Do you love travelling and often find yourself in a new time-zone? Has your sleep schedule been disrupted since you started to work from home? Or have you been waking up too early and are not sure why? If any of these situations describe you, then you need to start prioritizing your sleep! Sleep is an essential part of your routine, for your mental and physical health. Just as a car needs fuel to keep going, you need sleep to feel charged and ready for the day. For the most part, your body takes care of this process using hormones like melatonin to control your circadian rhythm, which is the internal clock that influences when, how much, and how well you sleep. There are times when this process can get disrupted and you lose sleep. Let’s look at how sleep supplements can fix your sleeping schedule and get you back on track.
Melatonin is naturally produced by the body in the evenings to help promote sleep according to your circadian rhythm. Therefore, it is the most common and well-known sleep supplement. It comes in many different forms, including pills, gummies, and syrups. There are also dietary sources of melatonin in milk, so a warm glass before bed could do the trick (Pereira et al., 2020)
It is recommended that you should take melatonin an hour or two before bedtime, as the hormone signals your body to wind down. Supplements are effective in helping you fall asleep, stay asleep, and achieve a higher quality of sleep (Xie et al., 2017). Although there is not enough evidence to know if melatonin is effective in treating insomnia, it may help if you are experiencing jet lag or a primary sleeping disorder such as sleep terrors or sleep walking (Ferracioli-Oda et al., 2013). You will feel better rested when you wake up, allowing you to accomplish your goals for the day.
There are many concerns and myths that surround the use of melatonin. Like any drug, taking melatonin may produce side-effects. Although it is unlikely, supplements may lead to day-time drowsiness, headache, nausea or dizziness (NCCIH, 2021). Although you may be concerned about addiction, melatonin by nature does not have any addictive properties. You may have also heard that you need to take supplements for a long time for them to be effective. You should try to take melatonin for a short period of time, like 1-4 weeks, if you don’t have issues sleeping (Parkview Health, 2018). This is because your body is able to produce it naturally and supplements are only intended to help get you back onto a normal sleep schedule. For this reason, even if melatonin is available over the counter in India, it is always a good idea to consult your doctor before taking supplements to find out what dosage is right for you, and to let them know about other medications you may be taking or health issues you are experiencing. Additionally, if the problem is not getting resolved after using melatonin, you may be dealing with a more serious sleeping disorder, like insomnia, which has its own specific medication that may target other systems of your body. It’s time that you start putting your sleep first, and using a melatonin supplement may be the right path to a good night’s sleep!
General tips to help you wind down at night:
- Avoid screens for an hour or two before bed
- Drink hot, non-caffeinated tea
- Natural scents like lavender can be calming
- If possible, regulate the temperature in your room so that you do not feel too warm or too cold
- Meditate or listen to a podcast that promotes relaxation
- Arrange your room to feel more comfortable in your space
- Dim the lights
- If possible, switch off notifications from work
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
NCCIH. (2021, January). Melatonin: What You Need To Know. NCCIH. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know
Parkview Health. (2018). Melatonin: Myths vs. facts. https://www.parkview.com/community/dashboard/melatonin-myths-vs-facts
Pereira, N., Naufel, M. F., Ribeiro, E. B., Tufik, S., & Hachul, H. (2020). Influence of Dietary Sources of Melatonin on Sleep Quality: A Review. Journal of Food Science, 85(1), 5–13. https://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.14952
Xie, Z., Chen, F., Li, W. A., Geng, X., Li, C., Meng, X., Feng, Y., Liu, W., & Yu, F. (2017). A review of sleep disorders and melatonin. Neurological Research, 39(6), 559–565. https://doi.org/10.1080/01616412.2017.1315864
Annika is from Mumbai, India, and is a student of Community Health at Tufts University, Boston. She is passionate about advocating for healthcare equity wherever she is – from Project SHARE at Tufts, to Aara Health in India. She is interested in topics relating to global health and women’s health, and enjoys researching more about the social determinants of these issues.