When you hear the word melatonin, chances are, you automatically think about sleep. Of all the supplements that are readily available, melatonin is by far one of the most popular thanks to its high-profile reputation as a powerful, all-natural sleep aid. But melatonin isn’t just a supplement you find in the pharmacy aisle of your grocery store.
Melatonin is actually a complex hormone that’s naturally produced in your body. And as it turns out, this high-profile hormone does a whole lot more than help you get a good night's rest.
Today, we’re going to explore one of melatonin's most impressive impacts on your body – its ability to combat inflammation and beef up your immune system. So let’s get started by diving into exactly what melatonin is and how it’s released in your body.
What Is Melatonin? And What Triggers Melatonin Release?
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced and released by a gland in your brain known as the pineal gland. Melatonin is often referred to as the sleep hormone due to the pivotal role it plays in helping us drift off into a deep slumber.
You see, the production and secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland is connected to the time of day and designed to cycle rhythmically. Darkness triggers your body to increase melatonin production and signals your body to go to sleep. While light, on the other hand, decreases melatonin production and signals your body to be awake.1
While your body naturally produces this hormone, we can also extract it from animals or microorganisms or create it synthetically – allowing us to create melatonin supplements. Because of its potent sleep-promoting effect, melatonin has long been associated almost exclusively with sleep. But this mighty hormone actually does a whole lot more than simply help you catch some Z’s.
Let’s take a look at some of the other roles melatonin plays in your body.
The Benefits of Melatonin: What Else Is Melatonin Good for Besides Sleep?
Melatonin has some lesser-known, but perhaps even more important roles than promoting sleep. Studies have food that melatonin also plays an important role in:2,3,4,5
- Hormone regulation: Melatonin interacts with and helps regulate a variety of other crucial hormones including cortisol (the stress hormone) and sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
- Blood pressure and cardiovascular health: Melatonin influences things like your cardiac output, blood pressure, heart rate, and seasonal rhythms.
- Mitochondrial function: Your mitochondria are known as the powerhouse of your cells – synthesizing energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate or ATP. Melatonin has been found to regulate and support optimal mitochondrial function.
But one of melatonin's most fascinating impacts is the role it plays in inflammation and your immune response.
Does Melatonin Affect Inflammation?
The answer to this question is – yes! Research has found that melatonin may in fact have a significant role in controlling inflammation and supporting immune function. You see, most cells in your body contain melatonin receptors – meaning the hormone binds to your cells and can exert some impressive effects.
Melatonin impacts inflammation in two primary ways:
By Modulating Immune Function:
Melatonin’s impact on immune function is complex and plays a role in both activating and deactivating the immune response. Melatonin has been found to induce effects such as:5,6
- Increasing the number and activity of important immune cells like macrophages and natural killer cells.
- Regulating the release of signaling molecules and cytokines that trigger the up or downregulation of your immune system.
- Serving as an antiviral, antibiotic and anti-parasitic molecule – inhibiting the proliferation of harmful microbes.
- Boosting the production of antibodies – the protective proteins your immune system uses to recognize and remember invading pathogens so it can more effectively eliminate them.
But these immune-regulating effects aren’t the only way melatonin can pump the brakes on inflammation. This multifaceted molecule can also function as a powerful antioxidant booster.
By Functioning As An Antioxidant:
Melatonin molecules can significantly uplevel your antioxidant levels in three distinct ways:8,9
- By serving as a direct antioxidant and free radical scavenger: Melatonin molecules are able to serve as an antioxidant – donating their electrons to unstable free radicals and subsequently neutralizing the damage these harmful molecules can cause.
- By metabolizing compounds with high antioxidant activity: Melatonin indirectly promotes antioxidant production by enhancing the metabolism of compounds needed to synthesize antioxidants.
- By stimulating the synthesis of other antioxidants and inhibiting antioxidant-degrading enzymes: Melatonin bolsters the production of other antioxidant compounds (like Vitamin C and Trolox) while blocking the effects of enzymes that break down antioxidant molecules.
Melatonin’s antioxidant activity has been found to be superior to other antioxidants like vitamins C and E when it comes to protecting against oxidative damage and eliminating damaging free radicals. This combination of antioxidant effects has a remarkable and significant impact on overall inflammation levels.
So how can you naturally boost your melatonin levels to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits of this mighty molecule?
How to Naturally Boost Melatonin Levels
Naturally increasing your melatonin levels can help combat inflammation and help you more easily sink into restorative sleep – which can add up to some serious benefits for your health. So let’s look at some ways you can naturally increase melatonin:10,11,12,13
- Get plenty of natural sunshine (especially in the morning): Soaking up some sun can help your melatonin levels in two ways. Getting some natural light in the morning can help support a healthy circadian rhythm – allowing for the complete shutdown of melatonin during the day so your body can produce optimal levels at night in response to darkness. Sunlight also triggers the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin which is a precursor to melatonin.
- Limit your exposure to blue light (especially at night): Exposure to artificial light – especially blue light emitted by electronics like cell phones, televisions, and laptop screens – can trigger your brain to suppress melatonin production. So try limiting screen time in the evenings and especially right before bedtime.
- Eat melatonin-rich foods: Foods that contain the highest levels of natural melatonin include fruits like goji berries, tart cherries, pineapple, oranges, and bananas. Eggs, milk, fish, and nuts also contain a concentrated dose of naturally-occurring melatonin.
- Soak in a hot, relaxing bath before bed: Relaxing in a nice warm bath can help alleviate stress and reduce cortisol levels – which can subsequently increase your natural production of melatonin.
- Minimize your caffeine intake later in the day: Caffeine can disrupt melatonin production. So it can be helpful to avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks a minimum of 6 hours before you plan on going to sleep to optimize your natural melatonin production and maintain a healthy sleep cycle.
- Take a high-quality melatonin supplement: Incorporating a quality melatonin supplement at night can give you a little boost. It’s important to note that melatonin can certainly be helpful if you have a difficult time getting enough shut eye. But if you’re consistently having difficulty falling asleep, it’s important to work on addressing the underlying factors contributing to your poor sleep rather than simply relying on melatonin supplements indefinitely.
Naturally supporting optimal levels of melatonin can be a game-changer for your health – especially considering that a better nights sleep and reduced inflammation have a ripple effect that can improve every aspect of your well-being.
Can Melatonin Really Supercharge My Health?
The answer to this question is – it’s yes and no. Melatonin is a powerful molecule that does indeed have some impressive benefits for your health. But our bodies are complex and depend on countless different compounds and processes to truly run optimally. So supporting and amplifying your natural melatonin levels can no doubt help improve your health.
But there’s no amount of melatonin that can make up for less-than-ideal lifestyle choices. If you really want to heal an imbalance, address the root cause of your symptoms, or supercharge your health, it requires a big-picture, whole-life approach. One that encompasses every aspect of your well-being – physically, mentally, spiritually, and environmentally.
If you’re looking to take your health to the next level (whatever that may look like for you), I’ve got tons of free resources to help you do exactly that. So be sure to head over and check out my blog and my YouTube channel – and be sure to sign up for my exclusive weekly newsletter by entering your name and email address at the bottom of this page. If you want to take it even deeper and get access to cutting-edge health protocols, while learning how to overcome physical and emotional toxicity and surrender limiting ideas holding you back, you’ve got to pick up a copy of my new book Unexpected: Finding Resilience Through Functional Medicine, Science, and Faith.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you surprised to learn just how big of a role melatonin plays in inflammation? What tips do you plan to implement to help uplevel your melatonin levels? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below!
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- Melatonin: What You Need To Know | NCCIH (nih.gov)
- Melatonin enhances cortisol levels in aged but not young women – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Co-administering Melatonin With an Estradiol-Progesterone Menopausal Hormone Therapy Represses Mammary Cancer Development in a Mouse Model of HER2-Positive Breast Cancer – PMC (nih.gov)
- Evidence for the Benefits of Melatonin in Cardiovascular Disease – PMC (nih.gov)
- Melatonin in Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Related Disorders (hindawi.com)
- Melatonin: Buffering the Immune System – PMC (nih.gov)
- Diseases | Free Full-Text | Can Melatonin Be a Potential “Silver Bullet” in Treating COVID-19 Patients? (mdpi.com)
- Melatonin as an antioxidant: under promises but over delivers – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Diseases | Free Full-Text | Can Melatonin Be a Potential “Silver Bullet” in Treating COVID-19 Patients? (mdpi.com)
- Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health – PMC (nih.gov)
- How to Manage Blue Light for Better Sleep (webmd.com)
- 6 Foods High in Melatonin and Why You Need It (webmd.com)
- Lifetime coffee consumption, pineal gland volume, and sleep quality in late life | SLEEP | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.