Quality sleep is hard to come by in today’s world — between constant stimulation and various forms of stress, getting consistent, deep sleep is an ongoing challenge. This accounts for why so many people are looking for sleep remedies, including supplementation with melatonin.
Melatonin has earned a reputation as the “natural sleep fix”, but does it actually live up to that tall claim? While some people may benefit from occasional melatonin use, we think there are better, more sustainable ways to achieve quality sleep without the side effects of melatonin supplements.
In this article, we’ll find out the truth about melatonin, what it really does to the body, and what alternatives might be better for your overall health and well-being.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin finds itself in a unique position in the world of supplements. Rather than a mineral or vitamin as we see in other supplements, melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain.
Everyone produces a certain amount of melatonin naturally, typically triggered by circadian rhythms and light-dark cycles detected by the body. When your internal clock is operating properly, melatonin is released at the end of the day when the sun goes down and the environment darkens.
The role of melatonin makes sense in an evolutionary context, as humans could benefit from a signal to tell us when it’s time to sleep. However, because of so many sources of artificial stimulation in our modern world, circadian rhythms have been disrupted, leading to difficulties producing enough melatonin or throwing off these internal schedules.
How does melatonin work?
The melatonin hormone begins its journey as tryptophan, an amino acid known for supporting sleep and rejuvenation cycles. Tryptophan is then converted to serotonin, which regulates mood and other critical functions in the body. From there, serotonin becomes melatonin, which is activated in the pineal gland when influenced by the light-dark cycle detected through the eyes.
The system is simple yet efficient — when the light of the sun is no longer detected by the retina, the environment naturally darkens, and signals are sent to the brain to release melatonin. When melatonin makes its way to the bloodstream, it returns to the brain and interacts with MT1 and MT2 receptors, interfacing with the body’s master clock.
As this process progresses, it doesn’t take long for the body to prepare itself for sleep, inducing feelings of sleepiness and reducing body temperature. If you ever catch yourself yawning as your eyes feel “heavy” — just know that melatonin is hard at work behind the scenes.
It’s not only sleep that is governed with the help of melatonin. This hormone also has antioxidant properties, protecting cells from free radicals and also supporting the immune system. Like many hormones, melatonin has a primary function of regulating sleep, but it also takes part in other crucial activities we don’t yet fully understand.
Does melatonin have side effects?
On its own, melatonin is essential and supports vital functions in the body. Without it, we may not know when to prepare for sleep and have numerous health issues as a result. However, because melatonin is produced endogenously (naturally in the body), supplementing with melatonin comes with potential side effects.
The most common effect of melatonin use comes from reliance on an external source of a hormone that should be produced and regulated naturally by the brain. By using a melatonin supplement to trigger the sleep cycle rather than visual changes in the environment, organic melatonin production may decrease with time. Over the long run, the brain may not be able to create enough melatonin on its own, leading to a dependence on exogenous sources.
Additionally, melatonin can cause symptoms like drowsiness, headaches, nausea, and other issues. Many melatonin users report that they feel sleepy the day after taking the supplement, even if they got plenty of sleep the night before.
Most importantly, melatonin does not address the underlying cause of sleep issues and the sleep habits needed to fix them. Altering your sleep-wake cycle a few nights a week may offer a short-term solution, but individuals run the risk of hurting sleep quality with long-term use.
What are some sleep support options besides melatonin?
There may be a time and place for occasional melatonin use, whether you’re bouncing back from jet lag or faced with a challenging stretch of late shifts for work. However, there are healthier, more sustainable ways to get a good night’s sleep without having to rely on melatonin and other quick-fix sleep aid products.
The good news is that you can put together a highly effective stack of natural, over-the-counter dietary supplements that can improve your sleep better than any melatonin sleep supplements or sleeping pills.*
Let’s take a closer look at six proven compounds that you can use to calm the nervous system, make use of your natural melatonin levels, and get the restful sleep you need.
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for the human body overall, supporting processes like muscle function, immunity, and proper sleep.
By supplementing with magnesium, you can significantly reduce sleep disturbances, as this compound allows muscles and nerves to relax and stay still throughout the night. Magnesium also helps reduce discomfort that may interfere with restful sleep, which can lead to tossing, turning, and waking up in the middle of the night.
Many magnesium users also report a reduction in feelings of stress and mood issues that may come into play when trying to get proper sleep. The calming, stabilizing effects of magnesium offer excellent support to an evening routine without having to deal with daytime drowsiness and other issues the following morning.
The Food and Drug Administration outlines more than seven forms of vital magnesium for the body, so be sure to account for multiple types of this compound with complete magnesium supplements.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a naturally occurring amino acid and inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. This means it blocks certain signals in the brain, helping calm excess activity that may interfere with processes like relaxation and sleep.
Studies show that GABA assists in multiple aspects of sleep quality, from accelerating sleep onset to reducing disturbances and prolonging time spent in REM sleep. While GABA supplements can be found over the counter, perhaps the best way to get GABA is through food. Fermented foods, whole grains, and seafood like sardines all contain this important amino acid.
Some researchers have also found that engaging in activities like meditation and deep breathing can help the body access its GABA stores.
If you’ve ever enjoyed matcha or green tea, you’ve likely felt the soothing benefits of L-theanine. This is an amino acid that can increase the production of GABA, in addition to increasing alpha brain wave activity and supporting levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain.
L-theanine isn’t necessarily a “sleep aid” by default, as it can be taken at any time of day to contribute to a calm mental state. However, it can work synergistically with melatonin, magnesium, and GABA, making it the perfect addition to our natural sleep improvement stack.
The effects of L-theanine are subtle, and they work as needed, meaning you can take them at any time and experience positive results. When using it for sleep, of course, avoid caffeine sources and look for supplements that feature L-theanine in an isolated format.
4. Valerian root
When it comes to herbal teas and plant-based sleep supplements, valerian root is one of the most widely-known and effective remedies. It has been used for centuries to support relaxation and sleep, with recent studies suggesting that it may support healthy GABA activity in the brain.
Of all the supplements listed here, valerian root has the most notable properties when it comes to sleep. It works to soothe the mind and body, potentially helping you enjoy a deep, restful night of sleep.
Valerian root is often found in “sleepy tea” mixtures that you can make part of your evening routine, and it can also be taken in capsule form. Be sure you’re using a reputable source of valerian root, and start with small serving sizes to see how you respond.
5. Tart cherry juice
You may not associate tart cherry juice with sleep quality, but this connection has been well-documented for many years. Tart cherries are one of the few naturally occurring food sources that contain melatonin in any discernible amounts, meaning that you can boost the activity of this hormone without having to take a capsule.
This is just one aspect of tart cherry juice, however, as it also acts as a powerful antioxidant and may reduce swelling in sore muscles and joints. A small amount of this juice goes a long way, and because it’s generally high in sugar, be sure to limit your serving size when taking it before bed.
Whether you use lavender essential oils to fill your space with fragrant aromas or sip lavender tea as part of your evening routine, your sleep is bound to benefit. This herb has long been regarded as one of the best natural sleep support options available, with considerable soothing effects.
You can find lavender tea as a part of herbal blends or use dried lavender to make your own. Many manufacturers now make specialized lavender supplements that can also contain valerian root, tart cherry extract, and other natural remedies we’ve mentioned so far.
How else can you support your sleep?
Supplementation is a great way to step in the right direction for better sleep. Sipping tea or taking capsules at the end of the day can “cap off” your waking hours and set the stage for a relaxing evening ahead.
However, there are several other ways to support sleep and get the rest you really need. Let’s cover some additional practices you incorporate now to commit to better sleep for the long term.
Incorporate CBD and CBN for well-rounded wellness support
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the most heavily researched compound in the cannabis plant, showing promise in a range of health applications, including sleep. CBN (cannabinol) is another cannabinoid that has recently gained traction specifically in the sleep space. As cannabinoids, CBD and CBN interact with the endocannabinoid system of the body, which plays a part in everything from muscle and nerve activity to mood, cognition, and sleep-wake cycle support.*
Moreover, CBD and CBN are adaptogenic, meaning they can help support balance in the body as needed. So, whether you’re dealing primarily with physical discomfort or emotional tension, CBD may be able to help. Our Full Spectrum Sleep CBN Gummies are now clinically proven to support high-quality sleep, reducing anxiety, fatigue, and enhancing sleep onset over a 6-week period. It's a natural, true-plant sleep supplement with science-backed results, with no groggy side effects or harm to your sleep-wake cycle. Our CBN and CBD blend is truly the perfect, sustainable regimen for consistently deep sleep.*
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
Consistency is priority number one when restoring your sleep cycle and staying on the right track. We are creatures of habit, both on a psychological and biological level, so getting into the flow of a stable routine is very important.
If you’re regularly shifting your sleep and wake times without any return to baseline, your body will understandably be confused and have trouble sleeping as a result. Do your best to set a consistent sleep schedule by aiming for a “lights out” time at night, followed by a consistent wake-up time in the morning. By staying the course for a few weeks, you’ll be adjusted to a stable “window” of sleep that you will follow naturally.
Practice good sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene encompasses a range of practices and habits, from avoiding caffeine after a certain time of day to unwinding at night with a relaxing routine. Thankfully, these factors are well within your control, though they may be difficult to implement at first.
Of all the sleep hygiene habits to adopt, we suggest starting with creating an optimal sleep environment that you can retreat to in the evening. If possible, make sure to only use your bed for sleep and keep the setting dark with a low temperature at night.
As you navigate your evening routine, try to avoid prolonged exposure to blue light sources (bright phone and computer screens) and stay away from other sources of stimulation that will keep you awake. Sleep hygiene is an ongoing discovery with some trial and error to be expected, so keep a log of your progress and consider using a sleep tracker device to see how you do.
The bottom line
We’ve come so far with technological and medical innovations, but it seems that a good night’s sleep remains elusive in the modern world! While melatonin serves a purpose in some situations like jet-lag, it is not the long-term solution you’re looking for. Instead, we encourage you to try out Full Spectrum Sleep CBN Gummies for better sleep with scientifically proven results. It's one of the first hemp supplements on the market with real, science-backed results for consistent shut-eye.* Try it today and experience a cutting-edge, sustainable sleep regimen (or get your money back in 30-days, no questions asked).