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Couple who’ve taken melatonin to help them sleep

Which is the best melatonin for helping you sleep?

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by our bodies to help us sleep. But which type of melatonin supplement should you choose?

2023-12-26

Everything you need to know about melatonin (the sleep hormone)

Before we get to which forms of melatonin are best, it’s important to understand where this hormone comes from and how it works.

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a natural hormone derived from serotonin. It is primarily secreted in the evening and nighttime by a small cone-shaped endocrine gland called the pineal gland (or epiphysis), located near the center of the brain.

Melatonin plays an important role in synchronising various physiological processes such as regulation of body temperature, the immune system and sleep (1-2).

Link between melatonin and sleep

Melatonin manages the body’s circadian rhythm, its 24-hour internal clock.

As daylight fades and darkness takes over, the brain begins secreting melatonin (1). This produces a feeling of calm and drowsiness which gradually prepares the body and mind for sleep.

Melatonin secretion peaks between 2 and 4 in the morning, before gradually decreasing over the second half of the night.

Why might we need more melatonin?

There are several reasons why we might be lacking in melatonin.

The effect of blue light

Modern lifestyles mean regular screen exposure (smartphones, televisions, computers ...). All these devices emit artificial blue light which, at excessive levels, can disrupt melatonin production.

In normal circumstances, as daylight fades, the retina sends a signal to the brain to stimulate the production of melatonin. When we’re exposed to blue light, this secretion is delayed, and even reduced, making it harder to fall asleep, and resulting in morning drowsiness or insomnia.

Jetlag and night shift work

Long-haul travel that involves crossing several time zones, and night shift work, can disrupt the body’s internal clock.

The circadian rhythm gets out of sync, affecting the body’s natural melatonin production. People who work night shifts or irregular hours may then find it difficult to fall asleep.

Lifestyle and aging

Lack of physical activity or excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine can also disrupt normal regulation of this sleep hormone.

Age, too, can affect natural melatonin production, due mainly to gradual calcification of the pineal gland (2-3).

How can you increase your melatonin levels?

If you suffer with sleep problems, adopting these specific lifestyle habits may help:

  • avoid excessive exposure to blue light from screens;
  • practise relaxation techniques before going to bed;
  • maintain an environment conducive to sleep;
  • establish a regular bedtime routine.

You can also take dietary supplements to increase your intake of melatonin. Melatonin supplements are recognized for helping to cut the time it takes to fall asleep and reduce the subjective effects of jetlag.

What are the various forms of melatonin available?

Below are the different types of supplements you can buy to increase your melatonin levels.

Guaranteed efficacy: melatonin tablets dosed at 2mg a day

Some melatonin supplements (such as Melatonin 1mg) contain 1 mg of melatonin per tablet.

With a recommended dose of 2 tablets a day, they enable you to benefit from a daily intake of 2 mg of melatonin, a dose that’s very effective and usually sufficient to promote drowsiness (4).

You can take them for a few days or weeks to get your sleep ‘back on track’ before moving to more occasional use, as required.

Melatonin sprays, for more rapid effects

Melatonin supplements are also available in the form of sprays which are administered sublingually.

This is a highly effective method as it allows the active ingredients to enter the bloodstream more quickly, thus bypassing the digestive process (try, for example, Melatonin Spray).

Synergistic melatonin formulations

There are also supplements in which melatonin is combined with various other ingredients to provide a synergistic action.

One example is CBD, the well-known active ingredient in cannabis (see the product CBD+Melatonin).

In other supplements, melatonin is combined with sleep-promoting vitamins as well as sedative and relaxing plants like valerian and passiflora (try, for example, the product Advanced Sleep Formula or sugar-free Sleep Gummies).

Supplements in which melatonin is combined with relaxing plant extracts are ideal, not only for promoting drowsiness but for making sure you stay asleep throughout the night thus providing the restorative benefits of a really good night’s sleep.

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References

  1. Melatonin: Pharmacology, Functions and Therapeutic Benefits. Sylvie Tordjman, Sylvie Chokron, Richard Delorme, Annaëlle Charrier, Eric Bellissant, Nemat Jaafari, Claire Fougerou. 2017
  2. Age-Related Decreases in Melatonin Secretion—Clinical Consequences. Richard J. Wurtman. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 85, Issue 6, 1 June 2000, 2135–2136. 2000
  3. The human pineal gland and melatonin in aging and Alzheimer's disease. Ying-Hui Wu, Dick F. Swaab. 2004
  4. Costello RB, Lentino CV, Boyd CC, O'Connell ML, Crawford CC, Sprengel ML, Deuster PA. The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature. Nutr J. 2014 Nov 7;13:106. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-106. PMID: 25380732; PMCID: PMC4273450.

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