Melatonin

Summary

Our hormones influence almost every aspect of our life. Whereas testosterone is commonly associated with aggression and growing strength, melatonin is associated with restful sleep and proper circadian rhythms.

Before taking a melatonin supplement, it’s worthwhile to create lifestyle habits that create optimal levels of melatonin. Unfortunately, many modern habits like technology usage and artificial lighting negatively impact natural melatonin levels and therefore long-term health.

Taking melatonin in the right dosage is both safe and potentially useful for long-term health. Melatonin has been extensively studied to reduce insomnia [1], reduce symptoms of jet lag [2], increase sleep quality [3], and a host of other sleep-related benefits. According to most research, there is no risk of tolerance or addiction either [4].

Also Known As

N-Acetyl-5-Methoxytryptamine, Melatonine, Melovine, Melatol, Melatonex, Circadin

Editors’ Thoughts on Melatonin

My sleep is rarely disturbed, but my partner often has poor sleep. When she takes melatonin in the normal dosage (that one can find at a local pharmacy), it didn’t help and actually made her feel more groggy in the morning. When she takes what I call a “melatonin microdose” she did far better.

Her melatonin dosage of 0.1 – 0.5 mg helped her get better sleep and not feel groggy the next day. It has significantly improved her sleep quality so I’ve seen it firsthand.

I used to not be a believer of melatonin because I was under the impression that it created a dependency (and the body’s natural production of melatonin would cease). It seems that studies don’t pan out that way with relative safety on all fronts.

Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor

Melatonin Benefits

The primary melatonin benefit is for improving different aspects of sleep. A 2005 meta-analysis (one of the most comprehensive studies) looked at 17 trials and analyzed all the data. They concluded that melatonin supplementation could improve a host of sleep factors [5]:

  • Sleep onset (time to fall asleep) by 4 minutes (approx. 20 – 26%)
  • Sleep efficiency by 2.2%
  • Sleep duration by 12.8 minutes

This includes people who are already struggling with insomnia. When the meta-analysis included only healthy patients, all of these sleep indicators got even better.

Melatonin is one of the few supplements, which is studied in many healthy adults. In most cases, nootropics are studied predominantly in disease model (people who have some medical condition), but melatonin is studied and showing benefits for people like you and me.

Numerous other studies show that melatonin benefits include general insomnia [6][7], but this may be a function of our currently disturbed night and dark cycles. Melatonin certainly plays a crucial role in sleep, but has downstream effects as well.

Similar to any other hormone that we may have out of balance, there are downstream effects. For example, people struggling with stomach ulcers find melatonin can help increase secretion of gastrin, which notably reduces their symptoms [8].

There are correlations to reduced blood pressure [9], less risk of cancer mortality [10], and many others. Using a healthy circadian rhythm to produce melatonin naturally is the best advice, but in certain situations when melatonin production is impaired, it is also useful to supplement for general health purposes.

How Does Melatonin Work?

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, which aids in the regulation of night and dark cycles in humans. Primarily released at night, it is a hormone that aids in sleep onset, efficiency, and quality.

Because melatonin is such a basic part of human biology, taking a melatonin supplement works by interacting with melatonin receptors to fill the gap if our own synthesis of the hormone is impaired.

Melatonin Side Effects

Even though melatonin is a naturally secreted hormone, some people have fears. The purported melatonin side effects include tolerance, addiction, and dependence on an outside source of this hormone, but all of these seem to be myths.

According to all the evidence, there are few melatonin side effects and the ones that exist are seen mostly in animal models. A systematic review from 2006 found that “…there is evidence melatonin is safe with short term use…”[11]

As mentioned earlier, one trial tested delayed-release melatonin over a 6 month period and found no tolerance in their subjects or incidence of addiction [12]. The most common melatonin side effects were nausea, headache, and dizziness, but none of them very common or any worse than placebo.

However, anecdotal reports and some scientific literature suggests there can be side effects of melatonin supplementation at high doses. Taking doses in excess of 5 mg (and sometimes even a 2 mg dose) can create grogginess and drowsiness the next morning. Therefore, when ascertaining the side effects of melatonin, the dose does matter.

Melatonin Dosage

The melatonin dosage is usually one of the main reasons users find “melatonin doesn’t work”. Because most commonly purchased melatonin products range from 1 – 5 mg, it is hard for most users to know that this is not the right dose.

For most people, a range of 1 – 5 mg can be less helpful than a melatonin microdose around 0.1 – 0.5 mg. A 2001 study found the best melatonin dosage was 10 x smaller (in line with 0.1 – 0.5 mg) [13].

For people who have a relatively consistent sleep schedule, are healthy adults, and do not have excessive trouble sleeping (narcolepsy disorder, for example), a low dose is a good first place to start. Try anywhere from 0.2 – 0.5 mg to start and work upwards from there.

How and Where to Buy Melatonin

Melatonin is one of the most widely available supplements and can probably be found at a local grocery store or pharmacy. Unfortunately, most melatonin for sale is misleading in the dosage. They are almost universally higher than the melatonin dosage recommended above (0.1 – 0.5 mg).

In most situations, even when you purchase melatonin online, you will have to break the tablets into smaller pieces before you can get the right microdose. Taking the full dose will not be bad for your health, but will not provide the same positive results of melatonin.

Our best recommendation is to find a trustworthy brand on Amazon, which sells tablets (not capsules) that can be split for the proper dose. The Nature Made melatonin is a useful and affordable brand, which comes in 3 mg tablets. These can be split into fourths and used in 0.75 mg increments or less.

Melatonin Reviews

Numerous people have used melatonin in order to enhance their sleep quality. One popular nootropic enthusiast and self-experimenter named “gwern” has gone through extensive self-study using melatonin. He posits in his melatonin review that:

“My rule of thumb is melatonin subtracts an hour…That is: if one slept for 7 hours, one awakes as refreshed as if one had slept for 8 hours etc…” [14]

Numerous people on Reddit have experienced similar things using melatonin. A few of their experiences are recorded below:

“Much more effective than other doses. No weird dreams, no waking up. Just a solid, deep sleep. Highly recommend trying 300mcg, accurately measured, if you are having hit or miss luck with other doses.” [15] – MrMoonrocks

References (Click to Expand)
  1. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21340475
  2. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12076414
  3. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21859051
  4. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21091391
  5. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15649737
  6. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18036082
  7. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21340475
  8. //www.ingentaconnect.com/content/mksg/jpi/2011/00000050/00000004/art00006
  9. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21138476
  10. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16207291
  11. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1370968/
  12. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21091391
  13. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11600532
  14. //www.gwern.net/Melatonin
  15. //www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/5wo2b9/300mcg_melatonin_much_better/
Other Scientific Resources (Click to Expand)
  1. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7773197
  2. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22826693
  3. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22016420
  4. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20536683
  5. //www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030881461100197X
  6. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15979282
  7. //www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814606009794
  8. //hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00730154/
  9. //www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0958694606001506
  10. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16195124
  11. //www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157511000263
  12. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19249143
  13. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11600041
  14. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12726883
  15. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17379847
  16. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10420435
  17. //content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp?Aktion=ShowAbstractBuch&ArtikelNr=46903&ProduktNr=227444
  18. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21451205
  19. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17074461
  20. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17123089
  21. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18344019
  22. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17164235
  23. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7946354
  24. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9062869
  25. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3742833
  26. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3836818
  27. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14582858
  28. //www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0304394078902215
  29. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10344586
  30. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6538220

Author

Nootropedia provides research-driven and accessible nootropics information. Don’t be in the dark about nootropics.