You’re thinking of trying melatonin but want to understand how it works. You may also want to know if it makes you sleepy or helps ease tension. The quick answer is that melatonin helps relax your body and encourages slumber but not necessarily makes you sleepy. It doesn’t work like a sleeping pill or like other synthetic sleep aids. To understand how this works exactly, let’s look at what melatonin is and how it affects sleep.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland and to a lesser extent the brain. Like all hormones, levels vary and have profound effects on the body. The pineal gland and brain produce melatonin in response to light. The lack of sunlight is the trigger for melatonin production since our bodies work with circadian rhythm and personal habits.
The decreasing light signals to your pineal gland to produce melatonin when it becomes darker, and it’s time to sleep. This light to dark connection is the trigger for melatonin production. The natural sleep aid then circulates throughout the body and brain to promote relaxation and tension easement.
Melatonin tells your body to slow down and begin the process of falling asleep. So while the direct effect isn’t sleepiness when this happens, your mind and body let go of the thoughts and anxieties of the day and begin to slip into peaceful bliss.
Melatonin provides your body with natural medicine to help regulate your breathing, tell your muscles to let go, and encourage you to sleep. But if your sleep cycle becomes irregular or you’re struggling with deep levels of stress and anxiety, your body may start not to make enough melatonin. Or you’re so stressed that it has become challenging to stop the worry. This is when a melatonin supplement may help.
Melatonin levels rise about 1-2 hours before bedtime. The natural sleep aid tells your body that it’s time to sleep, but it also helps with other bodily functions. For example, research shows that melatonin also helps regulate blood pressure and levels of other hormones.
Melatonin works by connecting with receptors in your muscles that promote relaxation. It also binds to receptors in the brain to reduce anxious thoughts and activity. In addition, it helps decrease dopamine (a hormone that promotes wakefulness) and plays a role in the day-night cycle in your eyes.
All of this occurs in response to light or lack of it. More melatonin is produced as you start to make the transition to bed, and less is produced as you move closer to the morning and more light.
Dopamine levels increase as melatonin decreases and your body becomes more attune and ready to start your day. But sometimes, your body doesn’t make enough melatonin. Let’s review some reasons why this may occur.
Melatonin levels may decrease or become depleted for a few different reasons. Stress is the biggest one that gets in the way of sleep cycles. Your body finds it extremely hard to relax even with melatonin.
You may also have health factors that come into play, such as smoking or drinking. Both of which can decrease melatonin and cause sleep cycles to be less deep and restful.
People who work different shifts that require them to be up at night may find falling asleep during the day difficult and may struggle with insomnia or interrupted sleep. Another reason may be exposure to light at night. Light exposure weakens your melatonin production.
If you’re having trouble with getting regular sleep, a high-quality melatonin supplement can help you.
If you’re struggling with insomnia or anxiety, boosting your melatonin levels can be the answer. Melatonin is available over-the-counter without a prescription and comes in tablets and creams.
Melatonin creams are usually a blend of melatonin and other sleep-inducing agents, such as L-theanine, magnesium, or L-Tryptophan. Combining these natural sleep-promoting ingredients works with your body’s regular sleep cycle to promote restful sleep.
You apply the cream about one hour before bedtime, so it has time to move throughout your system. Creams are non-greasy and don’t require a bulky pill to swallow. Dosage amounts will vary, but full strength is 5 milligrams per pump.
Unlike with many sleep medications, side effects over the short term are minimal. According to the Mayo Clinic, you’re unlikely to become dependent or addicted to melatonin. If you stop taking it, your body isn’t reliant on it to sleep. You’re also unlikely to have a diminished response after repeated use or experience hangover effects of not taking melatonin.
Melatonin is considered safe to use but may interact with other medications. If you’re taking other drugs, speak to your doctor about melatonin replacement before use.
The biggest and well-known benefit of melatonin is the regulation of sleep cycles. While it doesn’t make you sleepy, it relaxes the mind and body enough to encourage slumber naturally. It can help with the following sleep disorders:
Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep at the appropriate times, causing severe reactions in your body in response to the lack of sleep. Insomnia is also connected to anxiety and depression.
Melatonin has also been shown to help with the following:
Research has also shown that melatonin shortens the time it takes to fall asleep and helps promote more profound and more restful sleep. So the question of whether melatonin makes you sleepy is the right one, but not exactly the answer you were expecting. If you’re struggling with insomnia, melatonin will help you fall asleep faster and provide the hours of rest you need. Try melatonin creams to see if they are right for you!