When you are in your bed, asleep at night, that’s when the hormone melatonin goes to work. Your brain only releases it in large quantities at this time — melatonin is a hormone that is one-half of your body’s sleep/wake cycle. During the day, the pineal gland in your brain produces serotonin (a hormone that deals with nerve signals) and at night the gland switches gears and makes melatonin instead.
This hormone makes you sleep. Plus, in one of alternative Medicine’s best-proven abilities, this supplement can help people fall asleep when their sleep/wake cycle is disturbed, or when the “sleeping” part happens when the sun is out.
More proof of this notion comes via a recent study that found melatonin helped shift workers — whose sleep/wake cycles change regularly — get more rest during daylight hours. This crucial hormone is widely available as an oral supplement and it can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer. It’s been proven in the past to help people improve the quality and length of their sleep (overall known as “sleep latency”) without any morning grogginess.
The latest study on melatonin is out of Harvard University, where researchers studied 36 people for a month. The participants were both healthy and free of sleep disorders. For three days, they studied the participants sleeping habits, then put them on 20-hour sleep/wake schedules that were not unlike taking a plane across four times zones every day. Before each seven-hour sleep period, the participants took 0.3 mg melatonin, 5 mg melatonin, or placebo. The study took place in a windowless room with no sound, so that the participants wouldn’t have any clues about the time of day.
After the three weeks were up, the researchers discovered that sleep times were longer in the group taking melatonin during daylight hours, when the body doesn’t normally produce it, than in the non-melatonin group. This helps prove that our internal clock — a.k.a. the body’s “circadian rhythm” –remains in place throughout the day, and is the main problem with trying to sleep during daylight hours.
Melatonin suppresses this 24-hour block and the circadian system’s drive to keep the body awake. Melatonin is an excellent supplement to take — that is just as safe as it is natural — for those who require sleep during the day. Though we are designed to sleep at night, this supplement helps get over the lifestyle- and job-driven fact that for some people this just isn’t the case.