sleep guide


What Is Melatonin And How Does It Work?

What Is Melatonin And How Does It Work?

Falling asleep and staying asleep can feel like a struggle sometimes. Whether it’s due to stress, age, or too many cappuccinos, trouble sleeping can take a toll on everything from your mood to your ability to successfully complete basic functions like putting on matching socks.

Trouble sleeping is not a new problem. However, melatonin supplementation has been increasingly seen as an effective solution to help with occasional sleeplessness. In fact, more than 1.6 million people are choosing complementary and alternative remedies to improve sleep, with melatonin being the most widely used.

What Is Melatonin And What Does Melatonin Do?

Also known as the “sleep hormone,” melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It regulates your sleep-wake cycle, telling your body when it’s time for sleep.


Melatonin also exists in low levels in some foods, like tart cherries and walnuts. It’s also synthesized and used as a dietary supplement to help improve the body’s sleep-wake cycle.

How Does Melatonin Work?

When the sun sets and darkness begins, signals through our optic nerve instruct our brain to start producing melatonin to prepare our body for sleep. The pineal gland continues to produce melatonin throughout the night until the sun rises, instructing the brain to stop melatonin production.

Melatonin Production by Hour Graphic

During the day, there’s hardly enough of the hormone in our blood to detect. 

Sleep Tip: Since light stops melatonin production, creating a dark bedroom environment and limiting your exposure to electronics and other bright lights before bedtime can have a dramatic effect on natural melatonin production, and therefore your sleep.

Sleep Tip: If you wake up feeling sleepy, open your curtains to let the sunlight in. This will help stop melatonin production, making it easier for you to wake up.

Melatonin and Sleep: How Melatonin Levels Get Disrupted

A key factor to enjoying consistent, healthy sleep is having the right amount of melatonin in your body at the right time.

There are several things that can disrupt your body’s ability to make enough melatonin at the right time, including:

  • Too much exposure to too much light in the evening, especially bright blue lights like those emitted from mobile devices, televisions and other electronics
  • Age-related loss of melatonin – natural melatonin production reduces as you age
  • Work schedule or shift changes that would keep you up later or make you wake up earlier
  • Lack of regular exercise
  • Improper diet

Sleep Tip: Eating well, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, limiting exposure to artificial light one hour before bedtime, and a melatonin supplement are ways to support a normal sleep pattern and get a more restful night’s sleep.

Explore Natrol's full line of melatonin supplements.

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Dr. Jessica Andrade
sleep guide


Sleep Expert Dr. Jess Andrade’s Tips for Better Sleep

Dr. Jess Andrade is a board-certified physician with a special interest in sleep health. And now she is sharing with Natrol her top tips for getting better sleep.