How Melatonin Works
Melatonin plays a significant role in the sleep-wake cycle; in the case of humans, this means the act of falling asleep in the dark (night) and waking up in the light (day). This carefully regulated set of physiological processes is referred to as the body’s circadian rhythm, and it is essential for overall health and wellness.
Ultimately, the process hinges on the detection of light. If there is a high level of light in a person’s surroundings, the eyes will detect this, and notify the brain. In turn, the brain, via the suprachiasmatic nucleus, will signal other parts of the brain to release the appropriate hormones and take other actions to dial up alertness or arousal. Of course, the opposite is true as well. When it is dark, different signals are sent, and high levels of melatonin will signal the body that it is time for sleep, and the associated functions that come with it.
Melatonin isn’t just responsible for telling the body when to sleep; the level of melatonin also affects the quality of sleep, as well as the depth, and can increase REM sleep, which is crucial for health and development. This is because a significant number of critical bodily functions are carried out while we sleep, including the resetting of neurotransmitter levels and the detoxification of the body. Additionally, “always on” organs like the heart and the lungs slow in their processes to rest and recover from daily stress.
However, if the body is not able to complete these functions for whatever reason, be it because sleep does not come (insomnia) or sleep is regularly interrupted (sleep disruption), then things can quickly begin to spiral out of control. For starters, the body will take on increased stress due to an inability to offload stress and repair systems. There are many adverse side effects that come with this, including things like weight gain, the breakdown of muscle, and water retention.
On the other hand, a good night’s sleep will generate positive effects that help keep waking life on track. This includes the level of health in all aspects: bodily, cognitive, and emotional health. This is due in large part to the fact that getting a good night’s sleep helps to keep down the levels of hormones like cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is beneficial in small amounts. However, excess levels of cortisol can cause problems with the body, including interference with fat loss.
Reading this, you might be tempted to pick up some melatonin. As mentioned earlier, don’t think of melatonin as a fat burner or weight loss tool on its own (especially in the absence of sleep problems). Instead, consider how it might help your goals when combined with dieting and exercise.
Research on Melatonin and Weight Loss
While there have been some studies that support the use of certain melatonin sleep aids to lose weight, these studies do not paint the entire picture. This is because only a specific subset of the population was examined during the studies mentioned above, so there is room for much more research before any substantial claims about the relationship between melatonin and weight loss can be made. Consider the following, for example:
- In one clinical study, it was found that for postmenopausal women, melatonin supplements led to reduced body weight; in spite of this, researchers were not confident of melatonin’s role in such results.
- A study performed on animals indicated that melatonin cut down the obesity levels of diabetic fatty rats, and did so independently of changes in diet and exercise. However, the study also found evidence of brown fat among white adipose tissue. This is a pattern that is connected to reduced obesity.
- For people suffering from metabolic syndrome, it was found in a clinical study that the administration of melatonin led to a slight reduction of waist circumference. This particular health condition is known to be associated with excess fat in the belly area, as well as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and heightened levels of cholesterol.
As mentioned earlier, there is some evidence of a clear melatonin-weight loss connection via sleep cycles. Because sleep helps de-stress the body, which keeps it on track for losing weight, melatonin to aid sleep can potentially lead to better weight control. There is further evidence for this, given that too much and too little sleep are both connected to gaining weight.
Keep in mind, however, that these studies are very limited, and melatonin for sleep helps to regulate weight, rather than directly meet weight goals. As of yet, no evidence suggests that melatonin employed by itself can lead to significant or sustained weight loss; a healthy diet and other lifestyle changes are necessary.
Melatonin Supplement Reviews for Weight Loss
When it comes to using melatonin for weight loss, there is not an abundance of user reviews. Ultimately, reviews focus on the primary use of melatonin: facilitating longer, fuller, uninterrupted sleep.
Most of the melatonin reviews found on Amazon.com are positive in nature. Typically, reviews relate to the fact that melatonin products helped the customers fall asleep and stay asleep, without creating the familiar daytime drowsiness that certain varieties of sleeping pills have been known to cause. However, the products are not without their share of negative reviews as well. Negative reviews tend to communicate that the pills were not effective for those who used them.
Ultimately, from a pool of nearly 900 customer reviews, melatonin supplements are said to reduce insomnia and fatigue, improve metabolism, and contribute to a more restful sleep. This might have to do with a time-release formula that prevents spikes and valleys.Related: 12 Foods That Will Accelerate Your Weight Loss
To conclude, it’s important to keep in mind that melatonin, along with other dietary supplements (even those tried and true), are not to be thought of as magic bullets for burning fat. They will not cause significant weight loss on their own; the title dietary supplement clarifies that they are to be used in conjunction with the appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes for optimal effect. If losing weight and staying healthy in the long term are your goals, then start by eating a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, some grains, and a modest level of protein (with very little, if any, from red meats), and get into the habit of exercising regularly.