The Truth About Melatonin Supplements

Having trouble falling asleep seems to be very common nowadays. Between staying up and doing some work, to just simply scrolling through the internet, we lose track of when we should go to sleep. Many people think there is an easy fix for this problem: melatonin supplements. It supposedly restores our sleep schedule in only a few nights. People think Melatonin is a great supplement to take for those who have trouble falling asleep. However, many are not aware of its effects on the body if misused. 

For starters, what is melatonin? Commonly known as “the sleep hormone,” melatonin is a hormone produced largely by the pineal gland throughout the night and has long been linked to the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is released at night when it is dark or even if your eyes are covered by a sleeping mask. 

How do our bodies know when to produce melatonin? It all comes down to our body clock. The release of melatonin is orchestrated by that clock, and the timing is influenced by the light or lack of light. Melatonin production typically begins two to three hours before bedtime. As the day comes to a close and light gives way to darkness, your eyes detect the lack of light and send a signal to your brain’s master body clock (the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN), causing the pineal gland to produce melatonin and release it into your body. It continues to release throughout the night before slowing down as morning approaches. 

When is it useful to take melatonin supplements? These supplements are very useful for people who suffer from insomnia. Insomnia is a frequent sleep problem that makes it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or causes you to wake up too early and be unable to sleep again. And when you wake up, you can still be exhausted. According to WebMD, people who suffer from insomnia and take melatonin supplements record falling asleep much quicker than they used to. Melatonin can also help people who suffer from delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS). DSPS is a sleep condition in which a person’s sleep is delayed by two hours or more from what is considered the normal or appropriate bedtime. 

Can you misuse melatonin supplements? YES! Although melatonin’s long term effects have not been fully studied, scientists advise taking melatonin supplements for a short amount of time, according to Mayo Clinic. Taking melatonin for a longer period of time than directed can cause frequent headaches, dizziness, sleepiness, and nausea. The misuse of this supplement can not only cause physical side effects, but also internal effects. Taking melatonin for longer than advised can cause your body to slow down its natural production of melatonin. This means once you stop taking the supplements, your body is going to work overtime trying to supply its own. Your body has to go through a very long process to revert to its natural and normal state. During this time, you can suffer from insomnia as well as DSPS as your body is unable to naturally sleep.

Even taking too much of this supplement during a short period of time can cause side effects. Too much melatonin can end up creating the very problem it’s supposed to remedy. A melatonin overdose can leave you feeling groggy and sleepy throughout the day and cause you to stay up at night. It can also cause extreme nightmares, as well as very vivid dreams at night. 

Despite its side effects, melatonin has benefits. People who have trouble falling asleep wake up feeling energized. A lot of people struggle falling asleep. The attraction to that tiny blue light that radiates out of our phones at night is hard to resist. A quick look through Instagram or TikTok sounds amazing, especially to young adults nowadays. But that quick look, however, can escalate from 10 minutes to three hours. This cycle can go on for days and disrupt your sleep cycle. But thanks to melatonin supplements, your normal sleep cycle is only a few gummies away. Just never forget to read those little labels on the back. It’ll save you a headache and preserve your natural melatonin production.