Melatonin is essential for good sleep. This unique hormone is produced by the pineal gland, located in the middle of the brain, and functions with the rhythms of the sun. More melatonin is made when the sun goes down, and less when the sun comes up. Researchers say that adding melatonin to your diet may improve sleep.
Taking melatonin supplements is a popular way to boost your body’s natural supply. They’re generally safe and not habit-forming, but they can interfere with some prescription medications, and may cause side effects such as headache, nausea, drowsiness, and dizziness.
However, supplements may not be necessary. Researchers have found that foods high in melatonin raise the level of melatonin in the blood.
Why You Need Melatonin
A lack of sleep negatively impacts your health. It impedes learning and increases insulin resistance, which can progress to diabetes. It can also disrupt hunger hormones, meaning you may end up eating more than you normally would.
Scientists are still learning about the importance of melatonin. Although it’s best known as a sleep aid, melatonin has a range of other potential health benefits:
There’s little evidence that melatonin is effective against chronic insomnia. But if you’re experiencing jet lag, it may help you return to a normal sleeping pattern. It can also help patients sleep before surgery.
Better Sleep Patterns in Adults
People with delayed sleep-wake phase disorder often stay awake until early morning and sleep until around noon. Melatonin may help them maintain a more normal sleeping pattern.
Better Sleep Patterns in Children
Melatonin may also help children with certain conditions that disrupt sleep. These include asthma, dermatitis, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Because melatonin is a hormone, children should not take it without a doctor's approval.
Brain Health in Older Adults
Melatonin levels naturally fall with age. Boosting them could help prevent brain disorders later in life. Both animal and human studies have discovered that melatonin could lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease.
Melatonin performs several valuable functions in the human eye. Supplementation has shown benefits for those with age-related macular degeneration. Researchers think lower melatonin levels in older adults could contribute to the disorder.
Foods With Melatonin
No recommended dietary allowance (RDA) has been established for melatonin. When it comes to melatonin supplements, some experts recommend a dosage of around 0.5 to 3 milligrams for sleep-related issues. Higher doses may cause daytime drowsiness.
Most food databases do not list the amount of melatonin in foods, but according to available research, these six foods are good sources of melatonin:
- Tart Cherries
Tart cherry juice is one of the best-known sleep aids. Researchers have found that it increases melatonin levels in the body and enhances sleep. Keep in mind that cherry juice is high in sugar. Drinking it nightly could significantly raise your intake of calories. Eating cherries instead of drinking their juice is a healthier way of getting melatonin.
- Goji Berries
Produced by a plant native to China, goji berries have been touted for their anti-aging effects. They are also high in melatonin and may improve sleep.
Among animal products, eggs are one of the best sources of melatonin. Eggs are also highly nutritious, offering protein and iron, among other essential nutrients.
Warm milk is a traditional remedy for insomnia, so it's no surprise that it’s high in melatonin. It could be a good option if you tolerate dairy.
Fish is a better source of melatonin than other meats. The best options are oily fish like salmon and sardines, which also provide valuable omega-3 fatty acids.
Most nuts have a good amount of melatonin. Pistachios and almonds are among the highest. Nuts also are an excellent source of many antioxidants, healthy omega-3 fats, and minerals.