Melatonin is mostly known for its ability to induce sleep. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland. It shortens the time it takes to fall asleep but it doesn’t impact deep sleep or REM phases of sleep. In saying this, it does cause relaxation of muscles and nerves which does make sleep better. The highest levels of melatonin production are at night. Darkness of a night and exposure to strong morning sunlight help the optimal production of melatonin.
We begin making melatonin around 8pm and it peaks at around 2-3am.
Melatonin levels are highest in childhood. During puberty, there is a steep decline in melatonin production which is why you see many teenagers stay up later, naturally. This doesn’t mean they should sit up all night on their devices but there is a general trend to staying up a few hours later due to the decrease in melatonin. As we age, melatonin levels slowly decline and by the age of 80 we have about 70-80% less melatonin of a night compared to when we were younger adults.
Melatonin helps with circadian rhythms, which is why it is commonly used to try and counter the effects of jet lag. Sunlight and exercise have a more powerful impact on circadian rhythm then melatonin does but it is still a valuable addition.
Melatonin also has many other beneficial effects:
Melatonin boosts the immune system
Melatonin protects against free radical damage due to its antioxidant properties
Melatonin can increase growth hormone levels
Melatonin can increase thyroid hormones by increasing the conversion of T4 into the more active T3
Melatonin can help manage excessive cortisol levels
Melatonin can help maintain heart health
Melatonin may help prevent cancer
Melatonin may extend life span
To optimize your levels of melatonin:
Increase morning daylight, exposing the eyes to bright morning sunlight, spend time outside during the brightest part of the day
Relax of an evening. You can read, mediate, do some breathe work, yoga, stretch, journal etc. whatever best suits you
Maximise darkness at night. Wear blue light blocking glasses, turn off lights, make your bedroom pitch black
Avoid sleeping next to electrical devices
Avoid NSAIDs as they have been found to lower melatonin levels
Reduce your exposure to EMFs
Some signs that you may be deficient in melatonin are if you suffer from poor sleep, have excess muscle tension, and have circadian rhythm disturbances.
If you are deficient in melatonin some diseases can develop much easier such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, colitis, infections, and Alzheimer’s disease, just to name a few. As you can tell, a lot of these are similar to that of sleep deprivation, which makes a lot of sense.
You can take melatonin in sublingual form or an oral tablet. Sublingual is thought to be better as it is more well absorbed as it doesn’t get broken down by the liver and G.I tract, this also makes the dose more consistent, it is absorbed more quickly, and a smaller dose is need. If you only have access to oral tablets, it is fine, you will still benefit from using melatonin. You want to try for a fast release formula though so that you don’t have any drowsiness when you wake up in the morning. Take it roughly 60 minutes before bed.
There is a wide range when it comes to dosages. Some examples given in the book
Melatonin, are below:
Sleep: 0.2-10 milligrams, taken at bedtime
Jet lag: 1-10 milligrams, taken just before bedtime, local time
Anti-aging: 0.1-3 milligrams, taken at bedtime
Shift work: 1-5 milligrams, taken at beginning of subjective sleep time
Immune stimulation: 2-20 milligrams, as recommended by your physician
The hormone handbook – Thierry Hertoghe