Sydney is a contributing health writer and editor who enjoys shedding light on health topics, making information available to anyone who wants it, and ending stigmas or lack of access to care and treatment.
Po-Chang Hsu, M.D.
Dr. Hsu received his medical degree from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, and holds a Master’s of Science degree from both Harvard University and Tufts University. Outside of the medical profession, Dr. Hsu loves to write, learn new languages, and travel.
June 19, 2021
One of the main melatonin benefits is that it helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm.
Evidence supports direct benefits to certain disorders such as delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD) and shift-work disorders.
Benefits of a good night’s sleep can include:
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by your pineal gland that tells your brain when to sleep and wake up. Your melatonin levels should naturally increase when the sun is going down in the evening and decrease when it’s time to wake up in the morning.
Melatonin supplements found at the store mimic this hormone’s functions, either with synthetic materials or pineal glands from animals.
If you are struggling with sleep problems such as insomnia, melatonin supplements might be extremely helpful.
The melatonin released naturally in your body isn’t harmful and is a completely normal hormone that should be present in your system. Melatonin supplements, either synthetic or animal-derived, usually don’t have negative side effects for people. It can be helpful if you lack melatonin or work on getting your sleep schedule in order.
Melatonin supplements help tell our brains when it’s time to go to sleep. While they don’t make you sleepy, like prescription sleep medication, they help communicate a sleep schedule with your brain.
Naturally occurring melatonin is a hormone created by our bodies to develop a sleeping schedule. Melatonin is stimulated by the reduction of light – usually during the night. Because humans are not nocturnal and sleep during the night, melatonin helps our brains recognize that it’s time to sleep when the sun goes down.
Upon receiving this message, the brain begins the “shut-down” procedure needed to have a full and restful night’s sleep.
Melatonin is safe to take for short periods. It is safe to use to assist your body’s melatonin production to get back into a regular sleep schedule.
Once you attain your desired sleep schedule, the melatonin benefits aren’t as helpful because it isn’t meant to make you drowsy or knock you out. While research needs to be done into the long-term effects of melatonin, it is thought to potentially interfere with your body’s ability to produce its melatonin, worsening the problem a melatonin supplement is meant to correct in the first place.
Luckily, melatonin is not known to be addictive or habit-forming. Some conditions to consider when taking, or considering taking, melatonin supplements:
In some case studies, it has been shown that melatonin benefits kidney function. Kidney function is closely regulated by the circadian rhythm in the body, meaning a better sleep schedule equals better kidney function!
With further studies, it has been shown: “In vivo and in vitro melatonin has been found to protect tissues against oxidative damage generated by a variety of toxic agents and metabolic processes, including chemotherapy-induced toxicity and ischemia-reperfusion injury in kidney, liver, and brain” according to the National Library of Medicine.
While melatonin benefits are known and relatively free from side effects, in some rare cases, people may feel some side effects, including:
It’s important to take care when operating heavy machinery after taking melatonin. Because of the nature of the supplement, your reaction time may be lengthened and your motor skills reduced – which can lead to serious accidents. Melatonin should only be taken before you’re planning on going to bed.
Melatonin works in children the same way it works in adults. Melatonin supplements can help with children’s circadian rhythms. Some evidence shows that melatonin benefits children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and epilepsy.
There are side effects that may occur in children taking melatonin supplements in addition to those that adults may experience.
These additional effects from taking melatonin include:
Luckily, melatonin is available online! Since it’s not a controlled substance or a prescription medication, you can start taking it without a note from a doctor, and you can even order it online and get it shipped to your house.
Melatonin likely won’t cure or even significantly help someone with a true sleep disorder.
While you don’t necessarily need a doctor’s approval or oversight while taking melatonin, if you’re using it for the correct purposes and it’s not helping you with sleeping problems, you may want to talk about sleep disorders with doctors. The five main sleep disorders include:
You can book an appointment with a top online doctor through our sister site, PlushCare. You’ll have access to same-day appointments with licensed physicians who can diagnose and treat sleep disorders, all through a phone or computer.
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