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Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the body and a well-known supplement used to improve sleep patterns. Inadequate sleep can interfere with optimal body function and overall fitness. According to research, melatonin improves our sleep but has other positive effects on the body. It appears melatonin may increase metabolism, weight loss, and provide protection for muscle tissue.1
Melatonin is also made by many other organs in the body, especially in the stomach .
Melatonin is derived from the amino acid tryptophan and the neurotransmitter serotonin .
Melatonin has many important functions in the body, including:
- Influences the circadian rhythm
- Aids the immune system
- Helps eye function
- Reduces oxidative stress
- Promotes sleep
- Controls many cellular events, including synthesis of important molecules
- Protects against radiation
Melatonin supplements are popular among people struggling with insomnia and jet lag. You can get it in many countries without a prescription.
Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant, which may provide a variety of other benefits.
In fact, it may help support eye health, treat stomach ulcers and heartburn, ease tinnitus symptoms and even raise growth hormone levels in men.
According to research, melatonin may increase metabolism and improve our ability to lose weight. In order to prove this theory, a study was conducted examining how melatonin affected body composition, lipids, and glucose metabolism in postmenopausal women.3 Menopause just so happens to be a time in a woman’s life where losing fat and gaining muscle can be a struggle.
The small randomized study included 81 postmenopausal women who supplemented with melatonin (1 or 3mg nightly) or a placebo for one year. Body composition was measured using a DXA scan prior to and after the trial period. Blood was drawn to record baseline and ending values of how melatonin affected leptin, adiponectin and insulin levels. These are hormones that help regulate metabolic processes including how our body burns fat and glucose (sugar).
The women who supplemented with melatonin decreased fat mass by 7 percent compared to the placebo group. They were also able to increase lean mass by 2.6 percent compared to the placebo participants. Adiponectin hormone increased significantly by 21 percent in the melatonin group. Adiponectin is a protein hormone involved in how the body regulates glucose levels and the breakdown of fatty acids.
Melatonin supplementation over a period of longer than a week increases circulating leptin levels without changes in body fat or food intake. This increase does not appear to be dose-dependent. Due to interactions with the circadian rhythm, concrete numbers pertaining to the leptin increase may not be reliable.
Melatonin appears to potentiate insulin-induced leptin secretion.
Melatonin has been investigated for its interactions with obesity, since rats lacking pineal glands that secrete melatonin (rats that have undergone a pinealectomy) experience increased lipogenesis and reduced lipolysis. The pairing of a lack of melatonin secretion and synthesis with weight gain suggests that melatonin may either be anti-obesogenic (reducing fat gain) or may induce fat loss.
Your body naturally produces the hormone melatonin and uses it to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin supplements are used for a wide range of problems including insomnia, migraine and fibromyalgia. With an estimated 35 percent of the U.S. adult population obese, as per 2010 information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it could be useful if melatonin helped aid in weight loss.
While there is promising research that melatonin may play a role in preventing weight gain, you should abstain from supplementing at this time, according to Michael J. Breus, Ph.D. in a Psychology Today article published in January 2013. There are still too many unknown factors to determine how to use supplemental melatonin for weight loss. Instead, you might employ strategies to boost your body’s natural production of melatonin including regular exercise, avoiding light at night while you sleep and obtaining exposure to sunlight earlier in the day. You can also consume foods, such as walnuts, tomatoes and tart cherries, which contain melatonin.
The circadian rhythm is like the body’s clock. It is a built-in function that controls biological processes in a roughly 24-hour cycle .
Light from the environment influences the signals sent from the SCN .
Under the control of the circadian rhythm, the pineal gland produces and secretes melatonin. Under normal conditions, melatonin is secreted during the night. During daylight, there are undetectable amounts in the blood .
In zebrafish mutants that lack melatonin, the fish sleeps less but still have normal circadian rhythm (based on per1B production). The same study found that melatonin-induced sleep by increasing adenosine signaling in the fish’s brain . These mutant fish were equally easy to wake up and slept as deep as the control fish.
Melatonin supplements have been shown to improve sleep problems experienced during menopause. In a study of perimenopausal and menopausal women ages 42 to 62, within six months of a daily melatonin dosage, most of the women reported a general improvement of mood and a significant mitigation of depression. The findings of this study appear to demonstrate that melatonin supplementation among perimenopausal and menopausal women can lead to recovery of pituitary and thyroid functions that is more in the direction of a youthful pattern of regulation.
This is great news because it shows that melatonin can help decrease common negative perimenopause symptoms and menopause symptoms, like sleeping problems.
A dose of 1-2mg melatonin is able to acutely reduce blood pressure in men and women, possibly secondary to a reduction in adrenaline, which is also observed. The difference between groups appears to be reduced when subjects are standing and mobile, Not all studies note an acute decrease in blood pressure,  suggesting these acute effects (measured in a passive supine position) may not hold much practical relevance.
An intervention using 5mg of melatonin supplementation for 2 months, taken 2 hours before bed, noted that melatonin, in people with metabolic syndrome, was able to reduce blood pressure from 132.8+/-9.8 systolic to 126.3+/-11.5 (95.1% of baseline) and decrease diastolic from 81.7+/-8.7 to 76.9+/-9.2 (94.1% of baseline). These effects were independent of major changes in body weight, and may have been secondary to melatonin’s antioxidative effects.
Melatonin has very few side effects. A number of clinical trials have investigated short-term, low-dose, and up to 3-month usage and found no adverse events. However, some side effects have been reported, such as:
Some studies on older adults noted side effects that include:
- restless legs
- skin pigmentation
- thrombosis (blood clots)
Because melatonin may affect the reproductive system, it is not recommended for use among people who wish to become pregnant or breast-feeding mothers.
Melatonin can be taken in doses of 0.5–10 mg per day.
However, because not all melatonin supplements are the same, it’s best to stick to the recommended dosage on the label to avoid adverse side effects.
You may also want to start with a lower dose and increase as needed to find what works for you.
If you’re using melatonin to improve sleep quality, try taking it 30 minutes before bedtime for maximum effectiveness.