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Melatonin For Sleep: Benefits, Side Effects, & More

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Adults generally need
7-9 hours of sleep per night to fully rest, recharge, and stay alert the next day. Unfortunately, some have difficulty drifting off to dreamland, while others end up not even sleeping a wink at all. 

The good news is that there are many ways to fall or stay asleep. One of these is taking melatonin for sleep.

What Is Melatonin?

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Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain in response to darkness. It regulates the body’s circadian rhythm, affecting the natural sleep-wake cycle.

This sleep hormone is naturally produced by the body, but it also comes in the form of dietary supplements. These supplements are usually used to improve sleep and make the most of the natural melatonin production.

How Does Melatonin Affect Sleep?

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Contrary to popular belief, melatonin supplements don’t actually
make one sleep. Instead, they encourage sleep by signaling the body when to go to sleep and wake up. This is also why levels of melatonin are highest at night and lowest during the day.

3 Fascinating Health Benefits Of Melatonin

Melatonin supplements may help improve health. Potential melatonin benefits include:

Improving Sleep Quality And Quantity

These sleep aids can help people fall asleep 22-34 minutes sooner than those who had placebo pills. This can be especially helpful for those with insomnia, delayed sleep-wake phase sleep disorder (DSWPD), and other sleep disorders.

In addition, taking these supplements two hours before bed can make you fall and stay asleep faster and longer. By adding them to your body’s natural hormone supply, they can promote better sleep, helping you feel better rested in the morning.

Overcoming Jet Lag

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Traveling by air across multiple time zones can interfere with sleep. This is called
jet lag, which may cause daytime sleepiness and impaired functioning. Thankfully, these symptoms can be reduced with melatonin supplements. They promote sleep when you wouldn’t usually be sleeping, helping you reset your body clock.

Offering Other Potential Health Benefits

These supplements are often used as a sleep remedy, but their health benefits can reach beyond sleep. Research suggests that they may also:

Side Effects Of Melatonin

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When taken in appropriate amounts, melatonin supplements are generally safe. Some melatonin side effects that occur are mild, such as:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling lethargic
  • Headaches
  • Lack of energy
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea

Is Melatonin Addictive?

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Melatonin supplements don’t cause withdrawal or dependence symptoms, unlike other sleep medicine. However, some people become dependent on them to sleep. They may find it more difficult to fall or stay asleep once they stop taking them.

Different Forms Of Melatonin

Melatonin supplements come in different oral forms. They all provide the same benefit, so choosing the right one for you is a matter of preference.

Form of Melatonin

Pros

Cons

Melatonin Pills (Tablets or Capsules)

  • Longer shelf life
  • Easy to split
  • Tasteless
  • Can be difficult to swallow

Liquid Melatonin

  • Faster absorption
  • Easier to take orally than swallowing pills
  • Usually has an unpleasant taste
  • Might be more expensive

Melatonin Gummies

  • Comes in different flavors
  • Chewable
  • Easier to swallow
  • May be mistaken for candies
  • May cause taking higher doses than recommended
  • May not be the right option for those with allergies or sensitivities to certain coloring, additives, or preservatives

Top Melatonin-Rich Foods

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Several foods contain melatonin. To increase your melatonin level in the blood naturally, consider adding these to your diet:

Eggs

Eggs are loaded with a sleep-inducing hormone. They also offer iron, protein, and other essential nutrients.

Fish

Fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines are rich in melatonin. They also provide omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and vitamins B6 and D, which are vital in healthy sleep and daytime functioning.

Tart Cherries

These cherries are packed with melatonin and anti-inflammatory compounds. They can be eaten as is or taken as juice to increase sleep time and efficiency.

Nuts

Nuts have the highest content of melatonin among plant foods, especially pistachios. They are also great sources of fiber, vitamin B6, and omega-3 fatty acids.


Other foods rich in melatonin include:

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  • Bananas
  • Corns
  • Goji Berries
  • Rice
  • Mushrooms
  • Oats

Sleeping Pills Vs Melatonin: The Difference

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Melatonin supplements and sleeping pills act as sleep aids. Each has its pros and cons, and knowing them can help you better understand the right option for your needs.

Sleep Aid

Description

Pros

Cons

Melatonin Supplements

  • A food supplement, not a medication
  • Not habit-forming
  • Has fewer side effects than sleeping pills
  • May cause dizziness, headache, nausea, and feelings of tiredness

Sleeping Pills

  • Used to describe prescription and over-the-counter sleep medications
  • Meant to be taken for a short term (two weeks to two months) only
  • Can be effective for occasional sleeplessness
  • May increase the risk of misuse, abuse, and addiction
  • May cause drowsiness, memory loss, and poor concentration

Recommended Melatonin Dosage

The ideal melatonin dosage varies depending on a person’s age, body weight, and metabolism. 

A range of 1-5 milligrams appears to be an effective melatonin dosage for adults. On the other hand, 1-2 milligrams is the typical dosage tolerated by most children. However, parents should consult with a doctor before administering the supplements.

A good rule of thumb is to start with the lowest recommended dosage. After that, you can gradually increase the dose until you find one that improves your sleep. To avoid melatonin overdose, never take more than a higher dose for your age unless recommended by a doctor.

When Is The Best Time To Take Melatonin?

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Taking melatonin supplements at the right time is essential. Taking it too early or too late can affect your body clock and sleep quality.

Melatonin supplements are best taken 1-2 hours before bedtime. If you are traveling and want to prevent jet lag, take them two hours before bedtime at your destination. It’s also advisable to have them a few days before your flight so you can easily get used to the new time zone.

Should You Take Melatonin?

Melatonin can effectively regulate your sleep cycle and relieve your temporary sleep issues. These supplements are generally safe, but remember that they may not be for everyone. In addition, they should also be considered a short-term solution.

Before taking melatonin supplements, make sure to visit a doctor and seek medical advice, especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have health conditions. You may also consider doing other lifestyle changes, such as getting regular exercise or cutting back on caffeine especially before bedtime.

Alternative Remedies For Better Sleep

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Apart from pills and supplements, you can also try adopting healthy sleeping habits or enhancing your sleeping environment. Stick to a regular routine and get the rest your body needs. Be sure to make your bedroom as comfortable as possible - with the right
bed sheets, pillows, duvets, and bedding in general.

 

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