Yeah, sleep is the best.
But even the most sandman-friendly among us can have trouble making it to dreamland sometimes.
Maybe you’re struggling with insomnia, a disrupted sleep schedule, or perhaps you’re just melatonin-curious and want to try supplementing your sleep experience!
What is melatonin? Does it work? How much should I take? And of course, which melatonin gummies are the best?
Off to never-never land…
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What is Melatonin and where does it come from?
Turns out, melatonin is actually a fascinating little molecule!
It’s an ancient hormone, and surprisingly ubiquitous in plants and animals.
It plays an important role in a number of biological cycles: most notably in the sleeping and waking cycles, as you might’ve guessed already, but also longer cycles like hibernation and mating seasons.
Which makes sense: as the amount of light changes over the course of a day, or a year, so does the amount of melatonin produced, because melatonin production is regulated by certain light receptors in our eyeballs.
Our retinas actually make a little bit of their own melatonin, so does our skin and even our guts!
But by far, the most melatonin is produced in a little organ tucked into the middle of our brains:
The Pineal Gland
Deep beneath the cerebral cortices, a vestigial eye measures and keeps time.1
The pineal gland is thought to have originated in some ancient creature as an actual eye (or at least a light-sensitive organ of some kind), on the top of its head. Over time, evolution buried it deep inside our brains.
The pineal gland’s main function is making melatonin, as it’s generally understood currently.
But excuse us for a sec while we take a little trip into the pineal gland rabbit hole:
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The pineal gland has also long been a source of fascination for the mystical set, popularly identified as the “third eye.” Recently, some scientific attention has been on the pineal gland as a source of naturally occurring dimethyltriptamine, aka the potent psychedelic DMT, “the spirit molecule.”
You probably have some DMT floating around in your brain right now! Not very much, tho.2
There’s a connection between melatonin, serotonin, and DMT, all of which are produced by the pineal gland. These three heavy-hitters are produced from the amino acid tryptophan and are physically almost identical molecules, although they have profoundly different effects on our states of consciousness (or lack thereof).
The role of the DMT created by the pineal gland is unclear at this point, given how recent of a discovery it is. There are some thoughts that DMT plays an undiscovered role as a neurotransmitter3.
Just some wild speculation on our part, but there might be more to the pineal gland than first suspected?
Anyway, back to melatonin:
How does Melatonin work?
Ok, so, there’s a master clock that regulates our circadian rhythms: the suprachiasmatic nucleus. This little guy is also located in our brain and receives signals from photoreceptors in our eyeballs. When it’s dark out, it signals to the pineal gland: time for bed!
Melatonin flows from the pineal gland back into the suprachiasmatic nucleus and starts binding to melatonin receptors, which slows down our brain activity and starts to shift our bodies into sleep mode at long last.
How much should I take?
The recommended dosage for melatonin is between 0.3 and 1 milligrams, or, depending on where you look, between 1 and 3 mg. You’ll find that most gummies have a suggested dosage of least 1 mg, but most have more, sometimes a lot more.
For some gentle help resetting your circadian rhythm, the lower doses seem to be appropriate.
Higher dosages, between 1 and 5 mg, generally produce a more immediate and stronger effect. If you’re struggling with insomnia, this is what most people take.
You’ll probably experiment a little to find your sweet spot, which could include taking less than the brand’s suggested dosage (it’s common for us to take half a gummy more often than not).
When should I take it?
The sleep experts generally say 2-3 hours before bed, at least if you’re trying to reset your circadian rhythm, so we’ll stick with that. Keep in mind, it’s going to depend a little bit on when “bed” is supposed to be: if you’re taking melatonin for jet lag, or to otherwise reset a disturbed sleep schedule, you’ll want to time it for your ideal bedtime.
But, just anecdotally: we usually take it about 30 minutes before bed. Maybe we have super-sensitive pineal glands or something, but after about 30 minutes we’re being carried away forcefully by the gods of slumber. Cannot imagine being functional for 2-3 hours after this. But your mileage may vary! Experiment a little to find when works for you.
hello darkness, my old friend
You might remember from earlier that the way your body decides to produce melatonin is very dependent on the presence of daylight. It’s the major factor in whether or not your body thinks it’s time for bed.
Basically, a specific wavelength of blue light contained in daylight stimulates some cells in your retinas, who alert your brain that you should be awake! and to stop producing melatonin.
Tragically, that same blue wavelength is in the light from screens like the one you’re reading this on.
Which means that even if you take some melatonin to give your suprachiasmatic nucleus a lil nudge towards oblivion, if you’re looking at your phone or laptop afterwards you’re sending your body some serious mixed messages, and you’re not going to get the full benefit.
This is why blue-blocking glasses and screen filters have become all the rage these days: they’ll filter out those wavelengths so your brain doesn’t think it’s staring directly into the sun when really, you’re just reading the Gummy Galaxy.
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Is it safe?
Yes, supplementing melatonin is generally regarded as very safe. Just stick to the advised dosage ranges, for up to 3 months if you’re taking it regularly: there haven’t been many, if any, studies that track the effects of longer regular usage.
It can have some mild side effects, mostly things like drowsiness (which we’re not sure is a side effect exactly?), next-morning grogginess (some gummies lead to more grog than others, we’ve found, and we’ve been sure to note that in our reviews), and headaches, that sort of thing.
If you’re taking prescription medications, however, you’ll definitely want to check the interactions. A number of medications can interact poorly with melatonin, including blood thinners and anti-seizure meds.
If you’re pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, don’t take it.
And because melatonin supplements (like all dietary supplements) aren’t regulated by the FDA, you need to be sure that you’re getting what you think you are — not all supplement manufacturers are scrupulous!
But as always, we got you here in the Gummy Galaxy! You can find our recommendations for the best melatonin gummies from manufacturers we trust at the end of this post! 👇
© Anton / Adobe Stock
Why Take Melatonin?
Ok, yeah, it’s obvious enough: to fall asleep and to sleep better, longer, and to activate our third eye 😛 (just kidding on that last one, FDA).
But there’s a handful of other things that melatonin does for us, and while it shouldn’t necessarily be incorporated in your long-term supplement plan, you can rest assured that the occasional melatonin you’re taking is working a little magic elsewhere, too.
Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant
Melatonin is uncommonly effective in reducing oxidative stress under a remarkably large number of circumstances.4
A growing amount of research over the last 10 years has identified melatonin as an antioxidant par excellence. More potent than vitamins C or E, it also stimulates the cellular generation of other antioxidant enzymes.
Melatonin is all over the place in the vegetal kingdom, and because so far there’s not a ton of evidence of a circadian rhythm in plants (at least in the same way there is in animals), melatonin is believed to be produced in plants primarily as an antioxidant and environmental stress protector.
Immune Support and Neuroprotection
As a result of its antioxidant properties, melatonin is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and immune support molecule.
It regulates cytokine production in our immune systems, helping our bodies fight infections, while suppressing the production of inflammatory cytokines and reducing oxidative stress.
Research has also indicated that melatonin can have a neuroprotective effect in neurodegenerative disorders that involve oxidative damage to the brain, like dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and traumatic brain and spinal cord injury.5
It’s up to you if this is a benefit or a curse, but melatonin is widely reported to increase the vividness (and possibly the bizarreness) of dreams. Long, wild, sometimes lucid.
This definitely happens for us, just maybe not every night, at least that we can remember. Melatonin also plays a role in helping the brain erase dream memories, so maybe we’re dreaming crazily every night and just don’t remember when we wake up.
There haven’t been a ton of studies on this, but the generally accepted explanation is that because melatonin increases the amount of REM sleep — which is dream time — it increases the amount of dreams also.
But the sheer amount of anecdotes on the internet suggests that this is a pretty widespread phenomenon and that there’s something particular about melatonin dreams.
© kharchenkoirina / Adobe Stock
Alright, we’re finally here: what’s the dreamiest way to get your melatonin?
Well, we’re in the Gummy Galaxy, so we might be biased, but the answer is, of course, in a gummy!
Gummies are the perfect vessel for pairing melatonin with other, complementary ingredients to work some nighttime magic.
You’ll find a variety of gummies that include things like L-theanine or 5HTP to help you relax, or that contain other immune supplements like elderberry, echinacea, zinc & vitamin C.
© New Africa / Adobe Stock
A delicious part of a balanced ritual
There’s nothing like eating a delicious dream bean at bedtime as a nightcap.
Whether it’s a supercute little bear holding your hand as you drift off, or a sparkling celestial blue dream-crystal, it goes beyond the merely aesthetic: cultivating a sleep ritual can have profound effects on the quality of your sleep.
We’re not suggesting that a gummy should be the alpha and omega of that ritual, but don’t overlook them as you put on your blue-blockers, steep a cup of chamomile, pour a bath full of rose petals, and whatever else you do to summon the sandman.
Our Favorites (so far)
Here’s our running list of the most effective and delicious melatonin gummies that we’ve tried and can personally recommend. Be sure to check back, because we’re updating this list all the time! (Did we mention our newsletter? You can sign up down there 👇)
We hope this was helpful in understanding the vast constellations of melatonin gummies!
More blogs soon! In the meantime, sign up for our newsletter and follow us across the Gummy Galaxy!
- Brennan, R., Jan, J. & Lyons, C. Light, dark, and melatonin: emerging evidence for the importance of melatonin in ocular physiology. Eye 21, 901–908 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.eye.6702597
- Dean, J., Liu, T., Huff, S. et al. Biosynthesis and Extracellular Concentrations of N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in Mammalian Brain. Sci Rep 9, 9333 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-45812-w
- Barker SA. N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), an Endogenous Hallucinogen: Past, Present, and Future Research to Determine Its Role and Function. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 2018 ;12:536. DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00536.
- Reiter RJ, Mayo JC, Tan DX, Sainz RM, Alatorre-Jimenez M, Qin L. Melatonin as an antioxidant: under promises but over delivers. J Pineal Res. 2016;61(3):253-278. doi:10.1111/jpi.12360
- Esposito E, Cuzzocrea S. Antiinflammatory activity of melatonin in central nervous system. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2010;8(3):228-242. doi:10.2174/157015910792246155