Melatonin is a hormone which is produced by the pineal gland (a very small gland which resides within the brain).  This gland controls an individual’s wake and sleep cycles as well as the body’s internal clock – better known as the circadian rhythm.  The main function of melatonin is to help the person fall asleep.  However, in today’s world there are several other claims being made for the use of melatonin, including blocking cancer, preventing jet lag, curing insomnia, improving one’s sex life and even retarding the aging process.


Melatonin is an important agent to help one sleep.  When the brain makes the connection that it is getting dark outside, that information is passed along to the pineal gland, making the individual sleepy.  Melatonin is sometimes called “the Dracula of hormones” because it only comes out in the evening.  Most people have a pineal gland which starts producing melatonin at sunset.  This production peaks around 2 a.m. and then tapers off as sunrise approaches. 

During the daytime hours, melatonin levels become barely detectable.  When a person reaches 40 years of age, their melatonin production begins to drop off and the body makes less and less as one gets older.  Lack of melatonin in the body could be the reason behind the elderly not sleeping well or as much as they did when they were younger.

People with sleep problems can take melatonin supplements a few hours before bedtime to help them get to sleep faster and stay asleep for longer periods of time. 

Recent research has shown that melatonin is an effective sleep aid for those experiencing jet lag or having sleep problems due to swing-shift or night-shift work.  For jet lag, take 3 mg of melatonin the first night upon arriving at the final destination.  Ensure a long sleep is not going to interfere with any other matters, and wake up feeling refreshed.    Use for a few more nights if there is still trouble falling asleep.  Try not to use melatonin supplements for more than five days.  The same dosage and schedule can be followed for those attempting to get used to a different work/sleep schedule.

Some researchers believe melatonin may be beneficial for several different health ailments.  These include breast cancer, asthma and seasonal affective disorder.  Some studies suggest that low levels of melatonin may be associated with a risk for breast cancer.  Other research shows that melatonin may help strengthen the effects of chemotherapy drugs which are used to treat breast cancer patients.  Melatonin may also have an effect on prostate cancer in men.

Melatonin may also help women whose sleep problems are associated with menopause.  It does not, however, seem to relieve other menopausal problems such as hot flashes. 

Other uses can include:

  • Sunburn – Some studies suggest that lotions or ointments which contain melatonin may protect better against sunburn than those that do not contain melatonin.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Research suggests that some of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may be reduced by the use of melatonin.



Melatonin supplements are available as capsules, tablets, lozenges and cream.

The dosage of melatonin which should be taken to use this product as a sleep aid varies from person to person.  Some individuals find success with just 100 mcg, while other individuals need to take several milligrams for beneficial results.  Most people find between 100 and 400 mcg taken 2 to 4 hours before bedtime works adequately.  Most scientific studies use dosages between 0.3 mg to 0.5 mg.  As with many drugs, take the lowest amount possible to achieve the desired effect.

Adverse Reactions

 Melatonin is not addictive and has no side effects like other sleeping aids.  The body does not build up a tolerance to it or a dependency on the supplements.  This hormone is actually considered to be so safe that it is the only hormone supplement which can be purchased without a prescription. 

Do not treat children with melatonin without first consulting their physician.  Doses between 1-5 mg can possibly cause seizures in this age group.



  1. Bratman, S. The Alternative Medicine Ratings Guide: an expert panel rates the best treatments for over 80 conditions, Prima Health A Division of Prima Publishing (1998)
  2. Brown, L. Alternative Medicine, NTC/Contemporary Publishing (1999)
  3. Deepak Chopra, M.D. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Celestial Arts (2002)
  4. Duke, J. The Green Pharmacy: Herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions from the world's foremost authority on healing herbs,Rodale Limited (2003)
  5. Nancy Allison. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Body-Mind Disciplines, The Rosen Publishing Group (1999)
  6. Servan-Schreiber, D. The Encyclopedia of New Medicine: Conventional & Alternative Medicine For All Ages, Rodale International Limited (2006)

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