Your Brain on Melatonin
Updated: Mar 29
Its midnight and you're dreading to go to sleep, not because you're not tired but because you know you will lie awake forever trying to fall asleep. Your mind races, your heart pounds, your tossing and turning, you want to fall asleep but the more you think about it, the harder it becomes. So, what do you do?
Melatonin is a hormone that the pineal gland in the brain produces but it is also a natural or synthetic supplement to promote restful sleep. The most important thing melatonin does is sync the body's circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is the body's biological or internal clock, it is what tells the body when to go to sleep and when to wake up.
In humans, the circadian rhythm is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) area of the brain. Using the natural change of night and day and light and dark, the SCN creates and maintains a regular sleep and wake cycle for the body.
When individuals use melatonin as a supplement, this is where things get interesting. Many people will use melatonin to trigger the SCN and tell the body its time to go to sleep. This changes the body's circadian rhythm. Taking the supplement let's say 1 hour before you want to go to bed, or even two hours before, the brain starts to prepare the body for sleep. It's as if your body knows its night time before it actually is. This means you are able to change the body's biological clock to some extent to help you fall asleep at different times.
If you're struggling to fall asleep you can take melatonin as a supplement to trigger this process. For those who have trouble falling asleep, this is a great way to help the boy's process move along. Not everyone's biological clock is the same or works as efficiently as needed. Things, like traveling and having jetlag, can really set off the body's biological clock, where taking melatonin can be very helpful.
So, taking melatonin can work well when taken at the right time and working with your body's clock. It is recommended to take it two hours before going to sleep as this is when the body naturally starts to produce melatonin. You will start to feel tired and sleepy in no time. At night melatonin rises in the body preparing you for bed and in the morning the level drops helping you to become alert, awake and ready for the day.
To increase your chances of a good night's sleep while using melatonin, lower or turn off the lights in your room. Melontins loves the darkness. Try not to use your phone an hour or two before bed, the blue light from devices tricks the body's circadian rhythm and makes it things it's daylight out, making it harder for you to fall asleep.
Make sure to follow the instructions on your melatonin supplement bottle. Take only what the limit allows and take it at least 2 hours before you plan on going to sleep.
Struggle with following asleep? Having sleep paralysis? Learn more about why sleep paralysis occurs and my experience with it here.