The sleep hormone melatonin regulates our sleep-wake rhythm and is naturally produced in the body. As a dietary supplement, it is considered a "miracle cure" for better sleep, wherefore people are using melatonin for sleep disorders. But that's not the only melatonin function - people are using melatonin for depression and much more. In this article, we have analyzed all the advantages of melatonin and tackled whether melatonin is also suitable for children.

What are the melatonin health benefits and what does melatonin do?

The special thing about melatonin is that the hormone is naturally produced in the body.

Light and darkness are essential for this hormone because, during the day (or when it is bright), our body inhibits the release of melatonin. And when it gets dark, the body's production of sleep hormone melatonin increases sharply. The high levels of melatonin make you sleepy and, in the best case, fall asleep. The sleep hormone melatonin regulates our day-night rhythm and the natural sleep-wake cycle in the body.

The intake of additional melatonin for sleep disorders is particularly popular with many users, as nootropic melatonin and sleep are the best companions. However, sleep-related problems are increasing worldwide - due to artificial light, night and shift work, wrong behaviour and an unhealthy lifestyle (many hours spent on a bright smartphone or computer screen, unhealthy diet, alcohol, caffeine, stress, etc.)

But the body's production of sleep hormone melatonin also decreases with age. For children, the melatonin levels increase 12 times in the evening, but for adults - only 3 times compared to the daytime. So using melatonin to sleep better often becomes part of the evening ritual among adults.

Instead of resorting to potent, prescription-only sleeping pills or sedatives, some of which have severe side effects and can make you dependent, melatonin is the “more natural” alternative for many. However, you should only use the medication if all other aids and methods do not work (e.g. meditation, an evening walk, soothing tea, etc.)

But especially for people on shift work, night work or jet lag, melatonin benefits can be a simple, fast and inexpensive option to get that all-important sleep. Taking a melatonin supplement for sleep increases the level of the sleep hormone melatonin in the body. However, it is necessary to follow the dosage according to the package label and dosage instructions! Bear in mind that used incorrectly, benefits of melatonin can become side effects and disrupt sleep even more. To fall asleep more easily, one should take about 0.5 - max. 5 mg melatonin as a tablet, powder or spray about 30 minutes before going to bed and always at the same time. But always start with the smallest dosage. Read more about the melatonin dosage.

Melatonin effects for the headaches, immune system, and more

This sleep hormone is best known for its useful effects on sleep disorders, but also melatonin benefits other things:

According to a study by Reiter and Paredes from 2008, the special thing about melatonin is its antioxidant effect. The antioxidants in melatonin fight free radicals, which causes damage to cells. In this way, melatonin participates in support of various mechanisms in our body, i.e. melatonin can have an influence (even the very unnoticeable) on healthy skin.

In addition, the effects of melatonin on headaches and migraines are being investigated. Study participants were given 3 mg melatonin at bedtime. After three months, they reported that the duration and severity of the headache decreased; the test subjects also reported a decrease in headache by around half.

However, melatonin, or rather healthy sleep, has the greatest influence on our immune system. We oversleep about a third of our lives. But that's a good thing because an adult needs about seven to eight hours of sleep a day. Sleep deprivation has devastating consequences for our body - concentration and performance decrease, the immune system becomes susceptible to infections and diseases, and, above all, the brain can be massively impaired. Without sleep, our brain no longer perceives the environment properly, which leads to severe physical and psychological disorders. After all, sleep deprivation is still used as a torture method in some countries.

What are the benefits of melatonin for depression?

A disturbed melatonin balance or too little sleep can have severe consequences for our body in the long run - our physical and mental health. Sleep is the basis for a healthy immune system and influences our emotions because melatonin also contributes to the production of the happiness hormone serotonin. Thus long term effects of melatonin deficiency can be very painful.

It is also the reason why many people suffer from autumn depression. In dark, grey, rainy weather, the melatonin level in the body also increases during the day. We feel tired, listless and sad. It is due to both - low serotonin production and the high melatonin level that increases with darkness. So in this way melatonin and depression “connect”.

Long-lasting and severe sleep disorders can not only trigger depression, but other severe psychosomatic illnesses such as schizophrenic attacks or panic disorders can also result. Depression and mental illness often go hand in hand with difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep - a real vicious circle.

Is melatonin suitable for children?

Newborns sleep up to 17 hours a day. It decreases with years but still should be 11 hours at the age of 6 and at least 9 to 11 hours at the age of 10 to 14 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided a sleeping table according to age.

However, the length of sleep for children in Europe is decreasing, which results in cognitive disorders, neurological diseases, poor learning skills and academic performance and increasing behavioural problems (e.g. ADHD, associative disorders). A study about this tendency was published in the "Ärzteblatt" in 2020: “In Germany, more than 90% of 12 to 18-year-olds sleep less than the recommended average of 9.2 hours per day on school days”.

But is melatonin suitable for children? The consumption of certain drugs based on melatonin are approved for the treatment of "sleep disorders in children and adolescents between the ages of two and 18". If no other measures help, even melatonin-based medication can be prescribed for children from 2 years of age (often in the case of pre-existing illnesses and mental disorders). The tolerance is described as good. Treatment with melatonin should, however, only be the last resort and, of course, EXCLUSIVELY used or prescribed in consultation with the physician.

First, we recommend trying all of the other measures. Here are some tips so that the kids could fall asleep better again without medication:

1. A lot of exercise in the fresh air during the day.
2. Healthy eating and regular small meals.
3. No sugary or caffeinated drinks such as cola or similar.
4. A quiet evening (e.g. reading a book instead of watching TV or a computer).
5. Regular bedtime.
6. If possible, a quiet, dark room to sleep in.
7. Listening - if the child is burdened, it is important that they can share their fears and worries.
8. A common ritual in the evening (listening to music, telling about the day, bringing the teddy to bed).

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