms, this is a protein responsible for the nerves regeneration and well-being within our brains. [R]
Strengthens the Blood-Brain Barrier
Melatonin strengthens the ever significant barrier between the brain and our blood. If the strength of this barrier were to deteriorate and for example leak, this can lead to cognitive dysfunction (also known as brain fog) and could potentially result in future to conditions such as Alzheimer’s. [R]
In addition to defending against conditions such as Alzheimer’s development, Melatonin can also aid as a coping mechanism for users who have Parkinson’s. Melatonin in tests was shown to prohibit cell death and brain damage, sometimes as a cause of a leaky blood-brain barrier.
Referring back to the regulation of sleep, this can also help people who, however, there is currently no proof it helps with any of the other side-effects of the condition. [R]
Its widely known that benzos usually depress the natural levels of melatonin within our bodies. Our recommendation is if you are using one of these drugs for sleep, it would be wise to start using melatonin instead. Moreover, start weaning yourself off the benzos. [R]
Melatonin Mechanism of Action
Melatonin works together with your body’s circadian rhythm. In simple terms, the circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock. It lets you know when it’s time to sleep, wake and eat. Melatonin also helps regulate your body temperature, blood pressure and hormone levels. [R]
Melatonin levels start to rise in your body when it is dark outside, signaling to your body that it is time to sleep. [R]
It also binds to receptors in the body and can help you relax. For instance, melatonin binds to receptors in the brain to help reduce nerve activity. In the eyes, it can help reduce dopamine levels, a hormone that enables you to stay awake. [R] [R]
Melatonin is controlled by light and darkness. When we’re awake and the sun’s out, we don’t produce any melatonin. But at night, the onset of darkness signals to our pineal gland to release melatonin into the bloodstream.
Your melatonin levels begin to increase about two hours before you go to bed, typically around 9 p.m., and peak about five hours later.
As melatonin levels rise throughout our body — it’s found in a variety of our organs, including our eyes, bones, ovaries/testes and gut — our body knows it’s time to drift off to Slumber Town. [R]
“The melatonin receptors are named MT1 and MT2, and are G-protein coupled receptors (GPRCs) coupled to Gi proteins (a heterotrimer of α, β, and γ that dissociates into α and βγ when the receptor is activated).
These two receptors are quite different from each other, as they structure pharmacological characteristics and chromosomal location, yet both have high affinity for melatonin. A third ‘receptor’ exists, known as MT3, but it is not a GPRC like MT1/2.
Due to the cytoplasmic protein quinone reductase II having the same melatonin binding properties as ‘MT3′, and deletion of quinone reductase II causing ‘MT3′ to disappear, MT3 may just be quinone reductase II.” – Examine.com
You’ll see melatonin recommended in a range of doses, starting at around 0.5 milligrams up to 10 milligrams for people with sleep disorders, with the most common dosage being around 3 milligrams.
But even this is probably way more than you need.
You’re better off basing your melatonin intake on increments that mirror how much melatonin our bodies produce at night. According to clinical studies, the optimal dose is 0.3 milligrams. [R]
Even though the overwhelming verdict is that melatonin is safe, you can have too much of a good thing. Overdosing on melatonin has not been shown to be fatal, but it can produce the aforementioned side effects, like dizziness and grogginess. In one known case, after taking 24 milligrams of melatonin, a man became lethargic and disoriented, but returned to normal and did not continue to have issues once he lowered his dosage.
In addition, large doses could potentially cause amenorrhea (skipped periods) in women, due to it suppressing gonadotropin-releasing hormones, but if you can easily remedy this side effect by simply stopping your supplements. [R]
Melatonin Side Effects
Overall, the side effects of melatonin are pretty harmless. Unlike other sleep aids, like benzodiazepines and z-drugs (think: Ambien and Lunesta), it does not cause dependence or withdrawal symptoms. [R]
The most commonly reported side effect is daytime drowsiness. Other side effects include nausea, headache, and dizziness. [R]
If course, if you’re taking other medications, you should check with your physician before popping a melatonin. It has been known to interact with some antidepressants, blood pressure medications, sedatives, antibiotics, and antihistamines. [R]
Up to 240 mg and 500 mg oral and intravenous injections of melatonin taken acutely is not associated with any toxicological effects. [R]
A handful of large scale, 6-12 month studies, suggest continued administration of melatonin does not result in tolerance. – Examine.com
There’s great amount of evidence suggesting as well as proving the benefits of supplementing with melatonin whether for sleep purposes or overall general health. Best practices when supplementing with melatonin for long-term benefits is to take a microdose of 300 mcg on daily basis before bedtime.
This microdose will serve a host of benefits most noteworthy of which is antioxidation and supporting mitochondria and antioxidation.
Many Nootropic focused companies are now aware of this and its benefits and so finally starting to see products in microdoses such as Nootropic Depot’s, which I have personally been using for a long time. Prior to which, I tried a couple of different products at the doses of 3 mg and it made me very heavy and groggy for a long time.
A reddit user documented his experience after 2 years of using microdose of melatonin as recommended alongside magnesium, and his realization of how beneficial it had been working for him after he stopped.
I took Magnesium Citrate (200-400mg) and Melatonin (0.3mg) both every night for over 2 years and thought they didn’t make much difference in my sleep.
It turned out to be very wrong – I now remember how poor my sleep was 3 years ago, before starting to take them. I wake up from the slightest noise and can’t go back to sleep for many hours afterwards – even if I wake up after only 4 hours, I would need to wait 3 hours before I fall asleep again, without Magnesium and Melatonin.
This has been this way since I was a child. I find Melatonin is better for actually falling asleep initially, while Magnesium is better for maintaining quality sleep afterwards.
Second Reddit User Experience
I have learned the same lesson with melatonin in that less is more. I took 30 mg one evening and had very unsettling and vivid dreams. Not restful at all.
I find 5 mg timed release works well. If you are interested in another natural sleep / relaxation aid, I have had success with Red Bali Kratom.