What is melatonin? An intro from a nutritionist

alarm clock on bed

One sheep, two sheep, three sheep…sound familiar? Some people are lucky enough to fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow, but for others, getting quality sleep can be a real challenge. And if you struggle with sleep, you may have considered trying melatonin – but what exactly is it? And how does it help?  

Let’s find out! 

What is melatonin? 

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that your body produces mainly in the pineal gland, right in the center of your brain. It’s known as your sleep hormone because it plays an important role in your body’s circadian rhythm—your natural sleep-wake cycle—helping nudge your body into sleep mode.1    

How does melatonin help? 

Melatonin is often referred to as the ‘hormone of darknessbecause it’s secreted at night. During the day, sunlight deactivates your pineal gland, causing melatonin levels to drop and making you feel energized. In the evening, your pineal gland comes back online, once again making and releasing melatonin, causing levels to slowly rise and making you feel tired. Your melatonin generally peaks in the middle of the night—when you should be sound asleep—and then gradually falls after that.2 

If you find yourself tossing and turning some nights, supplementing with melatonin may help by promoting restful sleep and restoring a healthy sleep schedule. But understand that it works more like a dimmer than an on/off switch; it won’t put you out immediately, but rather tells your body it’s time to get ready for bed. It’s thought to be especially helpful if you travel often and experience jet lag or work night shifts.3  

PRO TIP: Take melatonin at least an hour before settling into bed. This gives your body the time it needs to digest and absorb the supplement, ensuring it’s at the right level in the wee hours of the night! 

Is melatonin safe? 

Melatonin supplements are generally considered safe, as long as you take it in small doses (0.5-3mg) for a short period of time.4 Taking it long-term or at too high a dose may make you dependent and potentially override your body’s natural melatonin production. If you’ve found melatonin helpful for sleep, it’s best to take a break after a month or so. 

Does melatonin have benefits other than sleep? 

This might surprise you: Besides its ability to help regulate your body’s internal clock, melatonin is also a potent antioxidant that fights harmful free radicals and promotes a healthy inflammatory response. This can be good for your immune system and even your eye health!2,5  

Is melatonin found in food? 

We usually think about melatonin as a supplement, but it can also be found in your pantry! Some good food sources include: Tart cherries, goji berries, eggs, milk, nuts and fish.3 These won’t necessarily make you sleepy, but they can help support your body’s melatonin production. 


About Briana 

Briana is a Nutritionist with a degree in Nutritional Sciences from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. She has a passion for educating others about the importance of Nutrition, and the power of a progressive relationship with diet and wellness.  

Do you have questions on how you may benefit from supplements? Reach out to one of our experts, or take Persona’s free nutrition assessment, and learn exactly what you need to take your wellness to the next level.  


*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional, or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal, or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.  


  1. Reiter RJ, Tan DX, Galano A. Melatonin: exceeding expectations. Physiology. 2014;29(5):325-333.https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physiol.00011.2014?view=long&pmid=25180262
  2. Pandi-Perumal SR, Srinivasan V, Maestroni GJM, Cardinali DP, Poeggeler B, Hardeland R. Melatonin.: Nature’s most versatile biological signal? FEBS Journal. 2006;273(13):2813-2838. https://febs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1742-4658.2006.05322.x
  3. Melatonin: what you need to know. NCCIH. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know
  4. Hack LM, Lockley SW, Arendt J, Skene DJ. The effects of low-dose 0.5-mg melatonin on the free-running circadian rhythms of blind subjects. J Biol Rhythms. 2003 Oct;18(5):420-9. doi: 10.1177/0748730403256796. PMID: 14582858.
  5. Contributors WE. Foods high in melatonin. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/foods-high-in-melatonin
  6. Li L, Gang X, Wang J, Gong X. Role of melatonin in respiratory diseases (Review). Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. 2022;23(4):1-9. https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/etm.2022.11197

Interested in learning what supplements are right for you? Take our free assessment.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the
best experience on our website. Learn more.