Are you having trouble falling asleep and don’t know what to do? You have probably heard of melatonin on more than one occasion, but do you know exactly what it is and what it is used for? Before taking any dietary supplement, it is very important to know what its function is and in which situations it is beneficial.
In this article, we will explain what melatonin is and what it is used for, when it can be taken, its benefits and how it can be consumed naturally in food. Read on and take care of your rest!
What is melatonin and what is it for?
Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the human body, but it is also found in other organisms, such as animals and plants. In humans, the pineal gland, located in the brain, is responsible for synthesising and releasing melatonin.
The main function of melatonin is to regulate the circadian cycle, i.e. the cycles of sleep and wakefulness. The production of this hormone is influenced by two factors: light and darkness. During the day, this hormone is not produced to make us alert, but it is secreted in greater quantities at night when the light decreases, causing a feeling of sleepiness and ensuring that we maintain an adequate rhythm of rest.
But the sleep hormone has other important functions in the body, such as:
- A natural antioxidant helps protect the body’s cells from ageing and other diseases.
- Stimulates growth hormone.
- Regulates appetite
- Strengthens the immune system against infections and diseases.
- It regulates mood. According to some research, melatonin helps to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety levels.
- It regulates body temperature, achieving an ideal temperature for a good night’s sleep.
When and how should melatonin be taken?
One of the first symptoms of having low melatonin levels is having trouble falling asleep. Although it is a hormone that is produced naturally in the body, it is also possible to take supplements to help regulate sleep and the circadian cycle. It is available in various forms, such as tablets, capsules, drops and even jelly beans.
The ideal time to take melatonin will depend on the purpose for which it is being used, as well as the individual needs of each person. Below, we explain the general guidelines for taking this type of supplement:
- Falling asleep. Ideally, take the tablet for about 30 minutes before going to bed to achieve the desired effect and facilitate sleep induction.
- Adjust your circadian rhythm and solve the problem of jet lag. If you are travelling through different time zones or work night shifts, simply take melatonin just before going to bed in the new time zone. This will help your body adapt to the new time zone earlier.
- Sleep problems. If you suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders, it is always advisable to consult a specialist beforehand to adjust the dose and the way you take the melatonin supplement in a more personalised way.
In addition, it is always important to follow the manufacturer’s or healthcare professional’s instructions and to consult any pre-existing medical condition or if you are under medication treatment in case it is incompatible. It should also be stressed that melatonin should not be used if you are going to drive or engage in any activity that requires alertness.
Benefits of melatonin
Melatonin production is essential for the body to function regularly. This natural sleep solution has many other benefits, some of which we have already mentioned. Some of the main benefits are as follows:
- Improves sleep quality. Melatonin helps regulate the sleep cycle and also improves sleep quality, which is essential for good health and well-being.
- Antioxidant. The sleep hormone works as a perfect antioxidant, protecting cells from free radicals, which reduces the chances of suffering from chronic diseases or ageing.
- It strengthens the immune system, naturally improving our defences.
- Improves cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure and improving blood vessel function.
- Prevents obesity. If you have wondered whether melatonin is fattening, the truth is that by itself it should not lead to weight gain. However, lack of sleep can trigger hormonal imbalances such as an imbalance in levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, or leptin, the satiety hormone.
- It improves mood, stress, depression or anxiety, leading to emotional well-being. By regulating the circadian cycle, melatonin works as a natural antidepressant and, at the same time, helps to improve memory, concentration and planning. It is also an excellent solution for preventing migraines or headaches.
- It works as a neuroprotectant, which prevents neuronal wasting.
- Cares for and protects the skin from sunburns and sunspots
- Prevents and slows hair loss, and also prevents scalp dryness.
Foods with melatonin
In addition to production in the body and supplements, it is also possible to ingest melatonin naturally through food. In this way, we can regulate the sleep cycle through food.
- Walnuts. Studies have shown that regular intake of walnuts increases the presence of melatonin. This nut also provides other nutrients such as vitamins B and C and Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Cherries. More acidic species have higher melatonin levels.
- Tomatoes. In addition to lycopene, vitamins A, C, E and K, it also provides a small amount of melatonin.
- Bananas. This fruit helps you fall asleep and helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle due to its melatonin content. It is also rich in potassium, which works as a cardioprotector.
- Oats, sweetcorn and rice. These three cereals have the highest melatonin content.
Tips for falling asleep
Do you need to get to sleep? If you need to improve your rest and regulate your sleep-wake cycle, here are 5 tips to help you sleep better:
- Establish a regular sleep routine. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
- Create an ideal environment to promote sleep. Your bedroom should be calm, quiet, dark and comfortable.
- Reduce screen exposure one hour before bedtime.
- Before going to sleep, you can read, listen to relaxing music, meditate or practice relaxation exercises.
- Try to avoid caffeine, alcohol or tobacco.
Now you know all about melatonin and how it can help you fall asleep. Remember that not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to physical, emotional and cognitive health.