When it comes to hormones, the effects can be both vast and devastating.
Take for example cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.
It regulates important processes inside the body, including the immune system and the metabolism, yet it is also highly associated with unfavorable disorders such as anxiety and depression.
In other words, cortisol might make your life difficult, but you can’t live without it.
I once made the very same comparison to melatonin.
In my attempt to learn the ins and outs of my depression in order to treat it, I stumbled upon the concept of sleep.
And no, it’s not like I don’t sleep or anything, it’s just that I didn’t realize how important it was to my mental health.
Aside from the quality and length of sleep, there was another factor that I have never considered.
In fact, if it wasn’t for a random read on the subject of hormones, I might have never even discovered it.
But first, Here is a question that needs to be answered.
What is Melatonin, exactly?
What is Melatonin?
First of all, before we get any further, what is Melatonin? After all, we need to know what it actually is before jumping to conclusions, yeah?
To sum it up, Melatonin is a hormone made by the body’s pineal gland.
The pineal gland is a small, pine cone-shaped gland located above the middle of the brain.
For the most part, it is inactive during the day, but it does activate during the evening when the sun goes down.
The pineal gland creates melatonin, a hormone, and releases it into your blood, and the circulatory system by extension.
This hormone “prepares” your body for sleep, making you more tired and less alert.
It should be noted that this hormone is mainly found in your blood during nighttime.
In fact, from what we know, there is very little of it left during the day.
In short, melatonin helps your body prepare to sleep and regulates your internal clock
Does melatonin cause depression?
Generally speaking, it really shouldn’t.
Melatonin is a natural, healthy hormone that our body needs.
Lacking in melatonin can lead to a variety of health disorders.
As such, aside from making you less energetic, melatonin does nothing similar to depression.
I mean, you could argue that melatonin makes you more fatigued, and makes the symptoms of depression worse as a result, but that’s neither here nor there.
But that just begs the question, can a case be made for melatonin as a cause of depression?
Well, yes – Although not directly.
Although melatonin has little to do with depression by itself, vitamin D is very much related.
Unlike melatonin, vitamin D is generated by the body during the day.
Through exposure to sunlight, the body makes more of it – the complete opposite of melatonin.
Data tells us this much as well – When vitamin D supplementation was taken d it was shown to decrease the overall quality of sleep.
This is huge: Not only are the two opposites, but vitamin D blocks off the creation of melatonin in the body and vice versa.
This means that the body doesn’t really have any access to vitamin D, which is known to cause happiness and decrease negative feelings.
As such, aside from the obvious, melatonin creation stops vitamin D from having an effect.
But does this mean that melatonin by itself is related to depression? Not quite.
In fact, among depression sufferers, nocturnal melatonin levels are actually below average!
Melatonin’s effect on seasonal depression
As we’ve established, your exposure to light affects how much melatonin your body produces.
This issue becomes particularly bothersome during winter time, when the days are suddenly shorter, and your internal clock becomes messed-up as a result.
As such, not only does your body produce less of vitamin d, but it also begins producing melatonin in earlier parts of the day.
This sense of fatigue is a contributing factor to seasonal depression, or “winter blues”, and it hugely affects your body.
So what can be done about it? Well, more melatonin can help, apparently.
As it turns out, the fact that your internal clock is messed up due to the change of seasons can be corrected manually.
A 2006 study from Oregon Health and Science University discusses this very issue.
This study was made in order to test the hypothesis that the night/day change that we experience during winter is one of the reasons for the Seasonal Affective disorder (SAD), otherwise known as winter depression.
68 participants and 4 years later, it was concluded that Melatonin supplementation can relieve SAD and improve one’s mood.
But is that all it can do?
What about melatonin supplementation?
If you were to search for the term “melatonin”, you wouldn’t find data about the hormone itself, per say.
Rather, you would find a variety of articles discussing melatonin supplementation.
This fact alone goes to show you how popular it is.
in 1995, Dr. Richard Wurtman has proven the effect of melatonin on one’s quality of sleep.
As a result of that, his lab has patented melatonin supplementation, believing that it is the “next big thing” in the sleeping solutions world.
And for a good reason, too.
After all, the body’s ability to create melatonin declines with age, and they were offering the solution for that very problem.
Over the past two decades since melatonin supplementation was introduced to the world it has become a huge hit.
Not only that, it’s also a natural form of treatment, and the fact that it’s cheap and accessible doesn’t really hurt it, either.
This was confirmed as a legitimate means of treatment by researchers time and time again
A 2014 review of the subject has gone over 35 randomized, controlled trials in order to understand the effects that melatonin supplementation has on sleep.
It was determined that melatonin supplementation can have a variety of positive effects on one’s quality of sleep.
But how does it react to depression? As it turns out, less than favorably.
Melatonin supplementation is given in excessive dosage
Unfortunately, melatonin supplementation carries its own problems and although there are many of them, we are here only to discuss a select few.
Some that come to mind is the nature of these supplementations.
As natural as they may be, they still come from outside our body, something that arguably makes them less than a natural hormone.
you see, most experimentation and proof suggests that a small amount of melatonin can go a long way, but the dosage that we are given in pills is substantially larger.
Most studies have participants take a dosage of about 0.1-0.5 mg of melatonin.
The actual pills themselves, however, contain ten times that amount – ranging anywhere from 1 to 5 mg of melatonin.
A 2005 review done by MIT has touched upon this issue specifically.
According to their data, many people report that melatonin stopped working for them after only a few days.
The brain got used to such a large amount.
Large doses are simply less effective.
Despite that, melatonin is generally a good thing for you
Now, although melatonin is given in excessive amounts in regular pills, and many people choose to increase the dosage based on it losing its effect, melatonin isn’t something that’s likely to cause depression.
In fact, melatonin is shown to help with seasonal depression and is noted to be lower than average among depression sufferers.
The relation between sleep and depression is a clear-cut one – low quality sleep and depression are related.
In fact, the correlation between insomnia and depression goes both ways: the two disorders affect one another.
Melatonin puts an end to that – by correcting your sleeping habits and internal clock it can actually help treat your depression!
Among noted side effects, it should be known that some depression sufferers may exhibit their symptoms becoming worse, but that’s normally only a short term effect.
Regardless of that, you should consult a medical professional on the specifics and see what they have to say.
After all, your doctor is as credible a source as you’ll find.
You can also increase melatonin levels naturally
It should be noted that not everyone is happy with melatonin supplementation.
And that’s alright, there is a variety of way to increase melatonin naturally and improve your quality of sleep.
For one thing, by avoiding exposure to light before going to sleep, you can prevent your body from stopping the creation of melatonin.
Furthermore, there are a variety of foods that can have an effect on your levels of melatonin – these include bananas, oranges, and walnuts.
In my personal experience, meditating before sleep, stretching and taking a hot bath has helped me with my sleeping problems tremendously.
At the very least, these practices are worth considering – seeing as melatonin supplements aren’t a long-term solution by themselves.
So, before you go to bed, here’s a question for you – Does melatonin help you sleep at night?
Make sure to write me your answers in the comment section below – I always enjoy reading them.
If you got any questions you would like answered then please email me and I’ll get back to you.