Melatonin might help you sleep better, but it depends on the exact type of sleep problem you experience.
Although many take it to help with insomnia, it’s been shown to be most effective in specific situations:
- It can help with jet lag.
- It may help people who have to change shift patterns at work.
- If you have delayed sleep phase syndrome.
- Some people with insomnia, particularly older people.
For many people with insomnia, it’s not guaranteed that melatonin will make a big difference, if any at all.
Why does it only work for some people?
It’s important to understand that melatonin isn’t a typical sleeping pill that’s guaranteed to knock you out. To understand why, we need to take a closer look at what melatonin is and the way it works.
Then you’ll have a better idea of whether it’s the right kind of sleep aid for you or not.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone which the body naturally produces in the Pineal Gland in the brain.
Its main job is to send signals to the brain telling it when it’s time to go to sleep and when it’s time to wake up.
In this way, it helps control the human circadian rhythm (sometimes known as the internal body clock).
This is the daily biological pattern that repeats every 24 hours, and involves set times of the day when we feel more or less sleepy.
How does melatonin work?
The way melatonin works is based on the quantity the body produces at certain times of the day.
In the morning (typically around 7:30 am) your body produces less melatonin. And at the other end of the day (around9:00 pm) it produces more.
When you have more melatonin in the body, your body temperature lowers and you’ll start to feel sleepy. In the morning, the reduction of melatonin means you’ll start to warm up and feel less sleepy.
Melatonin production in the body is also affected by light. That’s why it’s a good idea to expose your body to daylight every day.
This makes sure your circadian rhythm is working properly, and you’re able to sleep and wake up according to the natural cycle of night and day.
Melatonin only helps regulate sleep
The important thing to note then is that melatonin helps tell the body about the timings for going to sleep and waking up. It doesn’t automatically make you fall asleep when you take it.
This is the main reason why it doesn’t help everyone with insomnia. But if you’ve had your sleep pattern disrupted, it can help to reset your confused body and brain.
Do melatonin sleep aids work?
This is a difficult question to answer because there’s no standard answer that fits all situations. The research done so far on melatonin is inconclusive and contradictory from one study to the next.
It’s been shown in some studies to work effectively for some sleep problems, but not at all for others.
That’s why it’s important to discuss taking melatonin pills with a doctor before buying them. You may be wasting your money and risking your health.
I know that’s not a very clear answer, so let’s take a look at exactly which sleep problems it might help with.
Does melatonin work for insomnia?
The majority of sleep researchers and expert sources like the National Sleep Foundation is that melatonin doesn’t work as a general insomnia treatment.
A large study in 2004 reviewed many pieces of research and concluded that there’s no evidence that it helps insomnia.
It may help you fall asleep quicker by a few minutes, but not enough to make it a particularly effective sleep aid. They also found no evidence that it helps most other primary sleep disorders.
This may be disappointing news for insomniacs looking for the latest and greatest natural sleep aid. Even though forums, blogs, and articles have stories of people saying it helped, there may be a bit of a placebo effect at work in many cases.
Or it could be that many people don’t actually have insomnia, but it’s simply their body clock that needed correcting.
When does melatonin work?
Researchers have found the following results:
1. The most successful result seems to be with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. This is where you can’t fall asleep until late in the night, or early in the morning. But when you do, you tend to sleep for a relatively normal amount of time. So Melatonin works by helping reset your body clock to fall asleep earlier.
2. Melatonin can sometimes help with restoring a disrupted circadian rhythm due to Jet Lag. This can be particularly effective when traveling across many time zones, and more so when traveling east.
3. Melatonin has also been found to be sometimes useful for the disruption to the circadian rhythm experienced by shift workers. If, for example, you work 3 night shifts, then 2 day shifts, you may find it helps you to fall asleep when you need to if you time the dosage correctly.
4. It’s been found to help with Seasonal Affective Disorder in some studies.
5. Melatonin has been found to help older people (over 50) to fall asleep quicker. However, it may not help them to stay asleep for longer.
Despite being considered a natural sleep aid, there are many potential side effects of melatonin. Most people tolerate it well, but if you are thinking of trying it, it’s a good idea to be aware of the possible problems that can arise.
Have you tried melatonin?
Have you tried melatonin before? Did it help you sleep, and if so, what kind of sleep problems were you having? Please leave a comment below with your thoughts.