The human body is an incredible machine. And like any efficient machine, there is an optimal way to use and maintain it in order to keep it running well - and keep it running for a long time. One of the ways our bodies like to do their thing is by synchronizing with nature’s light / dark cycle. Unfortunately, modern life seems to be getting in the way!
Melatonin is one of the substances in the body most reliant on this circadian rhythm. This chemical helps control when and how we sleep, and has many other health benefits. The combination of getting less sunlight, along with keeping our houses lit up with overhead lights, TVs and staring into our smartphones long after the sun has set, has thrown our melatonin production out of balance.
Many individuals suffer from poor sleep hygiene, having trouble getting to sleep, and feeling lethargic during the day when we need to be productive. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation found that almost 9 in 10 of us have trouble with our sleep quantity and quality.
Research tells us that not getting enough quality sleep has far worse consequences than just feeling a little drowsy at work. Everything from our mental health, to cognitive, cardiovascular and metabolic function all rely on these naturally evolved cycles to work effectively - and to avoid pathology down the line.
So, what is being done to combat the effects of our modern lifestyles on our natural melatonin production? One of the current solutions being used by many is melatonin gummies. These useful supplements help to boost our melatonin levels when we aren’t producing enough.
This article is an in-depth guide to everything you need to know about this amazing substance, and how to take advantage of it to feel well-rested, alert and vibrant. We’ll cover melatonin itself, its role in the body and exactly how it helps provide you with a good night’s sleep. You’ll learn where to get melatonin gummies and other supplements, when and how best to take them, and all other considerations to make before diving in.
What is Melatonin?
Let’s start with what melatonin actually is. It was first discovered as a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. The levels of melatonin produced by this gland are regulated by the amount of light or darkness in the external environment.
The pineal gland produces significant amounts of melatonin at night, and interestingly, does not store it for later use after it is made. Instead, the hormone is quickly released, circulating in the body at amounts which are 10-20 times higher during the night than in the daytime.
The amount of melatonin we produce is determined by three main actors: genetics, age, and light exposure. Through these factors, lifetime production of melatonin varies significantly between individuals. We’ll take an in-depth look at how this affects our sleep cycle shortly. First, let’s quickly cover what melatonin is not - and all the other health effects this hormone has.
Melatonin is sometimes confused with melanin. You may know melanin as the major pigment in our skin. While melanin has many of its own biological functions, including photo protection and thermoregulation, this light-absorbing polymer is quite different from the hormone with a similar-sounding name.
Coming back to melatonin, while its main functions involve the maintenance of the circadian rhythm and sleep cycle, it has many other effects as well. Melatonin has been studied for its impacts on cancer, the immune system, neurodegenerative diseases, mental health conditions, and more.
Melatonin is thought to play a role in restraining tumour growth. This may be linked to the increased instance of cancer in older adults as melatonin production declines. For those working through cancer treatments such as chemotherapies, melatonin has been used in combination with these treatments to reduce toxicity and improve quality of life.
Melatonin also has immunoenhancing effects. For several decades now, daily oral melatonin has been used to increase the activity of NK (natural killer) cells, and to inhibit cell death in protective immune system cells.
Hundreds of studies have also been published over the last decade on the role of melatonin as a general antioxidant. Melatonin seems to be great at hunting down free radicals, which are culprits in many different diseases.
Whether directly or through its effects on sleep hygiene, melatonin has also been found to be a factor in depression, with studies showing low secretion of the hormone in patients suffering from the mental health condition.
Now we know the basics about the many important roles melatonin plays in the body, we’ll go a little more in depth regarding the primary role of this substance.
How Can Melatonin Help You Sleep?
Melatonin levels in the body start to increase after dusk, usually an hour or two before sleep. Levels then peak between 2 and 4 a.m., with production ceasing after sunrise upon waking. In this way, the release of melatonin is in sync with an individual’s sleep schedule.
Research is not currently conclusive on whether melatonin has a direct soporific or hypnotic effect. Instead, melatonin is thought to act on our sleep through its effects on circadian rhythm. This means that melatonin is a catalyst for the cascade of biological processes that cause healthy sleep, including lowering our body temperature.
Many individuals suffer from various sleep difficulties and disorders. For those who have trouble sleeping, melatonin has been successfully used as a sleep aid for many such conditions. These include things like insomnia, restless leg syndrome, delayed sleep phase syndrome, and REM sleep disorder. Melatonin can also aid in sleep indirectly through its effects on pain disorders such as migraines or fibromyalgia.
Increasing melatonin levels through oral administration becomes more important in later life. Circulating levels of melatonin are significantly diminished in older adults, and the time of secretion is also delayed. This can contribute to age-related sleep disorders suffered by many in those demographics.
With the well-established ability of melatonin to help us have a healthy sleep cycle - with all the benefits to our health and wellbeing - well and truly covered, we’ll next go through the practical elements of melatonin supplementation. This includes what products are available, what time to take melatonin for optimal results, and how long does it take for melatonin to work.
Melatonin Supplements: Types, Timing and Dosage
In order for a supplement like melatonin sleep gummies to work, the timing and dosage must be correct. If not, you may not receive the desired benefit, or your circadian clock could even shift in the wrong direction. This is critical, as you could potentially be left feeling awake and alert when you want to be asleep; conversely, you may feel drowsy or lethargic when you want to be energetic.
Melatonin supplements are available online, at health food retailers, and at many pharmacies. Many forms of melatonin are available, including melatonin gummies, capsules, liquid, sprays, and others.
Melatonin has been administered for many of the aforementioned conditions in a wide range of doses. These range from physiological levels (around 250 micrograms) to a broad spectrum of pharmacological levels (1-10 milligrams). Melatonin is agreed by the majority to be non-toxic, and as we mentioned, actually has limiting effects on toxic substances through its capacity as an antioxidant.
Regarding the timing of taking a melatonin supplement, there are several strategies to use depending on your goal. Most forms of orally consumed melatonin are absorbed in 30 minutes, with a plasma half-life of approximately 45 minutes. This means that a typical 3-mg dose of many of the melatonin products sold in the U.S. will result in blood concentrations of melatonin up to 50 times physiological levels. All in all, this melatonin will be cleared from the body in about 10 hours.
So, you might be wondering exactly ‘how long for melatonin to work?’ Well, there are two main ways to time your dosage. To produce a sleep phase advance - meaning to get to sleep earlier with less sleep latency - the recommendations vary from 30 minutes before bed, to 4-8 hours prior. This is about 5 p.m. for individuals on a regular schedule.
In contrast, to produce a sleep phase delay - possibly useful for shift workers or those recovering from jet lag - the optimal time to take melatonin is right when your body stops secreting it. This is usually in the morning around 7 a.m.
It’s important to mention here one of the biggest inhibitors of melatonin, and how to set yourself up to help your supplements - and your own natural production - do their job. The fact is, our bodies are hardwired to work off a consistent light / dark cycle. But our increasing lack of exposure to natural sunlight during the day, and more importantly, our overexposure to artificial light after the sun has gone down, actually neutralize the effects of melatonin.
It is therefore imperative that we counter these things. First, by making sure to either get outside, or at least hang out by a window, to get some sunlight in the morning and the afternoon. Second, it is crucial to limit use of laptops, phones and tablets late at night. Even the television and overhead lights trick our pineal glands into thinking it’s still daytime. As much as possible, try to stick to the light / dark cycle provided by nature, to allow your body to perform optimally.
The product you use will provide recommendations for when to take it, and don’t forget to consult a professional if you have any concerns. We’ll cover the considerations for safety when taking melatonin supplements in depth shortly.
For now though, let’s answer the common questions: What are melatonin gummies, and do melatonin gummies work?
Melatonin Gummies and the Melatonin Supplement Market in 2021
As we mentioned, melatonin has become one of the most extensively researched natural sleep aids in the market. The demand for melatonin has been increasing significantly over the last decade, and is especially popular among those with altered sleep schedules, or other sleep difficulties.
The National Center for Health Statistics has collected data that shows the use of melatonin supplements doubling back between 2007 and 2012. Back then, over 3 million U.S. adults had reported that they’d used melatonin in the previous month.
More recently, the trend has shown no signs of slowing down. The global market for melatonin supplements has grown from U.S. $850 million in 2016, to over $1.5 billion as of 2021. The global pandemic may have contributed to a disruption in our sleep patterns, with work (and life) schedules being severely impacted for millions of people.
Melatonin gummies are one of the more popular forms of the supplement, with many leading brands offering their version of the hormonal remedy. To sleep well, melatonin gummies are a quick and easy way to get a specified dose of melatonin. People tend to prefer gummies for their taste and the ability to modify the dosage with a certain number of gummies, depending on the situation.
Melatonin gummies often come with additional ingredients known to aid in sleep. Some examples include CBD melatonin gummies, or products with a combination of melatonin, passionflower, chamomile, L-theanine, and others. For a broader overview on supplements that help you sleep, check out our article on 8 natural sleep aids for deep, restorative sleep.
One of the most popular growing trends in supplements is CBD oil, which is also commonly used for sleep. For an in-depth look into this product, its uses, and its popularity, take a look at our coverage of CBD oil statistics 2021.
Some of the most popular brands for melatonin gummies include Olly, Vicks, and Natrol, with many other quality options out there. Do some research and consult with a professional if you need advice.
Speaking of, it’s time to go through considerations, safety, and side effects of using melatonin supplements as part of your health regimen.
Risks and Contraindications for Using Melatonin Supplements
Like many nutritional supplements in the U.S., melatonin is not regulated as a drug by the FDA. This means a lack of oversight on the purity and accuracy of dosage on melatonin products. The generally accepted safety of melatonin as a supplement comes from the lack of adverse effects found from taking it, but this information is currently lacking in the literature.
The lack of regulation on melatonin also means that many supplement products are less than accurate in their claims on the label. One study showed that the melatonin content on the label wasn’t within 10 percent of the actual amount in more than 71 percent of products. The actual melatonin content was found to range from 83 percent less to 478 percent more than what was claimed on the label. It seems that further work needs to be done on the stability and storage conditions for melatonin supplements to ensure accuracy and safety.
The situation is different in several other countries, with melatonin officially registered as a drug, and only being available by prescription. For now in the U.S., melatonin can be recommended by doctors, but not officially prescribed.
As for the side effects of melatonin supplements, a review in 2015 showed only mild side effects were reported in various studies involving adults, surgery patients, and critically ill patients. Some reported mild side effects of melatonin in these studies included dizziness, nausea, and headaches.
It is also important to consider any other medicines or allergies that may react to a melatonin supplement. Individuals with any allergies, epilepsy, or taking blood thinning medications in particular need to be under medical supervision if taking melatonin supplements.
Because melatonin has known effects on seasonal breeding patterns in animals, there have been concerns about potential effects on the human reproductive system. Most studies have shown little to no effect on any reproductive hormones, however. That being said, there has been insufficient research done on the safety of melatonin use for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Overall, melatonin is widely recommended for its use as a sleep aid with many added health benefits. So far, it has not been found to create any adverse effects in the many people who use it daily over long periods to help them rest.
We hope this article has been informative and helpful in guiding your decisions around using melatonin, particularly melatonin gummies. As always, consult your doctor before starting to take any new supplement, as they will be able to give you useful insights and recommendations pertaining to your unique situation.
We have a bunch of other articles with advice on how to improve your sleep, as well as reviews of other popular supplements and aids used to help in this regard. Feel free to explore the site to learn more!
Finally, we’d love for you to let us know your experience with melatonin gummies or other melatonin supplements in the comments below.