Stop Taking Melatonin Every Night - Here's What To Do Instead
It is no wonder that so many people are struggling to sleep. Not only do we have the daily life struggles of work, travel, and family to contend with but we’re coming out of living through a hella stressful pandemic.
In 2016, surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Consumer Reports found that a third of American adults weren’t getting enough sleep and were having trouble falling asleep at night. And now with the pandemic continuing to cause an increase in job losses, stress, anxiety, and disrupted schedules, a record number of people are being kept up at night or unable to wake up in the morning.
A survey from the American Psychological Association during the second year of the pandemic revealed that as many as 2 in 3 Americans reported getting either too much or too little sleep.
Not falling asleep or experiencing a restless night can be frustrating, especially if it’s a regular occurrence. So, to get a much-needed good night’s sleep, many people have turned to a popular natural sleep supplement called melatonin.
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Melatonin has become the fourth most popular supplement among U.S. adults. In fact, many of your sleep-deprived friends, health-conscious social media pages you follow, or even you, have probably sworn by melatonin’s ability to aid in sleep. This has led to an increasing number of people (maybe even you) turning to melatonin to help them fall asleep at night, on the regular. However, this may have got you thinking about whether it is even safe to take melatonin every night? And is melatonin addictive?
Well, unfortunately, melatonin can be a risky sleep miracle supplement - here’s why!
What exactly is a melatonin supplement?
Firstly, let’s understand the basics of what melatonin is. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone or chemical messenger that is made in the brain inside the pineal gland. Your brain then uses it to then help regulate your 24-hour body clock, known as the circadian rhythm.
Melatonin sends messages to the rest of your body, telling it that it’s time to sleep and helps regulate your internal clock. The hormone melatonin is released when the sun goes down and causes drowsiness. Around two hours after melatonin is released in your body, your body is ready to go to sleep. When the sun rises and you’re exposed to the sunlight, your melatonin levels fall, telling your body it's time to wake up and get moving.
This is why melatonin is nicknamed the "Dracula of hormones" because it rises in the dark and drops during the day.
Pure melatonin supplements are believed to function in a similar way to the natural hormone melatonin we just talked about. Supplemental melatonin assists us in creating drowsiness and getting ready for sleep. Studies have backed this, with supplemental melatonin being shown in multiple studies to increase sleep propensity.
Furthermore, while sleeping pills usually put you to sleep by using sedative-hypnotic effects, melatonin supplements don’t sedate you. Technically, supplemental melatonin tricks your body into believing it’s time for sleep, making for an even more natural sleep solution.
It’s important to note that not all brands of melatonin are the same and you should always read the label to make sure you’re buying pure melatonin, not melatonin blended with other chemicals and substances.
The effects of long-term melatonin use
Firstly, a potentially worrisome factor is that melatonin can overtake our natural signals and confuse our body into not being able to identify what we need anymore.
As we now know melatonin is a central player in your body’s circadian rhythm. But our dependency can wreak havoc on that rhythm. People think that just because melatonin is needed for sleep, we need more and more of it - the truth is, less is more.
Usually, you can see melatonin supplements range up to 10 milligrams. However, you should not go higher than 3 milligrams of melatonin in dosage and ideally stick to 0.3 milligrams.
Most melatonin above 4 to 3 milligrams is believed to have a drug-like effect on your body that can cause deep sedation. That may seem great at that moment when you’re desperate for sleep, but that kind of dosing over a couple of nights can cause you to develop a confusing dependency on the supplement. Your brain might stop producing as much of that natural melatonin because it doesn’t believe it to be necessary anymore.
The right way to take melatonin is in smaller doses and preferably on occasion. This will support your body’s natural production of melatonin instead of overriding your body’s natural process.
Secondly, there simply isn’t enough research about melatonin’s effectiveness, dosage guidelines, and effects of regular long-term use. That’s why so many experts are beginning to warn that melatonin should only be relied on occasionally or used in a smaller dosage regularly for up to two months, maximum.
For children, there are some scary concerns regarding the possibility of long-term use delaying puberty.
Stop taking melatonin every night - here's what to do instead
All-in-all, while it may be tempting to reach for a quick fix for your sleep problems by taking a pill every night for a couple of weeks, melatonin - and well, all sleep aids - shouldn’t be relied on over the long-term and only act as an unstable Band-Aid for chronic sleep conditions.
Now, this doesn’t mean you’re destined for sleepless nights – sleep is crucial. Like seriously important… sleep is a vital pillar of well-being. Poor sleep has negative effects on your muscle function, hormones, brain, mood, and many important biological functions. A good night's sleep is near just as important as regular physical activity and a healthy diet.
Quick fixes are tempting – but before you go and reach for melatonin, consider making some simple lifestyle adjustments that will promote healthy sleep hygiene:
- Sleep at Regular Times: Try setting a consistent bedtime and wake-up time if it’s possible for you, even on weekends. This will help maintain the timing of the body's internal clock, helping you fall asleep faster and wake up happier.
- Wind Down with Tea: As bedtime approaches (about 1 to 2 hours before) try naturally winding down and relaxing by drinking a warm cup of tea, especially tea herbs that are specifically targeted with naturally calming sedative effects. Yes, some herbs have natural capabilities that’ll help you have a restorative night's sleep. For example - Wise Ape Tea's Orange Dreamiscle is a dreamy blend of chamomile flowers with subtle hints of orange and cream, combined with adaptogenic super-herbs to support your nightly zen, and it includes incredible sleep-wise herbs like organic Chamomile, organic Valerian Root, organic Skullcap, and organic Passionflower. And if you want to learn more about these fantastic herbs that promote sleep and support relaxation in your body, visit our blog post on 4 Herbs That’ll Help You Sleep Better And Doze Off Faster.
- Set Your Space for Sleep: Create a space that is ideal for sleep and relaxation. Make sure the space you sleep in is as dark as possible, a cool 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, and that it’s quiet without disruptions from devices like your smartphone.
- Prepare Yourself for Sleep: Avoid big meals, caffeine, and alcohol in the evening; and try to fit in some physical activity during the day. Also, try to take advantage of the light. Expose yourself to the sunlight in the morning and avoid it in the evening, to help in keeping your circadian rhythms in sync.
If you want 16 more tips for maximizing your snoozing. Then check out our article: Get Your Sleep On Better Sleep For A Better You
People who regularly miss out on the recommended 7 or more hours of sleep have a higher chance of having serious health problems like depression, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc.
All these 4 hacks will allow you to naturally create optimal sleep conditions without having to rely on melatonin gummies and letting your natural melatonin hormones do their thing.
Before you go, be wary that your need to rely on melatonin could be masking another problem including a hormonal imbalance, a mental health issue, or a sleep disorder. If sleeplessness is left untreated, it could not only get worse but may lead to health complications later in life. So, please talk to your healthcare provider if your sleep struggles start to feel chronic or endless.
Try our adaptogenic herbal tea blends for optimal sleep!
Here at Wise Ape Tea, we make bold and fun flavored, wellness-inspired, adaptogenic, herbal tea blends. Our Wise Ape Orange Dreamiscle tea blend is designed to calm the mind, reduce stress, and help you sink into a restorative night's sleep. Find it a loose leaf tea or in biodegradable tea bags.
This informative article is written, by Sophia McKenzie. Sophia is head content creator and writer, for several premium websites, where her expertise lies in health, nutrition, and wellness. Her content focuses on providing and sharing doable solutions to help people truly thrive and live their happiest, healthiest, fulfilled lives.