Melatonin

Nonessential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

Melatonin is a natural hormone that aids the health of every cell in our bodies because it easily crosses cell membranes to protect against free-radical damage. Because it’s needed to regulate sleep/wake cycles and set the body’s daily rhythms, it’s widely used to promote restful sleep, ultimately leading to optimal energy, muscle recovery, and overall health.

Where to find Melatonin

Melatonin is a natural hormone in our bodies. And while trace amounts are found in foods, it isn’t enough to be beneficial.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Melatonin

A good night’s sleep is absolutely essential if we want to be our best. Yet, stress, caffeine, hectic schedules, and travel across time zones can make it difficult to get the sleep our bodies crave for overall health and optimal performance. Melatonin offers a natural solution to this common challenge — without the addictive side effects of over-the-counter medications.

Ways that Melatonin can enhance Muscle Gain & Recovery:
  • Balance and promote healthy sleep patterns necessary for muscle growth and recovery
Ways that Melatonin can enhance Longevity:
  • Boost immune functioning, protecting cells from free radicals

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Melatonin deficiency

No deficiency conditions exist, but older people and people with insomnia may have lower levels.

Potential uses for Melatonin

Research indicates that Melatonin may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Insomnia/sleep disorders
  • Jet lag
  • Certain cancers
  • Cluster headaches
  • Addictions

DISCUSSION

More about Melatonin

Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates our sleep/wake cycles. It is produced deep within the pineal gland, a pea-sized gland behind our eyes. When light passes through the retina, the brain sends a message to the pineal gland to suppress melatonin production, which results in our bodies feeling awake.

When only small amounts of light are present, the brain sends a message to the pineal gland to stimulate melatonin production, which prepares our bodies for sleep. Melatonin plays a critical role in setting the body’s daily rhythms, known as circadian rhythms. Studies show supplemental melatonin promotes sleep, shortens the time it takes to get to sleep, reduces night awakenings, improves sleep quality, and helps regulate sleep cycles disrupted by shift work and travel across time zones.

What does that have to do with performance?

Melatonin may indirectly help boost performance because it promotes deep sleep, which supports proper muscle recovery and healthy muscle growth — muscles grow while we’re resting, not training. Research also shows that nervousness before competition or everyday stress can affect melatonin production.

Therapeutic uses

Melatonin has also been shown in research to boost immune function and inhibit several types of hormonally related cancers, such as prostate and breast cancers. It has been theorized that increased cancer rates reported by people living near artificial electromagnetic fields may result from a suppression of melatonin levels. Also low melatonin levels have been linked to sleep disturbances, which accounts for the increased rates of insomnia in the elderly.

As an antioxidant

Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant. While most antioxidants target specific isolated areas of cells, melatonin has the ability to fully permeate all areas of the cell, protecting it from a wide range of free radicals. What’s more, melatonin has been shown to provide special protection to the nucleus, where DNA resides. This is significant because the nucleus is the structure that enables the cell to repair itself.

Because melatonin provides special protection to cellular DNA and because it safeguards against the oxidative process in brain cells, some experts believe it may help slow the effects of the aging process. Melatonin has also been shown to reduce cluster headaches and reduce pressure in the eyes of healthy people.

In conclusion

A good night’s sleep is absolutely essential if we want to be our best. Yet, stress, caffeine, hectic schedules, and travel across time zones can make it difficult to get the sleep our bodies crave for overall health and optimal performance. Melatonin offers a natural solution to this common complication — without the addictive side effects of over-the-counter medications.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

Dosages range from one to three milligrams to promote sleep.

Extremely high amounts (above 40 mg) have been used in cancer research, but these amounts are not recommended without a doctor’s supervision.

Timing

Melatonin is typically taken one to two hours before bedtime. It’s best used as needed, not every night.

Synergists of Melatonin

No synergists have been noted.

Safety of Melatonin

Daytime drowsiness, sleepwalking, vivid dreams, and disorientation may occur.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women as well as people with depression, schizophrenia, autoimmune disease, or lupus should not take melatonin.

There is no documentation available on the safety of long-term use, but this is a hormone, so long-term use should be under the supervision of a physician, particularly if using any medications.

Toxicity of Melatonin

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Attenburrow, M.E., et al., “Case-Control Study of Evening Melatonin Concentration in Primary Insomnia,” BMJ 312.7041 (1996) : 1263-4.
  • Attenburrow, M.E., et al., “Low Dose Melatonin Improves Sleep in Healthy Middle-Aged Subjects,” Psychopharmacology 126.2 (1996) : 179-81.
  • Claustrat, B., et al., “Melatonin and Jet Lag: Confirmatory Result Using a Simplified Protocol,” Biol Psychiatry 32.8 (1992) : 705-11.
  • Kunz, D., and Bes, F., “Melatonin as a Therapy in REM Sleep Behavior Disorder Patients: an Open-Labeled Pilot Study on the Possible Influence of Melatonin on REM-Sleep Regulation, Mov Disord 14.3 (1999) : 507-11.
  • MacFarlane, J.G., et al., “The Effects of Exogenous Melatonin on the Total Sleep Time and Daytime Alertness of Chronic Insomniacs: a Preliminary Study,” Biol Psychiatry 30.4 (1991) : 371-6.
  • Zhadanova, I.V., et al., “Sleep-Inducing Effects of Low Doses of Melatonin Ingested in the Evening,” Clin Pharmacol Ther 57 (1995) : 552-8.