Sleep is a necessary function of the human body. Getting a good night’s rest can help improve focus and memory, reduce symptoms of certain mental health problems like anxiety and depression and give your body an opportunity to deep-heal tissues. However, far too many people in today’s world have trouble falling asleep at night.
Tossing and turning after your head hits the pillow can be frustrating, if not completely debilitating for your body. People who don’t sleep well often find that they have difficulty concentrating or performing basic tasks the next day. For people with insomnia, this problem usually occurs day after day, leaving lasting effects on the body and mind.
If you have trouble falling asleep at night, your problem may lie in that your body is not producing enough or any melatonin. In these cases, taking a melatonin supplement may help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly throughout the night.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the pineal gland in your brain. Melatonin helps regulate your circadian rhythm, or the 24-hour body clock your body systems work on. Melatonin is not a sleeping pill and will not put you to sleep immediately, but works as part of those systems that get your body ready to go to sleep.
Melatonin production is stalled in the presence of light, which is why you don’t get tired when it is light during the day, or why you may have trouble falling asleep after staring a phone or computer right before bed. Once it gets dark out, melatonin production resumes, signaling to your body it is time for sleep. Because melatonin operates on this day-night schedule, it is common for people who work night shifts or stay up late a few days a week to have altered or dysfunctional sleep schedules.
Using melatonin safely
If you are considering taking melatonin as a supplement, it’s important that you take it as directed. Always talk to your doctor before beginning to take a new type of supplement. Melatonin can be potentially dangerous for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding or have depression, diabetes or an autoimmune disorder.
The typical dose for melatonin supplements is 1 to 3 milligrams two hours before you plan to go to bed. Taking it at this time allows the melatonin to have its full effect and prepare you for sleep. Melatonin is not an addictive substance. At this time, experts do not think overdosing on melatonin will produce harmful or long-lasting side effects, but more research is necessary.
You should only take it at night before bed, unless there is a reason you are trying to alter your sleep cycle, such as combating jet lag while traveling. If you take melatonin in the morning on an average day, you might begin to alter your body’s natural rhythms, changing when your body attempts to get you to sleep.
Try melatonin for a few days and see if it helps. If you’re not noticing any difference in your sleep pattern, stop taking the supplement and consult a doctor.
Other tips for falling asleep
Melatonin may help some people fall asleep more easily, but it might not be a good option for everyone or work long-term. There are other ways you can help prepare your body to get a full night’s rest, though.
- Skip caffeine after the morning: Many of us can’t function without our morning coffee, but it’s recommended that you stop after one cup and avoid any form of caffeine for six hours before you go to sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that can disrupt melatonin production and keep your body alert, which is the opposite of what you want at bedtime.
- Stay off your devices before bed: The light produced by a computer, tablet, phone or television can stall melatonin production, keeping you awake for longer at night. Although it’s tempting to scroll through social media or squeeze an episode of a TV show in before bed, turn off the devices early and help your body react to darkness in the way it was designed to.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: Since your body operates on 24-hour circadian rhythms, adhering to them gives you the best chance to have a proper night’s sleep. Unless your rhythms are altered by odd word shifts or jetlag, figure out what your body’s natural pattern is and follow it to feel more refreshed.
- Try meditation or yoga: Doing breathing exercises, meditation or yoga before bed can help you unwind from a busy day and get you in the proper headspace to go to sleep. This is even better if conducted in a dimly-lit room to get your melatonin production going.
Insomnia can really alter your day, but it doesn’t have to plague you forever. Try some of these natural tips, including melatonin supplements, to see if they help you regulate your sleep patterns and fall asleep more easily every night.