The essential guide to melatonin, the natural sleep aid

The essential guide to melatonin, the natural sleep aid

Have come across melatonin several times when you have looked for a natural way to get sleep?

Do you want to get to know about it a little bit better?

Well you have come to the right place. 

Lets begin with: 

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone which helps in the regulation of sleep which is released mostly by the pineal gland and partly by the retina of the eyes. Darkness cues the brain to start releasing melatonin which further commands the body to sleep. On the other hand in the presence of light the melatonin secretion decreases which signals the body to wake up. [1]

Isn't it fascinating that your body has its own personal alarm?


Melatonin as a sleep inducer has been widely discussed but we often forget that it is a potent antioxidant. Yes, melatonin performs a variety of antioxidant properties and shows protective effects on several organs. Let's learn about the various benefits of melatonin.

Sleep:  Sleep is the first to some in our mind when we discuss melatonin. Why not? Studies on melatonin supplementation and sleep have been widely conducted and have found to be helpful in treating sleep disorders. Melatonin also helps with the onset of sleep, the duration as well as the quality of sleep. [2]

Melatonin levels greatly reduce during the condition of insomnia and supplementation with melatonin has been found to be effective in treating insomnia.[3] Not just for the condition of insomnia but melatonin has been found to be effective in treating depression. Melatonin supplementation has been shown to be effective in improving sleep quality and reducing waking after sleep onset. [4]

Several studies have shown that melatonin is effective in treating various secondary sleep disorders. [5]

Jet lag: Jet lag is often observed in individuals who travel to different time zones. Melatonin supplementation has shown that it helps in reducing jet lag syndrome. [6]

Cardiovascular health: Similar to the condition of insomnia, melatonin levels have been found to be reduced during various coronary heart diseases. The synthesis of melatonin is reduced as well as the circulating melatonin becomes low. [7]

Solid evidence has shown that melatonin supplementation has beneficial effects on various cardiovascular diseases.[8][9][10]

Eye health: As discussed earlier melatonin is also produced in the eyes. They are a potent antioxidant and therefore helps in fighting the free radicals. Melatonin secretion is minimal in newborn and decreased in aged individuals. Supplementation with melatonin can be useful in preventing degenerative eye diseases. Evidence suggests it to be helpful in preventing sight threatening conditions like cataract, glaucoma, retinopathy of prematurity and photo-keratitis. [11]

Natural sources of melatonin[17]

Some of the sources of melatonin are:

  • Tart cherries
  • Skin of grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Goji berries
  • Nuts highest in pistachio

Why supplement when our body already produces it?

 Sometimes a turn of events damages this personal alarm of ours which leads to sleeplessness and ultimately ill health in the long run. There are several factors which affect the release of melatonin causing disruption of the sleep-wake cycle. Here are a few of them

  • Melatonin secretion depends on its precursor tryptophan. Restriction of tryptophan is said to greatly reduce its secretion. [18]
  • Melatonin production decreases with age.[19]
  • Exposure to artificial light after dusk and before bedtime suppresses melatonin secretion. [20] 
  • Fasting has also shown to decrease the secretion of night time melatonin. Studies have shown that short term fasting for 2-7 days reduces it by 20% [21]
  • Drugs like beta blockers and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are said to decrease melatonin levels.[22] [23]

Take home lessons

  • Melatonin is a hormone which is associated with the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Apart from this it possesses antioxidant properties and protects various organs of the body.
  • Though secreted in the body, supplementation may be necessary because its secretion is affected due to various factors like age, artificial light, drugs etc. which are all now common for us.