Is Melatonin Really The Answer?

Check out the pros and cons of taking melatonin for your sleep issues.

Is Melatonin Really The Answer? (Getty Images)

ChicagoOver the past two decades, more people have been turning to melatonin to help get a good night’s rest. But what are the pros and cons of taking this supplement every night? 

Here is what EatingWell had to say about the hormone and the safest ways to use it: 

What is Melatonin? 

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally released by the body, according to Roy Raymann, Ph.D., a Vista, California-based sleep expert and advisor to Somnox. The hormone tells the body that it is nighttime and that it’s time for the organ to “move to night mode,” he said. 

Melatonin is normally released by the pineal gland in the brain shortly after sunset and for the duration of the night. It links your biological clock and the timing of your sleep to the natural cycle of day. Darkness prompts the pineal gland to start producing melatonin while light causes that production to stop.

Supplement companies have created pills and liquid forms of melatonin to help those who have trouble sleeping. While the pills are effective, there are some health impacts you should keep in mind if you want to take it nightly. 

What Happens When You Take it Every Night? 

That depends. Results vary according to age group, gender and time of consumption, according to Carleara Weiss, Ph.D., a New York City-based sleep science advisor at Aeroflow. 

"In adults, impacts on physical and mental health may be noticed from seven days to months, depending on the dose. Women might also see a different response to melatonin according to their menstrual phase," says Dr. Weiss. "People with sleep disorders such as insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea may notice other impacts of melatonin or experience side effects such as daytime sleepiness and dizziness, depending on the dose."

You Might Feel Happier

Melatonin production is derived from serotonin, a hormone that promotes a positive mood and feelings of happiness. Melatonin also influences dopamine production in the brain. 

"Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and hormone involved in feelings of pleasure and motivation. Thus, melatonin might reduce feelings of anxiety and depression," Dr. Weiss said. 

You Might Increase Your Risk for Some Health Issues

While people might experience side effects after taking melatonin like drowsiness, stomach aches or dizziness, its long-term effects are still being studied. According to EatingWell, a healthy body takes care of releasing the hormone itself.

"By adding extra melatonin every night, you might throw off that delicate balance in the long run, and might experience the side effects of the body needing to re-balance, whenever you decide to stop using melatonin," Dr. Raymann said. 

Melatonin can also create the belief or feeling that you need the pill every night for a good night of sleep. If you notice that you are worried about the effects of skipping your daily dose, it might be wise to check with a doctor or ease off melatonin.  

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