People who struggle with insomnia have likely heard of melatonin. However, the health benefits of melatonin, a naturally-occurring hormone, extend far beyond getting a good night’s sleep.
In this article, we’ll look at melatonin benefits and the science behind them. We’ll start with the apparent sleep benefits and then move on to benefits for different systems in the body, including the nervous system, digestive system, circulatory system, and more.
Melatonin has been used for centuries as a sleep aid and was first isolated in 1958. Melatonin benefits extend to treating insomnia, seasonal affective disorder, jet lag, age-related insomnia, and shift work sleep disorder. Melatonin benefits also include preventing cancer recurrence after radiation therapy and chemotherapy treatments.
Here’s a look at melatonin benefits, its production, and what precautions you should take when taking melatonin supplements.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that affects sleep, wakefulness, and circadian rhythms. The pineal gland regulates its production in the brain.
Melatonin commonly gets used as a sleep aid supplement in humans. So, what is melatonin good for besides sleep?
People can also use it as an antioxidant and anti-aging supplement. Several other melatonin benefits relate to health, including regulating blood pressure and glucose levels, improving mood, and reducing inflammation.
Are Melatonin Supplements Safe?
Melatonin supplements are safe for most people, but there are some side effects. Common side effects include headaches, dizziness, and nausea. In addition, pregnant or breastfeeding people should avoid taking melatonin supplements because they can cause harm to the baby or fetus.
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles. In addition, it affects the actions of other hormones in the body, including cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone.
Melatonin is not safe for pregnant women to take without consulting a doctor first. It is also not recommended for children or women breastfeeding because it can interfere with their sleep cycles.
The melatonin dosage should be 1 to 6 mg per day if you’re taking it regularly and 5 to 10 mg if it’s taking it occasionally.
The FDA does not regulate melatonin.
Related Reading: Can Adults Overdose on Melatonin? How Much Should You Take?
1. Circadian Rhythm and Sleep
Circadian rhythm is the internal body clock that controls your sleep-wake cycle. In recent years, melatonin benefits started to include its correction of the circadian rhythm.
Circadian rhythms are essential for many reasons. They help you regulate your sleep, maintain a healthy weight, and even help you live longer.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain when it’s dark outside and helps you stay asleep during the night when your body needs it most. Research also suggests that melatonin helps treat jet lag and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
2. Treats Insomnia, Jet Lag, and Sleep Disorders
Melatonin can help people with chronic insomnia fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer. It can also help people who experience jet lag and shift work sleep disorder because it helps reset the body’s circadian rhythm.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects people of all ages. There are many different types of insomnia, such as:
- Secondary (e.g., caused by illness)
- Tertiary (e.g., due to stress)
There are many different reasons for insomnia, such as:
- Stress and anxiety
- Physiological factors
- Mental health disorders
- Psychological factors
- Substance abuse
- History of trauma
- Other medical conditions
People have used melatonin for centuries as a treatment for insomnia, and it continues to prove its efficacy. There are also benefits of melatonin for sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Melatonin might also improve cognitive function, mood, and energy levels.
3. Reduces Anxiety and Depression
Melatonin is effective in reducing anxiety and depression, as well as improving sleep quality. Some studies have shown that it can help with mild to moderate depression, but it does not affect severe depression or bipolar disorder.
You can take the supplement on its own or alongside other medications to help alleviate the symptoms of these disorders.
4. Improves Heart and Stomach Health
Melatonin is an effective treatment for heart disease and stomach ailments. For example, in a study of 40 patients with congestive heart failure, researchers found that melatonin improved the symptoms of chronic heart failure. They also found that melatonin helped prevent further cardiac damage and reduced mortality rates by 50%.
Melatonin is also helpful for people with stomach problems like ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome because it can help restore gut health and balance.
5. May Reduce GERD Symptoms
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles. It is effective in reducing symptoms of GERD. In addition, melatonin can help by regulating the digestive system, reducing inflammation, and decreasing acid reflux.
There have also been studies on melatonin’s effectiveness in treating GERD-induced sleep apnea. Taurine is an amino acid that helps produce cysteine, which breaks down inflammatory compounds. It also helps in the regulation of blood flow and fluid balance. Taurine is effective in reducing GERD-related symptoms
6. Promotes Healthy Vision
Melatonin promotes healthy vision by increasing the number of retinal cells present in the eye. Retinal cells are essential for vision, and melatonin helps maintain these cells so that people can see better.
Inadequate melatonin levels in the early stages of development can result in problems later in life. Supplementation can work to combat issues such as age-related macular degeneration and retinal degeneration.
Melatonin is also known to promote healthy vision by stimulating the eyes to produce more light-sensitive cells called rod cells. This process helps people see better at night and in dim light conditions.
7. Promotes Ear Health
Melatonin helps decrease tinnitus symptoms by increasing antioxidant levels in the body, reducing oxidative stress, and increasing antioxidant enzymes in the inner ear.
It is important to note that melatonin does not cure tinnitus, but it can reduce its impact on your life by helping you sleep better and improve your overall health.
8. Combats Macular Degeneration and Age-Related Disease
Melatonin effectively treats age-related diseases such as macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.
Age-related diseases are the result of aging and senescence of the body. The aging process leads to a decline in cellular function, leading to many different age-related diseases such as macular degeneration or Alzheimer’s disease. Melatonin effectively treats these conditions because it has antioxidant properties that help prevent cell damage from oxidation.
Studies have shown that melatonin effectively prevented macular degeneration in animal models of the disease. In addition, the results showed that melatonin helped improve eye function and preserve vision.
9. Supports Mitochondria
Melatonin also supports mitochondria which are responsible for generating energy for the body. It helps regulate their function and ensures that they have enough energy to produce cellular ATP, which is essential for all cell functions.
The mitochondria are the powerhouses of cells, and melatonin supports their function by increasing cell respiration, decreasing oxidative stress, and boosting metabolic rate.
10. Reduces Inflammation
Melatonin benefits also include anti-inflammatory properties.
The synthesis of melatonin starts when there is less light. It means that daylight will reduce the production of melatonin. One way to combat this is to take a melatonin supplement during the day, which will help reduce inflammation levels.
Melatonin supplements are available over-the-counter as well as online. They can be taken in pill or liquid form or even through a nasal spray for those who are sensitive to tablets or liquids.
Inflammation reduction helps prevent or delay some diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and diabetes.
11. Improves Neuroplasticity
The pineal gland in the brain produces melatonin. It helps regulate sleep-wake cycles and circadian rhythms. It also helps improve neuroplasticity or brain regeneration.
Neurological diseases are a result of neuroplasticity gone wrong. When the brain breaks down due to neurological disorders, it loses its ability to repair itself and adapt to new environments. Melatonin can help reverse this process by improving neuroplasticity in the brain.
Melatonin is also an effective treatment for many neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, and many others.
Improved neuroplasticity has a positive effect on memory, attention, and mood.
12. Reinforces the Blood-Brain Barrier
You can find melatonin in fish, beef, turkey, and chicken. Melatonin benefits also include a positive impact on the blood-brain barrier by helping to keep the barrier intact.
The blood-brain barrier is a semi-permeable membrane that protects the brain from potential toxins in the bloodstream. It consists of endothelial cells, which line the capillaries and microvessels of the brain. The BBB separates circulating blood from cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which bathes the brain’s surface and a layer of nerve cells in between.
Studies show that people with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, schizophrenia, and depression often have a compromised BBB.
Melatonin reinforces the blood-brain barrier by stimulating endothelial cells to produce a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) protein. VEGF stimulates new blood vessel growth, which helps maintain a healthy blood supply.
13. May Improve Sleep for People With Autism
Autism is a spectrum disorder that affects how people communicate, relate, and interact with others. It also affects their cognitive development and social skills.
Scientists believe that autism results from an abnormal brain development process during pregnancy or early childhood.
Melatonin has improved sleep quality for people with autism who have disrupted circadian rhythms. Supplementation may be helpful for those who struggle to fall asleep at night or have difficulty staying asleep throughout the night.
14. Improves Cognition for People With Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disorder that leads to memory loss, thinking skills deterioration, and eventually death. Melatonin helps improve cognition in people with Alzheimer’s disease because it regulates sleep-wake cycles, which are crucial for the brain to function correctly.
Because melatonin helps to improve cognition in people with Alzheimer’s disease, doctors commonly prescribe it as an alternative to the standard neuroleptic drugs used to treat this condition.
The use of melatonin in Alzheimer’s disease has been studied primarily in Japan and Europe, where it has endorsement as a pharmacological treatment alternative for the illness.
15. Helps to Prevent Progression of ALS
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that leads to death within 3-5 years of diagnosis.
It is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease because its symptoms are similar to those of the famous baseball player. The most common cause of ALS is damage to the motor neurons.
ALS has no known cure, but some treatments can help alleviate some of the symptoms.
Melatonin also prevents the progression of ALS.
A study conducted by scientists at Tufts University in Boston showed that melatonin reduced ALS risk by up to 40%. ALS is the most common form of motor neuron disease, primarily affecting people aged 20 to 60. The cause of ALS is unknown, but some risk factors include smoking, drinking alcohol, head trauma, or exposure to certain chemicals.
16. May Speed Up Stroke Recovery
Studies have shown that melatonin could help stroke patients recover faster than without it.
Melatonin can reduce inflammation and blood pressure and reduce the severity of a stroke.
Melatonin benefits also assist with shortening stroke recovery time. It can also increase blood flow to muscles during exercise or lower blood pressure during a stressful event.
17. May Slow the Progression of Parkinson’s Disease
Melatonin helps slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease, especially for patients who are experiencing motor complications.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive disorder of the central nervous system, characterized by tremors, rigidity, and postural instability. It affects movement and nerves in the brain, and people generally need medications to treat it.
Research suggests that the lack of sleep deprives the body of endocannabinoids, which are associated with rest. Thus, people who do not get enough sleep may have reduced the production of these substances.
18. May Help People With Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by seizures, which are episodes of temporary loss of consciousness and muscle control. Attacks can affect people differently, depending on what part of the brain is affected.
Some causes of epilepsy include trauma to the head, brain tumors, stroke, infection, injury to the brain or spinal cord, and genetic conditions such as tuberous sclerosis complex or neurofibromatosis type I.
Melatonin helps protect cells from oxidative stress and damage. It can help people with epilepsy by preventing seizures, increasing sleep quality, and reducing the number of seizures during the night.
One study found that people who took melatonin for three weeks reduced daytime seizure frequency.
19. May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is the most common type of diabetes in the United States and accounts for about 90% of all cases. In the United States, an estimated 5.4 million people have been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, but only about 30% are aware that they have it.
The symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes are not just weight gain and thirst but also having frequent urination, blurry vision, and numbness or tingling in your hands or feet.
Type 2 Diabetes is a condition that affects how your body uses insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar.
Melatonin is a type of neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in regulating blood sugar levels, meaning that it can help prevent Type 2 Diabetes.
20. Fights Cancer
Melatonin reduces cancer cell growth and induces apoptosis in cancer cells. It is also an antioxidant that helps protect healthy cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
In recent years, studies have shown that melatonin can lead to cancer cell death, including leukemia, prostate, lung, and breast cancers.
The Bottom Line
The release of melatonin helps people sleep better, feel more energetic, and have a healthier life. One way to naturally increase melatonin levels is exposure to sunlight early in the day or late at night. Another way is to eat foods that contain tryptophan, which plays a role in producing melatonin.
Eating tryptophan foods, such as turkey, crab, eggs, and yogurt during the evening may boost melatonin levels. In addition, consuming foods containing tyrosine, another amino acid found in protein-rich meals like turkey and dairy products during the morning hours may also help increase melatonin production.
If a person cannot expose themselves to sunlight or eat foods that contain tryptophan, they may want to consider taking melatonin supplements.