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#sleep

What is melatonin?

17/03/2021 6 MIN. READ Mirko Berger
17/03/2021 6 MIN. READ Mirko Berger

Melatonin is on everyone's lips these days. And we don't mean in the form of melatonin supplements, which are increasingly finding their way into drugstores and pharmacies across the country. Melatonin is an endogenous hormone that helps regulate our circadian rhythm – and thus coordinates the signals to our body about when it’s time to go to bed and when to get up and start the day. In the following article we answer the most important questions about the sleep hormone melatonin.

No dozing off while reading!

How is melatonin produced and what role does it play in our bodies?

Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland, which is located in the backside of the midbrain. Though tiny, the pineal gland is not to be underestimated. After all, as established by the German Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine (DSGM) in an essay, this small organ converts the “happiness” hormone serotonin into melatonin. As long as this process runs smoothly, the flow of melatonin produced makes sure nothing gets in the way of the sandman’s arrival.

So far, so good. But there are things that can get in the way of a good night of sleep. For example, the all-important melatonin formation process can be slowed down by things like light. Not only daylight, but also artificial light sources such as tablets, smartphones or TVs are often to blame. This is because the bright (blue) light these devices emit send signals to our brain that we need to stay awake and active. But more on that later. It’s important here to turn off all conceivable sources of light and let our surroundings darken. But there’s no need to panic, it’s all good! Being surrounded by darkness can help our bodies produce melatonin more quickly.

What, exactly, is melatonin’s function?

Once the melatonin production process starts, there’s a fascinating chain of reactions that start to take place in our brain as all the other important cells in our body get the signal that it is (finally) time to go to sleep.

The result is that we get tired. Finally!

Melatonin is therefore quite rightly viewed as the captain at the helm of our sleep-wake cycle, as the hand of our inner clock, as the sandman, and as the loving mum who lulls us to sleep.

Preliminary conclusion: Without melatonin, getting into sleep mode can be tricky.

What causes a melatonin deficiency?

As we know, our sleep-wake cycle depends on the hormone melatonin for direction. So without enough melatonin, we don’t go into sleep mode. And this can result in inner restlessness, sensitivity to stress, bad moods, cardiovascular diseases, insomnia or waking up too early. The production of melatonin in our body quickly gets out of sync when “troublemakers” such as medications (e.g. beta blockers), caffeinated beverages, tobacco, intensive exercise in the evening, permanent stress, blue light (e.g. from smartphones), diets, electromagnetic radiation or a disturbed bio-rhythm (e.g. due to jet lag or shift work) come into play. So much for a good night’s sleep!

But that’s not all that can get in the way. As we age, the pineal gland steadily slows down its own activity. As a result, less and less melatonin is produced. This is why older people not only fall asleep later, they also get up earlier than in their younger days.

When should you take melatonin?

Persistently low melatonin levels not only lead to sleep disorders, they are also associated with depression and other physical and mental problems. So, what should you do if your melatonin level is too low? If you avoid the things noted above which are likely to disrupt the production of melatonin, there are other ways to help out your pineal gland. Practicing healthy sleep hygiene can help, but so can eating foods that contain melatonin such as cranberries, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, olives, rice, barley, strawberries, cherries, pineapples, oranges and tomatoes.

And bananas are even better. They’re considered to be the perfect evening meal because they have magnesium, which relaxes our muscles, and the vitamin B6 they contain is needed by the body to.... well, make melatonin. Establishing healthy sleep hygiene are, by the way, great for helping our bodies produce melatonin.

Melatonin and CBD – a dream-team combination?

Ok, so melatonin is crucial when it comes to getting that well-deserved sleep. It’s time to bring in another “player” here: Cannabidiol (or CBD for short). This is where it gets really interesting. Because wanting to sleep is not just about falling asleep but being able to sleep through the night until the next morning. Unfortunately, the current research findings are not really valid, but there are a growing number of field reports that point to the potential ability of CBD to interact with melatonin.

CBD is generally thought to have a calming effect. Unlike THC, which is also a component of the cannabis plant, it won’t get you high, but it does put your mind at ease. It can help slow and sort the rapid-fire of thoughts that may be racing through your mind. This makes it easier to calm down and therefore sleep better (and more deeply).

CBD for sleep problems?

Those who sleep poorly experience considerable stress – and vice versa. The two issues are closely related. There are a lot of studies on the subject of sleep and CBD, but the empirical evidence has yet to be established. However, we do know that cannabis (from which CBD is extracted) has been used for several centuries, if not millennia, to treat sleep disorders. So it seems logical that the two are connected, though there’s little scientific proof of this to date. Still, the combination of melatonin and CBD seems promising.

The sleep hormone melatonin as a supplement

There are a lot of people in the world who suffer from sleep disorders. And of course, since many pharmaceutical companies have long since recognised this fact, we can find tonnes of products containing melatonin in our local pharmacies. Melatonin is available in capsule form, as drops, as tablets or as a mouth spray. With so many products to choose from, it's hard to keep track of them all. At VAAY, we combine the sleep hormone melatonin with CBD out of conviction. Our product developer Dr. Iris Hardewig explains why:

“The combination of CBD and melatonin is perfect for falling asleep. CBD makes us relax mentally and slows down the carousel of thoughts in our head. Melatonin, our natural sleep hormone, prepares our bodies for sleep. Our body temperature drops, and our heart beats more slowly.”

The combination of CBD and melatonin thus allows both the mind and the body to calm down, creating the ideal conditions to let us gently fall asleep!

Melatonin: How to take it and side effects

Below, we take a closer look at how to take melatonin – and what side effects can play a role.

How do I take melatonin?

All melatonin products are considered to be either so-called dietary supplements or medications. The amount of melatonin varies depending on the product and its contents. The idea that a lot helps a lot is, as we all know, never a good guide when it comes to NEMs or medications. All melatonin products should therefore always be taken in accordance with the instructions for use that are provided in the packaging.

Luckily, there is a reliable rule of thumb when it comes to melatonin! :)

Ingesting 1 mg of melatonin per application has been shown to shorten the amount of time it takes to fall sleep. This is why we’ve developed our new Hemp Sleep Spray Plus to make sure you get what you need: Each application delivers exactly 1 mg of melatonin. And the way you take it also matters. With our Sleep Sprays, we recommend pumping a shot under your tongue and letting it sit there for up to two minutes before swallowing. This allows for the optimal absorption of the solution through your oral mucosa. The best time to take it is about 30 minutes before bedtime. Whether your goal is to make a good night of sleep even better or to put an end to sleep problems, the dosage with the spray stays the same.

What are the side effects of melatonin?

Melatonin is non-toxic, even in larger amounts, and most people have no issues with it at all. Nevertheless, one shouldn’t mess around with dosages and risk overdoing it. Some people have reported experiencing stomach pain and daytime fatigue, and in rare cases, irritability and nervousness can occur. Just to be on the safe side, it’s always best to discuss this with your doctor.

Once the amount to take has been clarified with a doctor, melatonin can be used without hesitation, even in the long term. Melatonin is not habit-forming. There’s also no need to worry about developing physical dependency. But it’s certainly smart to work your way slowly towards figuring out the perfect dosage. Unless discussed otherwise with a doctor, the maximum dose of 1.5 mg per day should not be exceeded.

Conclusion: Melatonin at a glance

  • Melatonin is a sleep hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle.
  • Melatonin has a significant impact on when we fall asleep and our sleep in general.
  • Melatonin supplements like our Hemp Sleep Spray Plus are available over the counter and can shorten the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
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