By Nicolas Martineau B.Sc.
Few people have never heard of melatonin. This hormone naturally produced by our body is responsible for several functions, including that of inducing sleep. In this regard, more than a third of people suffer from sleep disorders or poor sleep. So, it is a very widespread phenomenon and people are continuously looking for solutions to this problem.
According to a recent survey, melatonin is increasingly used to improve sleep. As shown in the table below from a published study, its use has increased by 450% in 20 years in the United States! Another trend observed is that people tend to choose higher doses (more than 5mg per day). Since this is a relatively recent phenomenon, are there any health concerns? What is the right dosage? Is it safe to take it? These are the questions we will try to answer in this article.
Trends in Use of Melatonin Supplements Among US Adults, 1999-2018
JAMA. 2022 Feb 1;327(5):483-485. doi: 10.1001/jama.2021.23652.
How does melatonin work?
Researchers still have a lot to learn about melatonin. Produced by the pineal gland which is located in the center of the brain, the production of melatonin is reduced by exposure to light and increased by lack of light. This small, pea-sized gland plays a crucial role in what is known as the circadian rhythm. It is an integrated biological rhythm, taking the form of a cycle of approximately 24 hours and governing certain physiological processes such as sleep and food.
Melatonin is therefore involved in this biological clock and induces sleep. Since the pineal gland receives information about light from the eyes, and since blind people cannot detect light, they usually have irregular melatonin cycles, resulting in a disordered circadian rhythm.
Do melatonin supplements really work?
Backed by 97 published studies, Health Canada confirms that melatonin supplementation helps increase total sleep time, helps prevent and/or reduces the effects of jet lag, helps reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, and helps restore the sleep/wake cycle. People with jet lag, evening and night shift workers, and even people in hospital or with chronic pain are likely to benefit greatly from taking melatonin.
Since melatonin supplements are regulated by Health Canada, the quality found on shelf is more reliable than in other countries. Not only does Health Canada require that these supplements always be tested before allowing them to be resold, but they must also be tested throughout their shelf life to ensure quality and accuracy in the amount of melatonin found in each dose.
Are melatonin supplements safe?
Although these products are available over the counter in Canada, do not assume that melatonin supplements are harmless. Even if these supplements are not addictive, you should follow the instructions on the labels and consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions. Depending on our sensitivity and the dose that is taken, it is possible that melatonin supplements can cause certain side effects such as dizziness, nausea and headaches. Finally, as with most supplements, pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take this product without consulting their doctor, as melatonin is naturally transferred to the placenta and it can be transferred into breast milk. Moreover, there is still a lack of studies for the use of melatonin with young children.
What is the recommended dosage?
Generally speaking, a safe dosage of melatonin is determined by our age, weight and personal sensitivity. Supported by 59 studies cited and 38 other studies consulted, Health Canada recommends a dosage of 0.1mg to 10mg per day for adults. In practice, a dose of 1mg to 5mg is generally effective for most people. Some less sensitive people need to take larger doses. Melatonin should be taken about 30 minutes before bedtime.
Like the production of collagen, studies show that our body produces less and less melatonin as we age. People in their 90s produce up to 80% less melatonin. One of the reasons mentioned would be the calcification of the pineal gland. The sleep-wake cycle is therefore disturbed in the elderly. As a result, older people may be more sensitive to taking melatonin. The researchers therefore recommend starting with smaller doses (1mg).
The precautions to take
Although our body produces it naturally, taking a melatonin supplement should be done with caution. Indeed, taking melatonin could interact with certain medications such as anticoagulants, antiplatelets, anticonvulsants, contraceptives, certain medications for diabetes, immunosuppressants and sleeping pills. Also, if you are pregnant and breastfeeding, it is not recommended to take melatonin without the advice of a health professional.
Habits that influence the quality of our sleep
In reality, it is not only the level of melatonin that can influence sleep. Several very simple measures can help you fall asleep and get quality sleep. Here are some tips to fall asleep faster:
- Have a routine: always go to bed and wake up at the same times, even on vacation or on weekends! Our body loves routine.
- Avoid television screens, tablets and cell phones at least 1 hour before bedtime (all devices emitting blue light).
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine at least 4 hours before bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol at least 4 hours before bedtime, as it affects the quality of sleep
- Do some physical activity during the day (as little as 10 minutes a day!).
What about sleeping pills?
Widely prescribed, sleeping pills are very effective, but they have many disadvantages. In general, according to a study published in 2012, we can easily say that the 3 most popular sleeping pills are as dangerous as cigarettes! In fact, the study shows that they increase the risk of death by 4.6 times in those who take them. Their prescriptions must be made with great care. In addition to all their adverse health effects, sleeping pills are habit-forming, that is, taking a sleeping pill regularly leads to tolerance, so doses must be increased regularly to achieve the same effect. Sleeping pills also cause a strong addiction and this one is very difficult to fight naturally. We can conclude that it should be avoided at all costs to take it and therefore to try all the other options that exist before taking it under prescription.
A new melatonin now available at Land Art!
Liquid for even faster results than tablets and capsules, Land Art has just launched a brand new, more concentrated liquid melatonin. Sugar-free, gluten-free and GMO-free like our 3mg/ml formula, Land Art's Melatonin Extra Strength 10mg helps you fall asleep faster and longer. It is therefore ideal for people who need to take a larger dose and who want even faster results. Easy-to-dose, thanks to its graduated dropper, each full dropper provides 5mg per ml. Land Art's Liquid Melatonin is the only sugar-free melatonin. It will not cause cavities to your beautiful teeth.
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