Melatonin, a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland at the base of the brain, plays a key role in the regulation of sleep. It is believed to be important in maintaining the body’s normal circadian rhythm. Melatonin has most often been used for two primary reasons: sleep-related problems and jet lag.
Studies Show Effectiveness as a Sleep Aid
A 1995 Gallup Poll revealed that approximately one-half of all Americans suffer occasional or chronic sleep problems. Melatonin became popular as a sleep aid in the 1990s. Scientific studies have repeatedly supported this usage. As a sleep aid, it appears most effective for those suffering mild and occasional insomnia or having trouble falling asleep.
The second-most-common usage for melatonin is as a counter agent for jet lag. In one study, passengers taking melatonin before, during, or after an eastward flight found relief for jet lag, although the effect was less pronounced for those flying westward. A review of nine clinical trials in 2002 revealed that taking 5 mg of melatonin between 10 p.m. and midnight at the destination helped travelers fall asleep faster and sleep better