The problem with sleep, is that we all want it, but not all of us can have it. Well at least enough of it. Better sleep helps you be more productive, improve mood, optimize critical thinking, and enhances your quality of life. Melatonin, or more commonly referred to as. “the sleep hormone” is the culprit responsible for body’s sleep-wake cycles, acting as an internal bedtime reminder. But what exactly are the benefits of melatonin and how does melatonin work?
What Is Melatonin
Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone and powerful antioxidant, that induces sleep by working with your circadian rhythm. Think of Melatonin as your internal bed-time reminder. Although melatonin won’t put you to sleep like other sleep aids, melatonin signals your body, putting it into a deeper sense of relaxation for sleep preparedness.
How Does Melatonin Work
Melatonin works directly with your body’s circadian rhythm, regulating body temperature, blood pressure, and hunger hormones. When its dark outside, melatonin levels start to rise, just as when the sun starts to come up, melatonin levels begin to drop. Melatonin reduces dopamine levels in your brain, a hormone that stimulates wakefulness, reducing nerve activity.
Benefits Of Melatonin
1. Melatonin May Improve Jet Lag
Jet Lag affects people when they travel by air across multiple time zones. Jet lag may cause you not to feel well, interrupt critical thinking, increase daytime lethargy, impair functioning, and digestive problems. Jet lag is occurs when your body’s internal clock is out of sync with the new time zone. Studies have shown that melatonin may reduce jet lag, by syncing your internal clock with the new time zone change [R].
A review published in the Cochrane Database, identified nine studies that found that melatonin taken close to the target bedtime at the destination, decreased jet-lag from flights crossing five or more time zones, at an effective dose of 2-5mg [R].
2. Melatonin May Reduce Anxiety
Anxiety and depression effect nearly 40 million people in the United States in any given year, with another 322 million living with depression worldwide. Studies have shown that melatonin may be a potential therapeutic agent for depressive symptoms and anxiety [R]. By achieving a calm and relaxed state, sleep latency is improved as well as sleep quality and duration.
3. Melatonin Improves Sleep Quality
The most commonly recognized benefit of melatonin is helping you fall asleep, by syncing your internal clock. Current evidence suggests that melatonin taken before bed, can help you achieve optimal sleep cycles and improve sleep latency, to help you get to bed faster. In fact, a systematic review published in the Journal PLOS One, analyzed 19 different studies and found that melatonin reduced time to get to sleep by an average of 7 minutes and increased overall sleep duration [R].
If you have a hard time falling asleep, supplementing with melatonin can signal your internal bedtime alarm to go off, inducing sleep faster for better quality zzzs. It's a well known fact, that if you can go to sleep once your head hits the pillow, you're going to have a much better time, than if you're up for hours trying to fall asleep.
Studies show that the efficacious melatonin dose for better sleep quality and sleep duration is between 2-5mg, with better and longer sleep obtained at 5mg.
Melatonin Side Effects
Clinical research has shown only mild side effects of melatonin supplements, reported in various short-term studies, such as headache, nausea, dizziness, and sleepiness.
Melatonin Benefits: Takeaway
Syncing your internal clock and creating good sleep-wake cycles, can improve productivity, improve mood state, reduce anxiety and enhance overall vitality. Melatonin acts as you internal bedtime alarm, signaling you brain when it’s time to sleep. Studies show that supplementing with 3-5mg of melatonin before sleep can induce better sleep quality, duration, and put you to bed faster, helping you fall asleep and stay asleep.
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Herxheimer A, Petrie KJ. Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of jet lag. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(2):CD001520. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001520. PMID: 12076414.
Arendt, Josephine. “Approaches to the Pharmacological Management of Jet Lag.” Drugs vol. 78,14 (2018): 1419-1431. doi:10.1007/s40265-018-0973-8
Ferracioli-Oda, Eduardo et al. “Meta-analysis: melatonin for the treatment of primary sleep disorders.” PloS one vol. 8,5 e63773. 17 May. 2013, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063773
Hansen MV, Andersen LT, Madsen MT, Hageman I, Rasmussen LS, Bokmand S, Rosenberg J, Gögenur I. Effect of melatonin on depressive symptoms and anxiety in patients undergoing breast cancer surgery: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2014 Jun;145(3):683-95. doi: 10.1007/s10549-014-2962-2. Epub 2014 Apr 23. PMID: 24756186.