Getting a great sleep every single night can have a profound effect on your life. Good sleep will keep you motivated, boost testosterone levels, help you maintain high energy levels, lose more fat, gain more muscle, stay healthier, and likely just live a better, more successful life. So, the question we all want to know, should we take melatonin to help us get a better sleep? (key word, better).
When I was a kid all the way to my mid to late twenties, I had insomnia. I was a horrible sleeper. As such, a young fella goes to doctors to help him figure out how to sleep.
They plugged me up to censors, tracked my sleep, and, indeed, found that I was barely sleeping at night. Their solutions:
- Carry around a light all day at class.
- Take melatonin religiously.
- If those don't work, take sleeping pills.
Not getting a great sleep? READ THIS: How to Cure Insomnia
I didn't want to do the third, that wasn't an option. I was right in thinking that falling asleep artificially wouldn't be healthy, and I wasn't going to look like a geek in high school and college carrying around a light all day, so I took melatonin.
At first, it helped. Then I started waking up in the middle of the night, and before I knew it I wasn't falling asleep at all. So, I got off melatonin, started taking natural sleep enhancers like magnesium, glycine, chamomile, and others, and followed a sleep schedule (strictly), and solved the problem on my own.
I write this just to show a little bias toward melatonin. It did damage to my ability to sleep, it did the same for my folks, and for everyone else I've known who've used it long term to sleep.
But, is it actually harmful long term?
Is it good or bad for male hormones?
Let's look at what the research says...
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It plays a crucial role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. When we follow a strict sleep schedule we're able to 'train' our bodies to produce melatonin and regulate our circadian rhythm.
We can also interrupt our natural production of melatonin by looking at screens late into the night.
Sleep Quality: Long-Term Supplementation Help or Hinder?
While melatonin can be effective in the short term, there are concerns about the impact of prolonged supplementation on sleep quality. A study published in the Journal of Biological Rhythms suggests that while melatonin aids in the initiation of sleep, its extended use might not necessarily improve the overall quality or duration of sleep.
In essence, the body's natural sleep-wake cycle, governed by its internal clock or circadian rhythm, could be disrupted with long-term external melatonin intake, potentially causing desensitization or altered sleep patterns.
Impact on Testosterone Levels
A growing concern, especially among men, is the potential impact of melatonin on testosterone levels. This study on rats found that supplementation with melatonin showed a decrease in testosterone levels.
While the direct extrapolation of animal studies to humans is often met with caution, this finding does raise pertinent questions about the potential hormonal implications of melatonin supplementation in men. It's also important to note that other studies found no impact on testosterone levels in men with melatonin supplementation.
So, who do you believe? (I'll get to that)
READ: How Sleep Impacts Testosterone In Men
Aside from the potential impacts on sleep quality and testosterone levels, some other concerns associated with long-term melatonin use include:
- Dependence: There's a possibility that over-reliance on the supplement might make it challenging to sleep without it.
- Side Effects: Some people report dizziness, headaches, or nausea after taking melatonin. More people, however, report tiredness the following day after using melatonin, which was my primary issue with it (more in a bit).
Why We Sleep
It's a good book, written by Dr. Matthew Walker, that goes into great detail about just how important a good night's sleep is. I figured I'd summarize what he has to say about melatonin supplementation here as well...
Over-the-Counter Melatonin Supplements: Dr. Walker mentions that over-the-counter melatonin pills have a much higher dosage than what the brain naturally produces. He also notes that while melatonin pills might help with the timing of sleep (i.e., adjusting to a new timezone), they don’t necessarily improve the quality of sleep (important).
Safety and Regulation: He touches upon the lack of regulation for melatonin supplements in many countries and the fact that the safety of long-term use hasn't been rigorously studied. Due to this, he advises caution when considering melatonin supplements.
In essence, while Dr. Walker acknowledges the role of melatonin in signalling the brain to prepare for sleep, he advises a better understanding and caution about its supplementation, especially in dosages that are far higher than what our brains naturally produce.
Melatonin is something our brain's produce naturally that signal time for sleep, and helps us get a better sleep. This, however, doesn't mean that we should take it to fall asleep, or that we should rely on it long term.
Simply put, largely because of my horrible experience with past use and the conflict of interest involved in researching melatonin supplementation, along with the lack of rigorous long term studies, I avoid it. It's just not something I think we should supplement with, nor need to supplement with.
We need our bodies producing its own melatonin at correct, natural levels, in order to maintain a circadian rhythm that not only enables us to fall asleep, but helps us get a quality sleep.
Should you 100% avoid melatonin? No. There isn't hard evidence that it's bad, nor is there overwhelming evidence that it's amazing for us long term.
What I do think, however, is that we should focus on creating habits that help us get a better, deeper sleep, while producing our own melatonin naturally. And who knows, there may be studies down the road that show it's harmful for our sleep quality. So, I avoid it.
Get a Deep Sleep and Fall Asleep Faster
So, what are these habits that help us sleep? And
Naturally optimizing melatonin production is vital for maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Here are some strategies to ensure the pineal gland produces adequate melatonin:
1. Limit Evening Light Exposure: The blue light emitted by screens (phones, computers, TVs) can suppress melatonin production.
2. Seek Morning Light: Exposing yourself to natural sunlight in the morning can help regulate the sleep-wake cycle. This exposure helps reset the body's internal clock and can promote more robust melatonin production in the evening.
3. Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time daily, even on weekends, helps regulate the body's internal clock and optimize melatonin release.
This may have the biggest impact of all. 'Training' your body to know when to sleep and when to rise sets your circadian rhythm and helps you essentially train yourself to sleep.
4. Create a Sleep-friendly Environment: Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. Consider using blackout curtains, earplugs, or white noise machines if needed.
5. Limit Alcohol: it can interfere with sleep and, potentially, melatonin production.
6. Manage Stress: High stress levels can reduce melatonin production. Techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation can be beneficial.
7. Take natural ingredients that help calm the mind and promote healthy melatonin production.
We created Man Sleep so guys don't have to roll the dice with melatonin - and we haven't even covered sleeping pills with essentially knock us out and do nothing for our sleep quality.
Man Sleep contains full doses of natural ingredients that help calm an active mind, reduce stress, induce sleepiness, have been shown to improve sleep quality and the ability to fall asleep, without including melatonin in our formula.