Ever feel like you’d give an arm or a leg for a good night’s sleep?

You’re hardly alone. Sleep problems are modern problems, with 1 in 3 Americans reporting that they struggle to fall asleep and sleep soundly. That’s where supplements like melatonin could help.

But what is melatonin and how does it work? That’s a question we’re here to answer.

What is Melatonin?

Hormones are the chemicals that govern the body’s circadian rhythms, or body clock. Think of hormones as the levers controlling your body’s functions. Among the many cycles governed by hormones is the sleep/wake cycle.

Melatonin is the hormone that governs this cycle. When it’s time to sleep, melatonin is released into the bloodstream. It binds to receptors, bringing on the feeling of sleepiness. During the day, melatonin levels drop off, leading to full wakefulness.

In recent years, melatonin has become a popular ingredient in sleep supplements. The desire for a good night’s sleep has led to a boom in the popularity of sleep supplements like these.

What Are Sleep Supplements?

Sleep supplements are a diverse range of dietary supplements, but they all have the same objective: helping you sleep better.

How they do this varies. Some simply use ingredients associated with relaxation, like scented, herbal remedies. Others include drugs that induce drowsiness, like certain antihistamines.

A sleep supplement with melatonin includes the melatonin hormone to more directly trigger the sleep cycle.

Sleep supplements shouldn’t be confused with prescription sleep drugs like Xanax. These are much more potent and can often have more dramatic side effects. That’s why sleep drugs like these are only available from a medical professional.

Who Can Use Melatonin Supplements?

Most people can take melatonin supplements, though only those who are struggling to sleep should do so. Melatonin won’t automatically fix sleep problems, but it could provide benefits when used alongside other lifestyle changes.

Studies have shown that melatonin can be useful for long-distance travellers, who can use melatonin supplements to combat the effects of jet lag.

If you suffer from sleep problems as a result of a medical disorder, you should speak to your doctor, as they may prescribe you a stronger sleep aid or otherwise investigate the source of the problem.

When and How to Take Melatonin Supplements

As melatonin is a sleep hormone that triggers the feeling of sleepiness, you should aim to take melatonin about ninety to thirty minutes before bed. This allows the melatonin time to work without the risk of daytime sleepiness.

You should aim to take the minimum dose of melatonin possible to achieve a good night’s sleep. Although melatonin isn’t likely to be dangerous, taking more could cause disruption to your natural sleep/wake cycle.

What is Melatonin? Your Questions Answered

We hope we’ve helped you answer the question “what is melatonin?” and to figure out whether melatonin supplements are right for you. If you’re still unsure, be sure to speak to your doctor for medical advice.

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