You may have heard talk or read about why you should not take melatonin supplements unless you are experiencing jet lag. However, if you are a woman in perimenopause, menopause, or postmenopause, we’d like you to stop and read this article before you toss your supplement bottles away.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone (also known as the sleep hormone) produced naturally in the pineal gland in the brain and is an essential player in the sleep/wake cycle. That is, the brain makes more melatonin when the sun goes down and less when the sun comes up. Exposure to light at night, especially bright white, green, or blue light, impacts your body’s production of melatonin. That is why it’s important to avoid these lights to help ensure a restorative night’s sleep.
Many people don’t get enough sleep, however, so they sometimes turn to melatonin supplements. The supplements may help for a while because the body recognizes the added hormone, but over time the body may significantly reduce or stop making melatonin, which can make you depend on the supplements for sleep.
Melatonin is also found in some foods, including goji berries, tart cherries, oats, pistachios, rice, fatty fish, and mushrooms. Because these are natural sources of melatonin, the body readily accepts and utilizes them and may be a better source of the hormone than taking the supplement.
Melatonin for women in menopause
Women in perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause, however, have two reasons to consider taking melatonin: levels naturally decline with age, which means they are faced with low melatonin production as they get older; and sleep problems are common during these stages of life. This means menopausal women may greatly benefit from taking melatonin supplements.
How can melatonin supplements help women in menopause?
As estrogen and melatonin levels drop, sleep is affected and quality of life declines. Researchers have shown us that insomnia is a traditional symptom of menopause, along with other issues that can have a negative impact on sleep, such as hot flashes, fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, and restlessness. International studies show that use of melatonin supplements can help with sleep problems among menopausal women, including trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and going back to sleep once awake.
But melatonin can do more than help with insomnia and other sleep issues in perimenopause and beyond. In a group of perimenopausal women, for example, use of 3 mg of melatonin nightly for six months showed it “may restore imbalances in bone remodeling to prevent bone loss.” It appears to have this benefit by reducing bone turnover. In a 2022 review, the authors noted that combined with vitamin D, vitamin K2, and strontium, “melatonin…has a synergistic effect on bone microstructure and improves bone mineral density.”
Do you experience acid reflux? Many women in menopause do, and there is some evidence that melatonin may reduce this symptom. That’s because the hormone can block the secretion of stomach acids and help prevent the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter, which thus stops stomach acid from entering the esophagus.
Other research has shown melatonin may help with vision issues that may appear in middle-aged women, such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.
Women in menopause typically have reduced levels of melatonin, which means supplementation may be helpful for insomnia issues. In addition, melatonin may offer other benefits for perimenopausal women and beyond.