What is Melatonin & How Does It Impact Sleep?


What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is made by a tiny gland in the brain called the pineal gland. Melatonin plays a part in our circadian rhythms by helping to control our sleep and wake cycles.

How Does Melatonin Work?

The pineal gland’s production of melatonin is regulated by our exposure light and darkness. In the evening when darkness occurs the pineal gland will produce melatonin and release it into the body.

As the level of melatonin in our blood begins to rise we feel less awake and more like going to sleep.

When dawn approaches the levels of melatonin in our blood will go down. During the daytime hours the levels in our blood becomes almost undetectable.

For most people melatonin levels are at increased levels each day from approximately 9:00pm until 9:00am So it is obvious that the setting and rising of the sun each day is tied to a person’s melatonin production and levels in the blood. However, it might surprise you to know that other things can impact the release of melatonin.

Just because the sun has set for the day the pineal gland will not begin to produce melatonin unless the person is in a dimly-lit environment. Bright artificial indoor lighting can be enough to prevent the pineal gland from producing and releasing melatonin.

Young children have been shown to have the highest nighttime levels of melatonin. However, as we get older the amount of melatonin our bodies produce will decrease. Some older people will produce very little or no melatonin at all, which might cause them to have difficulty sleeping.

Where Else Can You Find Melatonin?


Melatonin can be found in certain edible plants. Eating a diet that includes these plants can help boost the levels in your body. Specific foods that contain higher levels of melatonin include:

  • tart cherries
  • tomatoes
  • flax seeds
  • walnuts
  • orange bell peppers
  • mustard seeds
  • almonds
  • raspberries
  • goji berries

You can read more about these melatonin-boosting foods here.

Melatonin Supplements

Research has shown that people can increase the amount of melatonin in their blood significantly by eating a diet with melatonin-rich foods. However, if you are deficient in melatonin it might be hard to get an adequate amount through diet alone.

Thankfully there are melatonin supplements. You can buy it over the counter. So you don’t need a prescription. However, as with all supplements, you should consult with your doctor if you have any questions about the appropriate dosage or if melatonin supplements will create problems with any medical conditions you might have or prescriptions you might be taking.

If you are having a hard time sleeping you might want to consider some other tips for a better night’s sleep before deciding to take a supplement like melatonin.

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Last update on 2024-07-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API