Melatonin for Sleep: Does it Work?
Updated: Jun 26, 2020
What should I do if I can't sleep? People are using many strategies to get to sleep these days. Some have been shown to be helpful in the research while others are just tales of placebo. So where does Melatonin fit in?
This past week I have been taking a deep dive on sleep online and in Matthew Walker's "Why We Sleep." It has been enlightening and also makes you want to take a nap and for good reason.
My curiosity for this was inspired by a good friend who used to take melatonin regularly to help sleep during his stressful pharmacy school program. My friend is very intelligent, I figure he must know something. melatonin does not require a prescription. Supplements and other over the counter alternative therapies don't have the same research to back them. So I took a look at the recent research to find out what is recommended for Melatonin use.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that is related to our sleep cycle or circadian rhythm. It has been studied for decades to determine if by ingesting melatonin it will improve our sleep.
Melatonin has been used for a long time for primary sleep disorders, sleep disorders that don't have a medical cause.
A meta-analysis is research that combines all research on a related subject. In 2013, the authors Ferracioli-Oda, Qawasmi, and Bloch updated the research on melatonin's effect on sleep quality, total time, and the time to sleep.
What Do We Know?
Melatonin had very positive results when all research was considered in this study. A summary is provided below.
When Melatonin Was Supplemented Patients...
Fall Asleep Faster
Total Sleep Time was Increased
The Quality of Sleep Increased
A prominent sleep researcher, Matthew Walker PhD, is skeptical citing placebo as the primary mechanism. He states regardless of the primary mechanism, placebo or not, it seems to help.
Consult Your Doctor Disclaimer:
You should talk with your physician if you are taking any medications as there are some interactions with melatonin. So consult your doctor if you are considering melatonin.
If you are having difficulty sleeping, I would heavily consider other methods to improve your sleep such as having a sleep routine including behaviors and timing, avoid working in your sleep space, perform regular exercise, and other strategies. I will go on further about these strategies in other posts.
Sleep well! Zzzz
Ferracioli-Oda, E., Qawasmi, A., & Bloch, M. H. (2013). Meta-Analysis: Melatonin for the Treatment of Primary Sleep Disorders. PLoS ONE, 8(5), e63773. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0063773