Secreted by the pineal gland, melatonin is the master of circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle). As the day progresses into the night, melatonin levels rise (given they aren’t impeded by the blue light emanating from your iPhone), until increased concentration eventually causes you to sleep. Using supplemental melatonin is a great way to regulate this cycle. By supplementing with melatonin, you can in essence, teach your body to optimize endogenous (from within the body) melatonin production so that you can fall asleep at the same time and also wake at a certain time. Not only can you teach your body to wake at a certain time (such as the time you wake for work), but you’ll be more likely to wake feeling refreshed, rather than groggy, desperately searching for that first sip of black gold.
Timing does however seem to matter. I was once told that the best time to take melatonin was around sunset, the time in which melatonin levels were beginning their ascent to maximum levels. This may have been a good suggestion 100 years ago prior to the never ending onslaught of melatonin impeding artificial light. Now a days, it seems as though attempting to avoid such artificial light is quite impossible unless you have no one to talk to or rather, no reason to use any piece of technology, which I would guess is unlikely. However, I am quite convinced that if one is to supplement with melatonin, you not only can set your circadian rhythm, but also teach your body to produce adequate amounts of endogenous melatonin, or at least optimize production, despite technology attempting to thwart any and all attempts on a restful night’s sleep. Further, I would argue that apart form circadian rhythm effects, an acute burst of melatonin (such as 5-10mg 30 minutes before bed) would have a positive effect on sleep latency (the time it takes to actually fall asleep). However, this is purely theoretical.
Not only does melatonin aid with sleep and circadian rhythmicity, it has been shown to have a myriad of other health benefits. If you’d like to read more about melatonin, try out some of the following links: