Melatonin is a hormone we associate most with sleep. It helps onset our sleep cues and promotes feelings of sleepiness, but is it possible it can do the opposite? If you think using melatonin is keeping you awake rather than helping you fall asleep, you might consider finding a more suitable sleep aid for your body’s needs.
Does melatonin help you sleep?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that your body produces to help regulate your sleep-wake cycles. When your eyes are exposed to darkness, or an absence of light, your brain’s pineal gland increases melatonin production. Melatonin is rapidly distributed to the rest of your body through your bloodstream, signaling your body to prepare for sleep.
Although very effective, melatonin does not “induce” sleep on its own. It merely signals sleep cues to the rest of your body to prepare for sleep, and does not guarantee sleep with use.
So when you take melatonin supplements, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll fall asleep. You can still compromise your ability to sleep by practicing bad sleep hygiene, drinking caffeine or other stimulants late at night, or otherwise disrupting your circadian rhythm.
Why do I wake up at night when I take melatonin?
Generally, melatonin should not cause someone to wake up. The opposite, suppressed melatonin production or a lack of melatonin in your system, would signal your body’s wake cues. Melatonin suppression generally occurs in an absence of light exposure.
However it’s very possible that taking too much melatonin might contribute to side effects that cause discomfort, making it more difficult to sleep. Although uncommon and usually mild, some people report experiencing side effects from taking too much melatonin. They include:
- Dizziness or grogginess
- Feeling tired in the morning
- Elevations or drops in blood pressure
- Agitation or mood swings
Alternatively, another explanation might be that you didn’t take enough melatonin to stay asleep through the night. Everyone has a different sensitivity to melatonin, so what works for one person might not be enough for another.
Is there a more effective kind of melatonin?
There is. When you compare various methods of taking melatonin, intranasal absorption was found to have huge potential, with the fastest delivery and most direct pathway to your brain which preserved the concentration of melatonin.
When you take melatonin orally, such as gummies or tablets, it needs to be digested before it can be absorbed and used by the rest of your body.
Through the digestive process, melatonin passes through your liver and is metabolized in what’s known as the first-pass effect. This effect describes how systems (like your liver) break down substances first to make it easier for your body to absorb. The first-pass effect, while necessary for your health, compromises a melatonin supplement’s intended effects and reduces its effectiveness.
Melatonin ingested orally is metabolized before it can be absorbed into your bloodstream. Essentially, you don’t absorb all of what you took. As a result, oral melatonin has poor bioavailability, a term that describes the actual (reduced) amount of a substance your body absorbs versus the amount that you’re actually taking.
Melatonin like Ascent Instant Sleep avoids this problem because it’s absorbed nasally.
Your nasal cavity offers a more direct pathway to your brain, bypassing any barriers that would delay it from being absorbed or degraded, such as through first-pass metabolism which takes place during the digestive system when using oral melatonin.Its effects are felt more quickly and more strongly as compared to traditional oral supplements.
How can I stay asleep when I take melatonin?
Regardless of whether you take melatonin or not, you should still practice good sleep hygiene to support your body’s ability to sleep better. Avoiding digital screens close to bedtime like TV or your phone will be extremely helpful; the blue light from these devices will suppress melatonin production, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
Another thing you can do is consider using a more efficient melatonin supplement. As discussed previously, the effects of oral melatonin are compromised because of the liver’s first-pass effect.
Other forms of melatonin supplements like Ascent Instant Sleep do not face these issues. Intranasal absorption allows melatonin to be absorbed in as quickly as 15 minutes and the lack of barriers and metabolizing systems to break it down makes nasal melatonin like Instant Sleep much more bioavailable, thus more efficient.
Overall, melatonin should not be keeping you awake. But if you find yourself unable to fall asleep or find it even harder to fall asleep after taking melatonin, please consult your physician about continued use.