For life forms to exist on this planet, a mechanism was required to deal with day and night, as well as summer and winter.
Our connection to the light/dark cycles has evolved around our ability to produce one of the oldest molecules on the planet, melatonin.
Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland of mammals, is found in all different parts of plants and dates back some 3 billion years. (5)
In humans, through our skin and receptors in our retinas, the pineal gland recognizes when the sun sets and, in response, starts producing melatonin. Melatonin, a sleep hormone, eases us into sweet slumber.
What many people don’t know, is that its role doesn’t end there…
Melatonin’s Benefits Are Nothing Short Of Impressive
Numerous studies have declared melatonin as the body’s most powerful antioxidant. It scavenges for free radicals, stimulates genes to turn on other antioxidant systems, has unprecedented access to any and every cell in the body and easily crosses the blood-brain barrier – all while you sleep! (1)
Melatonin acts somewhat like a nightly custodian, cleaning the floors, emptying the trash and washing the windows while we are closed down for the evening.
In addition to boosting the production of the body’s army of protective, antioxidant enzymes, glutathione, superoxide dismutase and others, it regulates and maintains the health and balance of the mitochondria, which are the energy generators found in every cell. (1)
Healthy melatonin levels have been linked to healthy bones, breast health, brain health, heart health, joint health, better quality sleep, blood sugar support, weight loss, balanced hormone production, cognitive health and a healthier microbiome by supporting the proliferation of immune-supporting gut microbes. (1-9,13)
Melatonin Production Decreases with Age… and Artificial Light
Sadly, melatonin production from the pineal gland decreases with age, and age-related deficiencies are thought to play a role in cognitive decline.
The health of neuronal brain and central nervous system cells seem to be protected by melatonin production when we are young, and from melatonin supplementation when we are older. (1) Oxidative damage to brain cells has been linked to the degenerative aging process.
In the book by T.S. Wiley, Lights Out, she and many other experts link this to the growing number of health concerns seen today in younger individuals.
In a recent Scientific American article, researchers declared Circadian Medicine as a branch of science that will revolutionize medicine as we know it.
Our link to the circadian cycles is through the proper ebb and flow of both melatonin at night and cortisol during the day – which is dangerously altered in today’s culture. The foundational principle in Ayurveda is to enjoy a daily and seasonal lifestyle in sync with the natural cycles. Modern medicine is now catching up to the urgency of this connection.
In a study at Colorado University in Boulder, Colorado, researchers found an overwhelming amount of melatonin deficiencies when sampling average healthy residents of Boulder, considered one of the healthiest towns in America. In the study, a one-week camping trip without any artificial light was able to completely restore melatonin levels and reset circadian rhythms. (10)
Supplementing with Melatonin
There have been decades of research on supplementing with melatonin. My concern for years was whether taking any hormone supplement would cause a depletion or a lack of production of that hormone by the body.
However, the studies are unique in this area when it comes to melatonin. They have found that supplementing with melatonin does not cause the body to produce less of its own. (12,13)
Everyone responds to melatonin differently, so the correct dosage should be based on the individual. If you take too much, you may feel sleepy or drowsy in the morning or have excessive dreams during the night.
Start With the Smallest Dosage
It has been determined that an effective melatonin dosage ranges from .3 milligrams to 5 milligrams, taken about 30 minutes before bed.
LifeSpa’s Liquid Melatonin drops contain .1 milligrams per drop. That means 30 drops equal 3 milligrams.
I suggest starting with the smallest dosage, which is .3 milligrams (3 drops) for a few nights and then assessing how you feel. Increase by increments of .1 milligrams until you find the correct dosage for you. For example:
30 days of Supplementing with Melatonin
|Days 1-5: Take up to 3 drops about 30 minutes before bed|
|Days 6-10: Take up to 10 drops about 30 minutes before bed|
|Days 11-15: Take up to 15 drops about 30 minutes before bed|
|Days 16-20: Take up to 25 drops about 30 minutes before bed|
|Days 21-25: Take up to 30 drops about 30 minutes before bed|
|Days 26-30: Take 40 drops about 20 minutes before bed|
How Do I Know My Correct Dosage?
To evaluate your melatonin dosage, during each 5-day period, assess how well you slept, and your energy levels in the morning and throughout the day.
Take less if you are groggy in the morning.
You may need less during the winter months, when natural melatonin production is higher.
Once you establish the right dosage for you, stay on that dose for 3 months as a circadian rhythm reset.
If you are over the age of 50 and your melatonin and cortisol test results are showing a circadian imbalance, consider hacking the aging process with long-term supplementation – as melatonin production from the pineal gland decreases with age.
The Mayo Clinic publishes a list of melatonin dosages alongside various health concerns. You can use this to find your concern and the appropriate dosing schedule. (11)
Starting Melatonin Supplementation Early
Studies suggest that because melatonin production begins to decrease with age (around age 50), it is important to evaluate your needs for melatonin early.
I have written numerous articles about resetting circadian rhythms naturally with lifestyle and food – which I think is always the best way to start. That said, according to 40 years of science, supplementing with melatonin short-term or long-term should not be something to fear.
If your pineal production of melatonin is deficient, you live a lifestyle that requires excessive travel or work late nights, melatonin supplementation should be considered.
I also think it is important to regularly troubleshoot your health status, including quality and duration of sleep, energy during the day and any of the health concerns I listed in this article.
Get Your Melatonin Tested
Still not sure if you need a melatonin supplement? Consider getting your levels tested.
I don’t have any health concerns that I am aware of, and have always slept great… but I am 61. When I had my melatonin tested, to my surprise, I was low and have since started supplementing.
I was so grateful to find this out early, as research suggests it works best for prevention and longevity when it is started early in life.
Getting the dose right is a process, which is why I like using Liquid Melatonin drops – where you can start with the smallest dose and adjust the dose as needed, without having to buy a new product for each new dose.