Melatonin is both the name of a sleep hormone and the common name given to the popular sleep supplement. Melatonin as a sleep supplement is widely consumed and relatively easy to obtain. However, there are concerns surrounding its long-term impact on health.
Melatonin as a hormone is naturally produced by the body and plays a fundamental role in regulating your sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin peaks in the evening, signalling to your body and brain that it is time to sleep. It is for this reason that people who struggle to fall or stay asleep, and who travel frequently and wish to avoid the perils of jet lag, often find themselves turning to melatonin supplements.
Melatonin is generally deemed safe for short-term use, but medical practitioners warn that habituation and dependency are likely with long-term use. Scientists have also unearthed a number of side-effects associated with taking melatonin supplements, some of which are outlined below. There is a serious lack of long-term research into the wellbeing implications of supplementing with melatonin, and people are increasingly turning to melatonin supplement alternatives to help fight insomnia.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a neurohormone that is naturally produced by the pineal gland in response to fading light. Melatonin signals to the body and brain that it is time to wind down and go to sleep. Melatonin is sometimes referred to as the “hormone of darkness”.
Melatonin produced by the body is known as ‘endogenous melatonin’, whilst ‘exogenous melatonin’ is made outside the body. Melatonin supplements represent an exogenous source of melatonin. Melatonin supplements are frequently used to aid sleep in people suffering with insomnia; they are laboratory-made, synthetic and can come in pill, capsule or liquid form.
Melatonin has some antioxidant properties and has been shown to help regulate cortisol levels and body temperature, lower blood pressure and boost immune function.
Evidence suggests that whilst melatonin supplements may indeed help support sleep in the short-term, they are inferior to non-synthesised sleep-aids in the long-term. Adaptogens and natural herb extracts may indeed prove significantly more effective than melatonin when it comes to reinforcing a person’s natural circadian rhythm over time.
Potential problems with melatonin.
As melatonin supplements become more popular, scientists have begun to dig deeper into their possible side effects.
The most common side effects associated with exogenous melatonin include nausea, headache, dizziness and drowsiness. Other, less common melatonin side effects have been found too. These include mood disorders, anxiety, irritability, shakes and tremors, stomach pain, slowed reaction time, difficulty concentrating and hypotension (dangerously low blood pressure).
Melatonin supplements have also been found to interact and interfere with certain medications, including anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, diabetes medications, immunosuppressants and some contraceptive drugs.
Melatonin supplements can interact negatively with other sleep supplements, as well as over-the-counter and prescription sleep medications, adversely affecting memory and muscle performance the next day.
Furthermore, melatonin has been found to reduce blood coagulation in otherwise healthy adults, thinning the blood and exacerbating the risk of heavy bleeding.
Melatonin supplements should only be taken at night - they are dangerous when taken in the morning or during the day and can lead to sleepiness and consequently to accidents.
Increasing melatonin levels naturally.
There are a few ways to increase your melatonin levels naturally and to improve your sleep without the need for supplementation.
Creating and maintaining a regular wind-down routine is one proven route to better sleep. Sticking to a nightly regimen will help to get your body and brain into good habits. Over time, this can come to serve much the same purpose as melatonin in that your repeated behaviours will signal to the brain and body that it is time to go to sleep.
Some simple hacks include avoiding all screens (particularly blue light-emitting smart phones and tablets) for an hour before your desired bedtime. Exposure to artificial light can limit the body’s production of melatonin, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
You can boost your natural melatonin production by exposing yourself to natural light earlier in the day when the sun is at its most powerful. In one study, those people who went for a 15 minute walk at midday reported shorter sleep latency onset (the time it takes to fall asleep) and higher quality sleep compared with those who went for a 15 minute walk at 4pm.
Limiting stress and keeping regular habits in all areas of your life may help to keep natural melatonin levels elevated too. This explains, in part, why shift workers so often report that they suffer from insomnia.
Why LYMA is a better alternative.
LYMA contains two patented ingredients that are clinically proven to support improved sleep, reduced sleep onset latency, and a feeling of restoration come morning. LYMA’s formula is 100% evidence-based, has added benefits and, unlike melatonin supplements, has zero side effects.
LYMA’s patented KSM-66® Ashwagandha is a sleep-supporting powerhouse. The natural root extract is the highest-concentration extract on the market, and it leads the industry in clinical trials and research. KSM-66® Ashwagandha root extract is derived from completely natural sources and has powerful sleep-inducing potential. Ashwagandha KSM-66®, as formulated at 600mg in LYMA, has been clinically proven to enhance sleep quality and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. Furthermore, root-extracted Ashwagandha KSM-66® has been proven to reduce stress levels and lower anxiety in people who supplement daily. Stress and anxiety have been reported as being leading causes of insomnia.
affron® is the latest wonder-ingredient to be introduced into the LYMA formula and, as the first saffron extract on the market to be supported with peer-reviewed clinical evidence, is creating a bit of a buzz amongst academics and scientists. Six studies to date have demonstrated positive benefits across mood and sleep quality in healthy adults and peer-reviewed evidence has demonstrated affron®’s efficacy in alleviating insomnia. The active compounds in affron® are believed to act on the specific genes, ion channels and neurons that impact sleep and mood hormones: affron® not only promotes restorative sleep, it also supports the maintenance of positive mood and makes it easier to manage anxiety.
“The main difference I have noticed since starting taking LYMA is my improved quality of sleep. I wake up refreshed. When you've had a decent night's rest, it has a positive impact on your whole day.” - Alexander Spencer-Churchill
Remember what it felt like to get eight hours sleep every night? At LYMA, we believe that sleep is a superpower. Nourishing and restorative sleep can be truly life changing and most people will begin to notice the sleep-enhancing effects of LYMA within just a few weeks. Life is full of challenges and if your sleep is suffering as a result, then it’s time to make a change.