If you've ever struggled with insomnia, there's a good chance you've heard about the natural supplement melatonin. People have been using the nutritional supplement melatonin for years to aid in the production of the hormone in the brain, allowing for a better full night's sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 3 adults don't get enough sleep. The CDC defines enough sleep as 7 hours each night.
What is Melatonin?Melatonin is a natural occurring hormone in the brain's pineal gland. According to the National Sleep Foundation, when people are exposed to light at night, the production of melatonin slows. This could be from working a night shift or from something as simple as looking at a cell phone before bed.
How Does Melatonin Work?During the day, the pineal gland remains dormant. Usually around nine p.m., the gland goes to work, producing melatonin which then goes into the bloodstream. This makes melatonin levels spike very quickly, readying people for sleep. Studies suggest that using a melatonin supplement can aid in jet lag, shift work sleep disorders, and insomnia.
- Jet lag is caused by traveling quickly through multiple time zones. Taking a melatonin supplement upon reaching the designated time zone can assist in getting rest and waking without the symptoms of jet lag.
- Shift work disorder is commonly related to people who work night shifts, minimizing the amount of light needed while awake. Research has shown that melatonin supplements help these people get the needed amount of sleep when not working.
- Insomnia is a primary sleep disorder characterized by patterns of inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health, a 2013 analysis of 19 studies found melatonin improves the time it takes to fall asleep, total sleep time, and overall quality of sleep.
What Are the Other Benefits of Melatonin?While it's important to get the proper amount of sleep each night, that's not the only benefit research has discovered that melatonin may provide. Studies are currently being performed to research how melatonin may improve the following health issues:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Quality of life in cancer patients
- Hot flashes in menopausal women
- Attention deficit disorder (ADD) in children and more