Melatonin is the hormone that prepares our bodies for sleep. It relaxes the muscles and nerves and helps set our circadian rhythms. Sufficient melatonin can aid serum levels of other hormones such as growth hormone and the thyroid hormones, especially the important Free T3 thyroid hormone. Melatonin also has a suppressive effect on excessive cortisol.
Just taking 3mg of melatonin isn’t the whole answer, however. In order for melatonin to work, it is necessary for people to ensure that when they’re trying to sleep they do so in a dark room without distractions. Melatonin makes the body very sensitive to light and so the emissions from a TV screen or an outside street lamp can stimulate the pituitary gland and make sleep much harder to achieve. Conversely, when morning comes, the body needs exposure to bright light in order to get the “wake up now” signal and emerge from restful sleep.
Individuals also need to be careful not to take too much melatonin. Each person needs to experiment a little to determine their optimal regime. For example, one person might need 5mg per night (always taken about half an hour before bed time) but another person might need 3mg to get started and only 1mg a couple of times a week thereafter. Plus, it’s important not to take too much melatonin because this will result in waking up after a few hours of deep sleep feeling hot and restless and unable to get back to sleep. When this happens, all that can be done is wait for the melatonin to be broken down by the liver – and that may take 24 hours. So getting the right level of melatonin (not too high, not too low) in the body is the key to a restful night’s sleep.