Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the body's sleep-wake cycle. Let’s repeat that. Melatonin is a hormone. We are all about open access to care, but we also believe that throwing hormones into your body willy-nilly is not the wisest approach to healing. The way hey freya supports the sleep-wake cycle is by promoting your body to make hormones that govern sleep, not overriding the system with external hormones.
It all starts in the center of your brain, with the pineal gland (a tiny pine-cone-shaped organ between your brain hemispheres), which lies in line with what is called the “Third Eye”. The pineal gland responds to the light coming through your eyes and releases the hormone melatonin which is often associated with jet lag, shift work, and insomnia.
Light inhibits melatonin, and darkness increases it.
Melatonin doesn’t make you fall asleep as much as it is a barometer for darkness – and dark is the signal for your brain and body to rest.
Sometimes our natural circadian rhythms get knocked out of whack and don’t respond to darkness. This can happen when switching time zones or managing night shifts. In those cases, melatonin may help to reset that rhythm. However, it should not be used as a daily sleep aid.
Why, you ask? Well, let’s talk hormones.
- Reproductive meddling: Melatonin has been shown to inhibit reproductive hormones in most healthy mammals, as the darker season is the time to slow down, sleep, and restore. As daylight increases, melatonin production decreases – signaling the urge to get busy! We haven’t quite distinguished how it works in humans, but we do know that the pineal gland has a “private line” to the reproductive system. While melatonin is an anti-oxidant and does impact fertility, we are not fans of meddling here without clear clinical intent.
- Tolerance: With prolonged use, the body can become desensitized to the effects of melatonin, meaning that higher doses are required to achieve the same effect.
- Dependence: In some cases, individuals who use melatonin supplements for an extended period may become dependent on them to fall asleep. This is what happens when you consistently override your body’s hormone communication. Even after underlying sleep issues are resolved, the feedback loop dampens the release of melatonin from your body since you are supplying it from a pill.
- Side effects: Headaches and vivid dreams or nightmares are two of the most commonly reported side effects of melatonin use. But symptoms like dizziness, nausea, daytime sleepiness, and mood changes are possible as well.
- Interference with other medications: Melatonin can interact with certain medications, including blood thinners, immunosuppressants, and antidepressants, potentially causing adverse effects.
Now you know. Melatonin is not a simple natural supplement. It is powerful, it is a hormone, and it is not intended for ongoing sleep issues.
When you are struggling with sleep it is too easy for someone to peddle solutions that don’t work, and worse, some of those could have harmful consequences. You cannot advocate for yourself when you are in the thick of it. You need trusted solutions.
At hey freya, we only use high-quality herbs and nutrients, that come from decades of clinical experience and have strong safety profiles. We know sleep is one of the hardest challenges to overcome and we don’t claim to have the magic pill. A combination of supporting you with herbs, assisting your cortisol regulation, giving you the energy to take on the day, and helping you set boundaries - that’s the real work of #heyfreyamagic.
The modest effect of melatonin in sleep disorders