Do you know Melatonin?

For years, melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland and the gut, has been the king of sleep supplements. In 2020, global sales of melatonin were 1.25 billion dollars and are projected to climb to 2.4 billion by 2026. However, melatonin isn’t a one-trick pony, as it plays several roles in the body.

In the skin, melatonin acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect skin cells from damaging ultraviolet radiation.

In our cells, it scavenges free radicals, helping to protect mitochondria (the “engines” of cells) from dysfunction.

Mitochondrial dysfunction is a characteristic of aging and a contributing factor to chronic disease. It may be that as melatonin levels decline with age, the mitochondria are less protected from oxidative stress, compromising their ability to effectively maintain cell health. Simply put, when our mitochondria are healthy, so are we.

In our guts, adequate melatonin production may protect the lining of the GI tract and promote the growth of favorable gut bacteria.

In our brains, sufficient melatonin levels help to regulate mood and protect brain cells from dysfunction.

In our vascular system, the hormone may counteract inflammation and keep harmful LDL cholesterol in check.

Experts have several suggestions on how to promote healthy melatonin production, including:
Getting sunlight in the morning—10-20 minutes of direct sunlight shortly after waking releases serotonin and promotes melatonin production.

Eat tryptophan-rich foods—this amino acid produces serotonin and binds with enzymes that produce melatonin. Foods include turkey, pork, tuna, quinoa, and dairy products.

Engage in relaxing activities like meditation, pleasure reading, or a warm bath—decompressing from hectic days encourages cortisol levels to drop and melatonin to rise.

Limit artificial light at night—electronic devices tell the brain that it's daytime and to keep cortisol production up. Weaning off electronics at night encourages melatonin release and improved sleep.

Speaking of better sleep, the bedroom environment should be considered. When it’s free of ambient light (sleep masks are great), quiet, tidy, and with a temperature in the mid-60s, quality sleep is more likely.

So what about taking a melatonin supplement for more shut-eye? Generally, experts recommend all supplements should be a last resort, not a first line of defense. Because they’re unregulated, one can never know what exactly they’re getting, and when it comes to melatonin, research indicates less may be better.

A research review in the journal “Nutrition” stated that a lower dose, just 0.3 milligrams, tends to work best at improving sleep, yet supplements deliver much higher doses. “Products containing a dose of 3–5 mg are often chosen because they are perceived as a good value, but supplementing with more melatonin than physiologically required is not always better,” wrote the researchers.

Too much melatonin can bring side effects like headache, dizziness, nausea, and daytime “melatonin hangovers,” and can make falling asleep more difficult by disrupting the brain’s sleep-wake cycle. I’ve found the consistent sleep hygiene practices of early sunlight, evening relaxation, and shutting off electronics an hour before bed to be more effective.

From the information in this article, I’m curious what your takeaways are. Have you tried melatonin supplements to help you sleep, and how well did they work? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Thank you for your post. It's appreciated.


I've spoken to some people who say melatonin works well for them, but for me, "natural" remedies don't seem to do much and prescriptions leave a hangover.

The best thing for my sleep is less stressing. No matter how I've tried to "doctor" not sleeping, letting go of stress and worry creates the best result for me.