Since the 1970s, researchers have been fascinated by melatonin because of its far-reaching benefits throughout the human body. Since then, melatonin supplementation has been pigeon-holed for sleep concerns and jet-lag, but volumes of new circadian medicine research has found strong links between melatonin and the health of the microbiome, immunity, bone, heart, joint, prostate, breast, mood, sleep and blood sugar health. (1)
Melatonin is often referred to as the “body’s natural timeclock,” as it regulates sleep and wake cycles, and the “master hormone,” as it regulates most of the hormones in the body. Some researchers refer to melatonin as more of a molecule than a hormone, as the body’s natural production is not suppressed with supplementation. (1)
Modern science is now recognizing melatonin as the mechanism that entrains the body’s biological clocks to sync with the light and dark cycles. These biological clocks are found in every cell of the body, and the melatonin molecule is found in every living creature and cell on the planet. (2)
Why Take a Melatonin Supplement?
There are numerous well-researched reasons to take melatonin:
- Supports healthy sleep (3,4)
- Supports recovery from jet-lag (5)
- Supports healthy immunity (6)
- Hacks the aging process (6,7)
- Supports healthy and natural detox (8)
- Resets circadian rhythms (3,4,5)
- Supports healthy blood sugar (9)
- Supports healthy bone density (10)
Remarkably, this is just the short list of health benefits melatonin may offer!
Who Should Take Melatonin?
- Those who suffer from circadian stress. This could be those who work night shift or very long hours, people who fly frequently, and people who struggle with sleep. This group often needs a higher, short-term dose of 5 milligram time release melatonin. Learn more about LifeSpa’s 6-hour time release melatonin supplement, called Melatonin HP, in our online store.
- Those in the aging population. Yes, that is a ridiculous term, but I’m referring to men over the age of 60 and women after menopause, as melatonin production naturally decreases with age. Those with genetic health predispositions should consider starting earlier, but get your level tested first. This group typically needs a very small, long-term dose (.1-1mg per day). Learn more about LifeSpa’s low dose Liquid Melatonin in our online store.
- Those who need a circadian reset. Due to overexposure to artificial light, blue light and an excessively stressful culture, most Americans are prone to a circadian imbalance and could use a 3-month circadian reset with melatonin. This can be accomplished with melatonin-rich foods, lifestyle changes, and/or supplementation. I suggest a 3-month reset using 3 milligrams immediate-release melatonin, OR 5 milligrams of time-release melatonin.
Note: Many have tried melatonin and stopped, because they deemed it unsuccessful. In most cases, the reason for the lack of benefit was that the dosage was way too high or too low. Typically, we are overdosed with melatonin. Health food stores sell melatonin at very high dosages – some are even up to 20 milligrams – which could put a horse to sleep! Beware of taking too much melatonin, as it may actually keep you up at night. Taking too much melatonin can trigger a detox, which can stimulate the body at night and disturb sleep. Many who have tried melatonin and weren’t happy with the results may have simply been taking the wrong dose.
The Best Type of Melatonin Supplementation
The best way to restore one’s melatonin levels back to normal is with melatonin-rich foods and a circadian-friendly lifestyle.
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More often than not, however, diet and lifestyle are not sufficient and supplementation is indicated. Melatonin is considered one of the safest supplements on the market – it does not have a LD50 (lethal dose for 50% of the population). (11) Nearly every vitamin and mineral supplement on the market has an established lethal dose, but they have not found one with melatonin. Even water has a LD50 of 6 liters. 118 cups of coffee will kill half the folks crazy enough to drink that much, and so will 13 shots of alcohol. (12)
Two Ways to Supplement with Melatonin
The two major delivery systems for melatonin supplementation are time release and immediate release.
- Immediate Release Melatonin: With this type of supplement, the full dose of melatonin is absorbed into the bloodstream all at once. This delivery system has been well-documented with decades of research behind it.
Watch my podcast with melatonin researcher, Paula Witt-Enderby. All of her research on sleep, bone density, blood sugar, breast and prostate health, the microbiome and immunity has been done with immediate release melatonin – most commonly using 3 milligrams, taken 20 minutes before bed. (1)
- Time Release or Control Release Melatonin: This delivery system has been a more recent development, and there are less studies behind it. A time release melatonin supplement mimics the body’s natural release of melatonin throughout the night. When taking a higher dose of melatonin, over 3 milligrams, consider a time release supplement, as taking more than 4 milligrams all at once in an immediate release form can be too much and can leave you without the support needed for sleep, detox, and immunity.
At LifeSpa, we have two melatonin supplements: Liquid Melatonin and Melatonin HP. Here are the differences between the two supplements:
Liquid Melatonin is designed to help find the exact and best dose for every individual – starting with the smallest dose possible. This supplement uses the immediate release delivery system. You can take 1 drop which equals .1 milligrams, or up to 30 drops which is the equivalent of 3 milligrams.
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Melatonin HP uses a time release delivery system, where 1 milligram of melatonin is in the coating solution for immediate release, and the remainder is in the tablet core. The melatonin in the coating solution is immediately released upon digestion. The 4 milligrams of melatonin in the tablet core are released over a 6-hour period. Most other time release melatonin products can keep delivering melatonin for up to 10 hours, which can easily overflow into the next morning and result in daytime sleepiness. (4)
In certain situations, such as jet-lag, sleep issues, night shift work, and poor melatonin absorption, a 5 milligram time release melatonin supplement may be needed. The only way to find the best dose for you is to experiment with these different dosages, and always keep in mind that less is more.
Your Melatonin Needs May Shift
Your melatonin needs may also shift seasonally. The body produces more melatonin in the winter, when the nights are long, and less in the summer, when nights are short. You may find that you need a lower dose of melatonin in the summer, but come winter, you may find your need for melatonin support goes up and you may need to take it at an earlier time in the evening.
I’ve found that the longer you take melatonin, the less you need, which also suggests that it does not create a dependency.
It’s best to take either melatonin products right when entering bed, with the lights out. Watching TV, reading, checking email or having a snack can negatively affect melatonin absorption and interrupt the process, so do your best!
A Note on Sleep: More often than not, the cause of most common sleep issues is not a deficiency of melatonin. >>> Learn more about LifeSpa’s sleep support here.