You’ve probably heard about melatonin being called the “sleep hormone.” This natural substance plays a huge role in controlling our sleep-wake cycle, which is why so many folks are curious about it.

With more people turning to synthetic melatonin supplements to get better sleep, it’s worth looking at how natural melatonin made by our bodies stacks up against the manufactured kind you pop from a bottle. Let’s take a peek under the covers at melatonin to get the inside scoop.

Melatonin 101

Melatonin is a hormone mostly created in the brain by the pineal gland. It’s crucial for managing our circadian rhythm – that internal clock that tells our bodies when to be awake and when to sleep.1

Melatonin levels tend to rise as it gets dark outside, which syncs up with feeling tired at night. When the sun comes up, melatonin production falls off so we feel alert during the day. But too much screen time, wacky sleep schedules, and bad diets can mess with this natural ebb and flow.

Natural Melatonin

Our bodies churning out melatonin is pretty amazing. As daylight starts fading away, the pineal gland kicks production into high gear, letting the body know it’s almost time for bed. This natural melatonin boost helps us transition to sleep and keeps our sleep-wake cycle regular.

Things like age (we make less melatonin as we get older), light exposure (blue light from devices is a biggie), and lifestyle choices can impact how much natural melatonin we produce. Keeping melatonin levels optimal not only means better sleep, but can also help mood and maybe even support a healthy immune system.

Store-Bought Melatonin

Unlike the melatonin our bodies produce, synthetic melatonin is cooked up in a lab and sold as pills, liquids, and tablets that dissolve under the tongue. Lots of folks use it to treat insomnia or sleep disorders, get over jet lag, or adjust their sleep cycle if they work night shifts.

The goal of synthetic melatonin is to mimic the effects of the natural stuff, trying to get our internal clocks back on track when they’ve been thrown off by traveling or irregular schedules.

To Pop or Not To Pop?

When it comes to synthetic melatonin, the big comparison is about how well it works and what sleep issues it should be used for. Research has mixed results.

Some studies show synthetic melatonin can be helpful for short-term use, especially with jet lag or shift work sleep troubles. But dosage and timing are critical if you take synthetic melatonin, since they can really impact how well it works and potential side effects.

For chronic sleep problems, lifestyle changes to increase natural melatonin might work better long-term, syncing up more closely with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. It’s good to know that while synthetic melatonin can provide temporary relief, it doesn’t cure underlying sleep disorders and should only be used under a doctor’s supervision.

So when it comes to getting good shut-eye, natural melatonin made by your own body – with the help of healthy habits – seems to be the way to go for lasting sleep success. The manufactured kind may help occasionally, but it looks like you just can’t beat what your pineal gland can produce!

Side Effects and Safety of Synthetic Melatonin

Synthetic melatonin has become one of the most popular tricks for trying to hack some shut-eye, but is this sleep supplement safe? Or will it leave you feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck when morning comes?

Many users have woken up feeling seriously hungover. We’re talking next-level grogginess, the kind that makes you reconsider all your life choices.

Experts warn that for teens and kids, popping melatonin pills could mess with puberty in all sorts of ways. Then there’s the risk of becoming dependent on melatonin supplements. Pop these suckers long enough and your brain might stop making its own supply.2

Compared to other sleep meds, synthetic melatonin may seem fine at first, but make no mistake – this is not the all-natural hippie you thought you were getting with.

Natural Melatonin Boosters

So if synthetic melatonin is the two-faced frenemy keeping you from restful slumber, what’s the alternative? For safe, dreamy sleep minus the side effects, look no further than your own brain’s built-in bedtime magic.

Your pineal gland already produces its own melatonin to regulate sleep naturally. With a few lifestyle tweaks, you can enhance your brain’s nighttime alchemy without depending on supplements.

First, dim those digital temptations before bed. Blue light from devices is like a transcendental mocha to your brain, tricking it into thinking it’s time to rage, not snooze.

Next, soak up some morning sun to calibrate your circadian rhythms. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule also teaches your body when to produce melatonin at the right times.

Diet matters too – foods with tryptophan, magnesium and calcium help craft the perfect melatonin cocktail. Herbal teas, magnesium supplements or meditation can also do the trick, helping you produce your own all-natural, non-habit-forming sleep potion.

When to Test Drive the Synthetic Stuff

Alright, we won’t judge you for occasionally dabbling. For pressing emergencies like a red-eye flight or a vampire shift schedule, melatonin pills may get you through.

Just tread carefully and chat with your doc first about dosage and potential interactions. Don’t rely on this sleep solution long-term and risk enduring the wrath of the evil twin lurking inside those little pills!

The Takeaway: Natural is Nighty-Night Done Right

At the end of the day, supporting your brain’s own tranquilizing powers is ideal for restful sleep minus the disruption. Sure, synthetic melatonin might seem like an easy fix at first. But why invite grumpy, hungover mornings and hormonal havoc when you can use natural techniques to tap into the magic swirling in your own pineal gland?

Here’s to catching some more blissful Z’s as we travel through the adventures, uncertainties and routines of life.

  1. Zisapel, N. (2018). New perspectives on the role of melatonin in human sleep, circadian rhythms and their regulation. British Journal of Pharmacology, 175(16), 3190–3199.
  2. Melatonin: What You Need To Know. (n.d.). NCCIH.