Don’t you just hate those nights when you get everything done early, get in bed at a reasonable time, and plan to catch up on some much needed ZZZs—but you just can’t fall asleep?
When sleep isn’t happening, you’re willing to try almost anything. Sometimes a planned eight hours slips down to a measly four or five. What a nightmare (pun intended).
Whether this happens all the time, or it’s just a temporary bout of insomnia due to jet lag, there are a variety of remedies available to help you get the sleep you deserve!
A glass of wine, a cup of warm milk before bed, over-the-counter sleep aids, and prescription medications are some of the options available.
But perhaps the answer lies in the most popular over-the-counter supplement: melatonin.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone already found in your body. It’s made by a gland in your brain called the pineal gland.
When you start to feel drowsy around 9 p.m. and wish for sleep, melatonin has been activated in your bloodstream. Your melatonin levels will typically stay elevated for about 12 hours.
What is the purpose of melatonin?
Melatonin mainly helps your body regulate its circadian rhythm. We all have an internal clock that cues our sleep and eating patterns. When that clock gets out of sync, our body's sleep patterns get thrown out of whack.
Melatonin helps regulate that internal clock. Most of us produce enough melatonin naturally to keep our internal clocks ticking properly, but for some, melatonin levels can be too low and result in insomnia.
How does a melatonin supplement work?
Some people think you take a dose of melatonin and bam! You’re instantly off to happy dream land.
Sadly, that's not how melatonin works. It doesn't immediately knock you out, but it does help your body's internal clock realize it's bedtime. Regulating the internal clock helps your body to relax, and that helps you get to sleep faster and easier.
Scientifically speaking, melatonin works by binding with receptors in your body to decrease nerve activity and dopamine production, which in turn, helps you relax.
What factors cause low melatonin levels?
Stress and smoking can hinder melatonin production.
Working the night shift can throw your body's natural circadian rhythm out of sync and diminish the natural production of melatonin as well.
Not being exposed to enough natural light in the daytime, or being around too much bright light at night can also contribute to low melatonin.
Are melatonin supplements safe?
We get it, you read some article on the Internet and now you’re supposed to go take a supplement? Fortunately, melatonin supplements are completely non-toxic and safe. It’s not a drug!
It’s not addictive either, but on occasion, there can be mild side effects including dizziness, nausea, and headaches.
If you have a medical condition requiring you to take blood pressure medication, antidepressants, or blood thinners, you should check with your doctor before taking a melatonin supplement.
What dosage of melatonin is appropriate?
Once you get this dialed in, you’ll have no problem getting the right dose on a regular basis. You should be taking the lowest dose that helps you fall asleep.
Typically, the lowest available dose is 0.5 mg or 1 mg. Start there and increase every few nights until you notice a difference.
Personally, I take 5 mg each night about 30 minutes to an hour before I want to be asleep.
Where can you get melatonin?
In the US, melatonin is available at pharmacies, health food stores, grocery stores, and department stores that sell herbal supplements. It's relatively easy to find.
In Europe and Australia, buyers may need a prescription.
When insomnia strikes, you want something that helps you get the sleep you deserve! Melatonin could be the solution, so why not give it a shot? Sweet dreams!
Bonus tip: Finding the right bedding and pillow can make a tremendous difference in simply allowing your body to feel comfortable in bed. Take our pillow quiz to find the right pillow for you!