What do we know about sleep aid Melatonin?

The hormone melatonin regulates a person’s sleep-wake cycles, and many believe that the melatonin supplement to be the cure for sleepless nights. Some people swear that melatonin is a huge assist at getting a good night’s rest as it helps people sleep longer or fall asleep more quickly.

However, some people err on the side of caution when it comes to taking melatonin pills because they wonder if the pill is more of a placebo and has a psychological component over a physical one. People are also unsure of potential side effects that accompany melatonin supplements.

“The production and release of melatonin in the brain is connected to time of day, increasing when it’s dark and decreasing when it’s light,” reports mayoclinic.org.

Doctors may suggest the melatonin supplement to patients with sleep disorders, insomnia, or those who work night shifts and have trouble catching up on sleep during the day. Many melatonin users believe that the supplement does indeed help them get into a better sleep routine.

Olympic Heights sophomore Logan Hesano, who takes melatonin supplements, said that he “used to go to sleep around 12:30 to 1 am, but after taking melatonin at 10, falling asleep at 10:30 pm is a lot easier and subtle.” Hesano’s sleep disorder was helped with a little supplement of melatonin in his night-time routine, so this proves that melatonin does actually work to help people have a better sleep in the short run.

OH sophomore Alex Schnobrick added that taking melatonin “improved [his] sleep a lot.”

However, there are others that believe that melatonin is a placebo, a medical treatment not containing any active ingredient designed to deceive the participant but often can still produce a physical effect on the individual.  

In a review from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the findings showed that taking melatonin versus taking a placebo pill helped people go to sleep faster, proving melatonin’s medical effect on the circadian rhythm.

Another concern is whether or not melatonin is safe to use on a daily basis. According to the NCCIH, out of 31 tested melatonin supplement providers, most pills contain more than what is listed on the label. The NCCIH reported that 26 percent of the supplements contained or had traces of serotonin which can have relatively harmful effects on the body. Serotonin is a hormone associated with reward and mood. 

Serotonin is believed by doctors to be the addictive hormone as people feel a sense of reward when serotonin is released in the brain, making them more likely to take part in the action again. In this case, the addictive action could be taking melatonin.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labels the melatonin supplement as a dietary supplement, which receives fewer regulations than a labeled prescription or over-the-counter medicine. In other countries, melatonin is listed as a drug, and it is monitored closely; however, in the United States, melatonin is not well-regulated. 

Furthermore, if people rely only on melatonin for a long period of time, the brain could build a tolerance to having the same dose every night. The problem with this is that when people stop taking melatonin, their bodies will not produce enough natural melatonin to get them tired enough to sleep. This has been seen to cause cases of insomnia due to the interrupted sleep cycles.

Mild side effects have been reported for children who take the melatonin supplement, including headaches and nausea. These side effects are minor, and many melatonin users do not even acknowledge the effects of taking melatonin.

It appears that the best advice for those considering taking the melatonin supplement is the age-old advice that seems to apply universally: everything in moderation.