Get Well

Wellness One-oh-Ones: Melatonin

by Hannah Smith

Welcome to the Wellness One-oh-Ones, a digital encyclopedia for all your wellness needs. This series is geared to tackle those everyday questions you secretly ask yourself in wonderment when you hear about a new trend. Instead of pretending to know what people are talking about, come hang with us as we uncover the latest and greatest in the wellness industry. Check back every other Wednesday to pick up your refill — no doctor’s signature required.

I don’t know about you, but to me, a good night’s sleep is precious – I require a full eight to ten hours on a comfortable mattress with white noise and soft light. As you might guess, my sleep routine is quite specific, but one thing really elevated my relationship with sleep.

Melatonin has been used for years to aid in not only falling asleep, but making sure the sleep is deep and restful. Though melatonin isn’t new, it’s important to be educated on this highly popular supplement. Today, I’m breaking down why it came to earn the reputation it did and why so many people have reached for it over the years.

What is Melatonin?

Long story short: melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the brain that is crucial in maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm. This rhythm is your body’s 24-hour sleep cycle that regulates when you fall asleep, how deeply you sleep, when you wake up, and when you have energy during the day. In fact, it’s actually responsible for that mid-day slump (the most common time for adults to their circadian rhythm drop is between 1-3pm).  It’s largely influenced by how you respond to both lightness and darkness, too.

Now that you understand circadian rhythm, let’s talk about how melatonin affects that. As your body naturally produces melatonin, taking it orally only increases the overall effects of a good night’s sleep. Increasing the hormone can often lull you to sleep more quickly than usual, or can put you in a much deeper sleep. Your body enters its deepest sleep between 2-4am, but having increased melatonin in the body can in turn help you sleep deeper and avoid waking up throughout the night.

What are the Benefits of Melatonin?

It goes without saying that better, deeper sleep is the primary reason people reach for melatonin, but this little supplement doesn’t stop there! Melatonin has also been proven to reduce oxidative stress, boost brain function, improve eye function, and is a huge boost to the immune system. Now that you understand why it works for sleep, read up on some of the lesser known benefits below!

Melatonin and Immunity

I love a wellness product that boosts immunity (see: turmeric, reishi mushroom, ashwagandha), and melatonin just happens to check that box, too. Melatonin is quite the anti-inflammatory, and in turn, is great at reducing a variety of inflammatory infections that begin in the gut. That being said, it’ll help you stay free of mild and seasonal colds.

Melatonin and PMS

Period pain is no joke. There’s your general PMS, and then there’s PMDD – a severe form of PMS caused by low melatonin levels in the body that increases anxiety, depression, and moodiness during that time of the month. Melatonin therapy has been used to treat extreme pain behind PMDD, so taking melatonin orally can help to ease the symptoms of PMS in general.

Melatonin and Gut Health

Anti-inflammatory ingredients wear many hats, and in this case, the anti-inflammatory properties of melatonin also improve gut health. In fact, it’s been used as a more natural alternative to treating a number of gut related problems such as colitis and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

Melatonin and Eye Health

The most unexpected benefit of melatonin is the eye protection it provides. Melatonin prevents the death of cone cells, which help you to identify color. It can also decrease elevated pressure behind the eyes, be it generally or because of conditions like glaucoma.

Are There Side Effects?

Melatonin is not known to have any major side effects, though some experience minor headaches and stomach cramping. It’s important to pay attention to your body as you test new supplements to see how your body reacts.

That being said: it is not recommend for pregnant women, or those who wish to get pregnant. As it is a hormone, it acts as birth control on a much smaller level, but can make it more difficult to become pregnant.

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