Melatonin Supplements for Slowing Down Aging

Can Melatonin Supplements Slow Down Aging?

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the body that some have claimed to have anti-aging properties. It helps regulate your sleep cycle. When you are exposed to light in the morning, melatonin levels decrease. At night, when it is dark, these levels increase, making you sleepy and drowsy.

While some people are claiming that melatonin is an anti-aging hormone, studies show melatonin levels decrease as we age. These claims are based on the observation that older people need less sleep. That observation is a common sleep myth. In fact, older people need just as much sleep as younger adults.

Melatonin supplement pills in front of typesetting letters that spell out “sleep”
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Considerations Before Use

Before even thinking about using a supplement to fall asleep, spend about a week re-training your body’s sleep habits. Bad habits like drinking too much caffeine, and not getting enough light exposure can result in sleep difficulty. Re-learn how to fall asleep. If those tips don’t work, then you may have a medical condition or may be taking a medication that interferes with sleep. You may also have a sleep disorder. Talk to your healthcare provider about the possibility of changing your medication or treating your sleep problem.

Dosage Warning

Small amounts of melatonin (0.1 to 0.5 milligrams) have been shown to improve sleep in some individuals. Over the counter, melatonin comes in low and high-dose milligrams. However, there is no research on the long-term effects of high melatonin levels.

Side Effects

Side effects of melatonin can include dizzinness, headache, other sleep-related adverse events, hypothermia, agitation, mood swings, nightmares, skin irritation, and palpitations. People who have a history of depression, in particular, should discuss the use of melatonin with their healthcare providers before taking it.

Uses

  • Jet lag: Studies have shown that melatonin can help reset your body’s clock after jet lag.
  • Delayed sleep phase syndrome: This is a condition in which a person sleeps a normal amount, but their sleep is delayed until late in the night (not because of TV or other reasons). Research shows melatonin is promising for treating this syndrome.
  • Insomnia in older adults: Research is also promising (but not proven) that melatonin supplementation can help treat insomnia in older adults. Studies show trends that look good, but the studies were not well-designed and left many questions unanswered. Most studies only looked at short-term effects (a few days).
  • Sleep problems in children with neuro-psychiatric disorders: There is also some promising research that melatonin could help children with conditions such as autism, psychiatric disorders, or epilepsy improve their sleep. This use of melatonin is currently being investigated.

Some evidence shows melatonin can be used for:

  • Improving sleep in people with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Use as an antioxidant
  • The treatment of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and ADHD-related sleep problems
  • Tapering (stop using) benzodiazepines
  • Bipolar disorder-related sleep problems
  • Treating cancer (not enough research to know about interference with other treatments and overall effect)
  • Treatment of chemotherapy side effects
  • Regulating circadian rhythms in blind persons
  • Depression-related sleep disturbances
  • Treating glaucoma
  • Headache prevention

The Bottom Line

There is an increasing interest in using melatonin in many conditions. However, little is known about how high melatonin levels might interact with other therapies. For now, caution should be used. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before using melatonin (or any supplement), especially if you have an existing health condition.

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23 Sources
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Additional Reading
  • National Institute on Aging. National Institutes of Health. Pills, Patches and Shots: Can Hormones Prevent Aging? Medline Plus. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Melatonin.