When weighing the pros and cons of taking melatonin for sleep, it’s just as important to consider other factors related to melatonin and sleep. For instance, the type of melatonin you take can change its effectiveness, as does your evening routine. As we’ll soon see, many of the pros and cons of melatonin can be influenced by these outside factors.
Read on to learn about the pros and cons of melatonin and what you can do to enhance the pros and reduce the cons.
Included in this article:
Pros of Melatonin: Helps Regulate Sleep Schedule and Improve Sleep Quality
As we consider the pros of melatonin, keep in mind the type of melatonin you take can drastically change how quickly and efficiently it works. Pills can take upwards of an hour to be fully absorbed and have poor bioavailability, but liquid and vaporized substances are both absorbed much more quickly and completely, helping you fall asleep faster.
The fast-acting melatonin supplements from MELO Labs are among the best on the market. Try MELO Air if you’re interested in a vaporizer or MELO Sip if you’re interested in additional ingredients for anxiety relief and relaxation.
Puts You in Control of Your Sleep Schedule
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the brain’s pineal gland that regulates your circadian rhythm (body clock), letting your body know when bedtime is approaching. Using it as a supplement has the potential to reset your sleep cycle. This is especially important for overcoming jet lag, or any externally-imposed change to your sleep schedule.
For instance, melatonin may help shift workers, night workers, or others who work odd hours to reduce the circadian misalignment that can happen as a result of having a rotating bed time. A randomized, controlled, double-blind study from the Journal of Pineal Research found melatonin could reduce circadian misalignment by about 20% in female nurses.
Importantly, the researchers note that the melatonin supplement (or placebo) was only meant to be taken on nights when study participants were able to get a full night’s sleep, and not during daytime naps. In other words, the idea is to maintain some consistency in your circadian rhythm, not to constantly shift it along with your schedule.
Helps You Get Better Sleep
A meta-analysis from peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS One suggests melatonin can reduce sleep latency (the time it takes you to fall asleep) and increase total sleep duration. The researchers note the effects are “modest,” but they believe the minimal side effects make melatonin preferable to stronger sleeping pills.
Apart from improving sleep latency and duration, melatonin can also improve the quality of the sleep itself. A clinical trial from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found melatonin supplements could substantially increase REM sleep in patients who otherwise had lower-than-normal levels of REM sleep.
Additionally, a critical review from Sleep Medicine found melatonin to be an effective treatment for REM sleep behavior disorder, a condition in which vivid nightmares may be physically acted out, in a dangerous and sometimes violent way. The researchers recommended melatonin as a safer alternative to the sedatives otherwise prescribed for this condition.
Helps Offset Natural Decline in Melatonin Production That Accompanies Age
Melatonin levels decline naturally as we get older, according to a review from Experimental Gerontology. Thankfully, taking melatonin supplements can help counter these effects as well as other types of insomnia that become more common with age.
That said, keep in mind how much melatonin you need will also increase as you age. When it comes to finding the right dose of melatonin for you at any age, start with as low a dose as you can, and slowly work your way higher only if the lower doses don’t work. Doses anywhere from 0.5 mg to 5 mg have been found to be effective, but older adults may consider higher doses.
Enhances Immune Function
Aging is also associated with a decline in immune function, but melatonin is known to help improve the immune system as well. According to a study from Immunity and Aging, “melatonin enhances both innate and cellular immunity.”
While more research needs to be done to determine the effect of melatonin supplements on the immune system, it’s safe to say that they may play a role in boosting immune function.
Isn’t Addictive Like a Sleeping Pill
Unlike many sleep medications and sedatives, melatonin is not addictive. It doesn’t create dependence or cause withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it, and you won’t build a tolerance to it. That said, it’s important to be careful not to take too much, and to find the lowest possible dose that works for you.
Won’t Cause Excessive Grogginess
Melatonin typically stays in your system for about 4-5 hours, so as long as you’re able to sleep for at least that long, it most likely won’t cause you to feel any more daytime sleepiness than you normally would when you wake up. This is also in contrast to sleeping pills and sedatives, which can knock you out for an extended period of time.
Has Limited Side Effects
Another advantage melatonin has over other sleeping pills is its limited list of side effects. Dizziness, headache, nausea, and drowsiness are the most commonly reported side effects, but they still aren’t very common and are likely a result of people taking a higher dose than necessary. In sufficiently low doses, melatonin has virtually no side effects.
Cons of Melatonin
As with the pros, the cons of melatonin are also influenced by a variety of factors. Remember, melatonin is a hormone, not a sedative or sleeping pill. It is easily influenced by light exposure as well as recent sleeping habits, and there are many things you can do to offset the cons, as we’ll see in the next section.
May Increase Risk of Nightmares
There’s a small amount of evidence that suggests melatonin could make nightmares more likely, particularly if you take too much. A case report from the Asian Journal of Psychiatry found melatonin seemed to induce nightmares in a patient with insomnia.
Keep in mind this is one patient, and no other clinical evidence suggests this is a common side effect. However, melatonin is known to increase the time we spend in REM sleep, so it is possible we may experience more vivid dreams while under its effects – though as we saw above, it can also be used to treat a rare disorder that causes vivid nightmares.
Doesn’t Treat Anxiety-Based Insomnia
While some evidence suggests melatonin may be helpful in the treatment of anxiety, this is not its primary function. Most likely, it improves anxiety by improving sleep – not by directly affecting the anxiety. When your sleep problems are caused by severe stress, melatonin most likely won’t work as well.
Thankfully, some melatonin products contain additional ingredients known to help alleviate anxiety. For instance, besides melatonin, MELO Sip also has L-Theanine, chamomile extract, valerian root extract, and GABA, all known to help with both sleep and anxiety. It’s a great option for those nights when stress is likely to interfere with your sleep.
Bright Light and Blue Light Severely Diminish Its Effects
Considerable evidence shows bright light, especially blue light, causes melatonin suppression. For instance, a study from the Journal of Applied Physiology found short wavelengths of light (blue light) to significantly suppress melatonin. The more of this type of light subjects were exposed to, the more their melatonin levels decreased.
This has serious implications when it comes to taking melatonin supplements. Nearly all of our electronic devices emit blue light, and people often like to use such devices at night – but spending an hour playing games on your smartphone after taking melatonin may well cancel out the melatonin.
If using electronic devices is otherwise part of a relaxing evening routine for you, use the “nighttime” setting on your device, and consider getting a pair of blue light blocking glasses.
Research on Melatonin Is Limited
Big pharmaceutical companies tend to have plenty of resources to fund drug studies. By contrast, melatonin companies are more limited in their ability to conduct scientific trials. As such, there isn’t as much research on melatonin supplements. This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s any danger with taking melatonin long-term, but we can’t be sure.
Sufficient evidence suggests melatonin is safe to take in the short-term, but since we don’t know about its long-term effects, it may be a good idea to avoid using it for too long – as with any sleep aid.
It is also unclear whether melatonin is safe during pregnancy. Since more research needs to be done on melatonin and pregnancy, it is probably safest for those who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding to avoid it altogether.
How to Enhance the Pros and Minimize the Cons of Melatonin
In general, the pros tend to outweigh the cons when it comes to melatonin:
- There are no serious side effects;
- It’s not addictive; and
- It doesn’t have any of the other common pitfalls of most sleeping pills.
However, its effectiveness can vary quite a bit based on a few important factors, including your sleep hygiene and what type of melatonin you use.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Melatonin lets your body know it’s that time of evening when you’ll be going to sleep soon. As such, it is very sensitive to your daily habits. Practicing good sleep hygiene is important for melatonin supplements to have their full effect.
For instance, making sure to limit blue light and other bright light exposure in the evening will help you get the most out of your melatonin supplements. Additionally, sticking to a relatively consistent schedule – i.e., going to bed at around the same time every night – will also help melatonin work more effectively for you.
Use the Right Type of Melatonin
Of course, the type of supplement matters, too. Melatonin pills are perhaps the most common type of melatonin supplement, but they are also the least effective. A clinical trial from the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found melatonin pills had an average of 15% bioavailability – meaning we don’t actually absorb the vast majority of the melatonin in these pills.
Pills also take longer to absorb than other types of supplements. As Medicare Europe explains, pills need to be broken down by the stomach before their contents can be used, a process that can take an additional 20-30 minutes. By contrast, liquids are absorbed in 1-4 minutes, and they have an average of 98% bioavailability.
Try MELO Labs for All Your Melatonin Needs
Using the best melatonin products on the market will help you maximize the pros and minimize the cons of melatonin. As we’ve already seen, liquids are a far superior choice when it comes to taking melatonin. MELO Sip is a liquid melatonin supplement that comes in several tasty flavors with no added sugar, and it only needs to be taken 15-30 minutes before bed.
Additionally, MELO Sip has the extra benefit of several additional sleep-enhancing and anxiety-reducing ingredients, and it also contains vitamins and minerals to help support sleep. It’s an ideal choice for helping both sleep and anxiety.
MELO Air is another option that is absorbed even faster, and it also comes in multiple sweet flavors. While more research still needs to be done on vaporizers, MELO Air does not contain vitamin E acetate, nicotine, or any of the common substances known to be harmful when vaporized.
MELO Labs supplements get between 2 and 3 thousand 4-5 star reviews per year. Between the delicious drinks you can make with MELO Sip powders and the flavorful MELO Air vaporizers, MELO Labs has something for everyone.