Studies have shown that just tiny doses of replacement melatonin taken at bedtime can quickly bring blood levels of the hormone back to normal and help induce a good nights sleep. Patients taking melatonin reported that they had less trouble getting to sleep in the first place– they dropped off in less than half the time of those with out melatonin supplements. They slept for longer and they woke up feeling alert and refreshed.

Melatonin has been tested on air stewards on long haul flights to re-regulate their body clocks and to avoid the worst disruptions of jet-lag. The results were that those taking melatonin did not display the usual symptoms of jet-lag , while their colleagues with out melatonin did display the symptoms of jet-lag.

The natural Melatonin cycle of the body.

In a person who is not suffering with insomnia the bodies circadian regulates the production and secretion of Melatonin via the pineal gland. During the day melatonin levels are at their lowest level in the body. As the day progresses and evening comes the pineal gland begins to secrete more melatonin , from around 8.00pm the melatonin level in the body continues to increase until it reaches its peak at around 03.00 am. Whilst the melatonin levels increase over the period of the evening and into the night, the body begins to feel relaxed and starts to wind down into sleep mode. Between 10.00-11.00pm the body begins to feel tired and sends "go to bed" signals to the brain to tell the person to go to sleep. It is at this point that the body is ready to fall into a natural sleep. After 03.00 am the pineal gland reduces the amount of melatonin it is secreting and continues to reduce production until it reaches the body's lowest level at around 07.00 am. This allows the body to slowly wake up in the morning without feeling heavy headed or still sleepy.

Diagram showing the daily Melatonin cycle

If a person's circadian rhythm is out of alignment, then this process will not occur and the body will not fall into a natural sleep at bedtime. Which is why a person with insomnia will find it difficult to get to sleep as their melatonin levels are not sufficient to induce sleep. Also without the high melatonin levels it is possible to wake many times during the night and be unable to get back off to sleep because there is insufficient melatonin to remain asleep during the night.

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