3 Reasons to Avoid Melatonin

Many people who have difficulties falling asleep find that popping a melatonin pill or two helps them to sleep but there are a few things you should know about melatonin before you drop another pill into your mouth. Melatonin is a clock regulating hormone for your body, not a sleep inducer. Melatonin works with the internal clock inside your body by telling your brain when it’s time to sleep. It won’t make you sleep longer or deeper, it only tells your body that it’s time for sleep.

Too many people think that if melatonin is natural then it can’t be bad for you. Think for just a moment, arsenic and rattlesnakes are also natural but no one thinks those things are harmless, do they? This is actually a hormone that interacts with sleep cycles. It can play a very important role in the physiological functions but these supplements are not a natural, safe way to deal with insomnia.

Hand with pen drawing the chemical formula of melatonin

Photo credit: bigstock

There are numerous side effects that are very common such as:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Grogginess the next morning
  • Fluctuations of your hormones
  • Nightmares or very vivid dreams

Take a look at the 3 things you don’t know about melatonin and why you should stop taking it.


1. Think of melatonin as hormone therapy

If you take melatonin regularly then you are subjecting your body to hormone therapy. This is a very complicated subject that can have severely damaging consequences to your health should it not be used properly. Playing around with your body’s hormones is not something you should involve yourself in unless you are a trained professional. Even doctors are reluctant to dole out hormones and they only use them for those with extreme cases where diet and lifestyle changes have not worked. In other words, hormone therapy is a last resort. Why? Because using hormones to fix your problems can sometimes do more harm than good.

Almost all of your body’s hormones are controlled by a negative feedback type of control, something like your home thermostat. For example: if you set your thermostat to 74 degrees when the room is 69 degrees, then your heater will start so it can warm up the room. Of course then it shuts off when it reaches 74 degrees. Taking hormones is like adding a space heater to the room. Your thermostat won’t kick in because something else is doing the work, the room is already warm. This means that your hypothalamus/pituitary glands will become inactive. This is the master when it comes to regulating the hormones in your body. This can lead to hormone imbalances in other parts of your body.


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2. Melatonin isn’t a sleep hormone

Although you need healthy levels of melatonin for the best possible health, taking more melatonin doesn’t mean you will sleep “better”. Why? Because your insomnia isn’t caused by a melatonin deficiency. Melatonin is not a sleep hormone. In fact, even though you probably believe differently, melatonin has very little to do with falling asleep. It’s true that your body makes melatonin in the darkness, but that has very little to do with sleep, its just coincidence that darkness correlates with our sleep cycles.

Did you know that, in spite of all the hype, there has been very little real research done on melatonin supplements? In fact, about the only evidence we have that link it to being a sleeping aid is that it’s been useful in helping with jet lag and that it might induce sleep for the elderly, but these studies were paid for by the industry itself, so they might be biased. They also used those who did not have sleep problems, so how does this justify using them for those suffering from insomnia?

There is no scientific evidence that shows that melatonin is an effective sleep aid for young or middle aged persons. Absolutely none. Although there have been several studies done which shoes that melatonin does not improve overall sleep time, not reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. This would mean that it’s been proven to be ineffective when treating insomnia. Read more about natural methods that can help with insomnia.

Again, this makes perfect sense as melatonin is not a sleep hormone. Although it does have a wide range of functions within the body and it does play a part in the regulating of the natural sleeping rhythm, it does have a connection to our sleeping pattern, but it doesn’t induce sleep.

That can’t be! you are saying, melatonin makes me sleepy! Well, that’s true, but not for the reasons you think. Melatonin can make you drowsy but because it’s actually a stress hormone. Although stress hormones are good for your body in the right amounts, but excess stress hormones are, well, stressful!


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3. More is definitely not better

Like most hormones, the levels that your body needs are a delicate balance. When you pop one or two of those pills, you are overloading your body with this hormone. Current research shows that our body’s production of this hormone has little to do with sleeping patterns, but it also plays a role in the scavenging of free radicals. It provides support for our immune systems. Although experts know that melatonin is crucial to the health of our bodies, but overloading your body with this hormone doesn’t mean you will have fewer free radicals or that you will have an improved immune system. The body works in perfect balance. When you add melatonin to your body, you are screwing around with that perfect balance.

Although many people take melatonin for jet lag, and there is scientific evidence to show that it helps reduce those irritating problems it creates, this is a sort of grey area. Jet lag is stressful when it comes to your body and it should be avoided whenever possible. If you must take melatonin to deal with jet lag in order to function for an important job, then take the minimum amount possible. However, if you are merely a tourist, allow your body to adjust naturally.

Many people first try melatonin because they desperately need a good night’s sleep. Rather than mess with your body’s hormones, try this other completely natural and very effective solutions:

  • Minimize your exposure to blue light after sunset. This means the blue lights that come from cell phones, tablets, television, and laptops. This light tricks your brain into thinking that it’s day time. Your body thinks blue light is day light. Try downloading Flux, a free program that blocks the blue light from your phones and computers after sundown. Or you could try those sunglasses with an orange tint to them, which filters out blue light.
  • Buy a better mattress. You will spend at least 1/3 of your life asleep so a good mattress is important for the overall quality of your sleep.
  • Try a standing desk. If you sit behind a desk most of the day then try using a standing desk. You can either buy one of these or even make your own for very little money. Google do-it-yourself standing desk for plans and prices. These work wonders for those with insomnia and come highly recommended by those who use them.