Melatonin is a mediocre sleep hack

Melatonin levels increase and decrease cyclically throughout the day to meet our biological needs for rest and activity. Things like stress, jet lag, and anxiety can cause your Melatonin levels to drop resulting in insomnia and other sleep problems.

Melatonin supplementation is increasingly relevant in our technology-addicted society

When we spend time after sunset staring at glowing screens it screws up our circadian rhythm, it blocks the natural release of Melatonin, which allows us to get tired and fall asleep. This is what is happening if you’ve ever stayed up into the early morning playing video games or watching TV and then couldn’t fall asleep even though you were obviously tired. Melatonin supplementation is a substandard solution (I’ll suggest an alternative) if you are burning the midnight oil working on your computer or hanging out in dark rooms. It’s also a smart idea to install F.Lux or Iris on your computer or iPhone so the bright lights (blue colors especially) don’t affect your sleep cycle.

Vs Insomnia

About a decade back I went through a bout with insomnia and alcoholism. I just couldn’t seem to fall asleep unless I downed 3–5 glasses of red wine. Eventually, I was able to reclaim refreshing sleep with this bedtime regimen: 2–3 tablets of Melatonin and a glass of Chamomile tea.

Melatonin is Problematic

For the longest time I’ve used Melatonin but the more I learn about Melatonin the more I find it’s problematic.

  • It has a steep tolerance curve.
  • You become dependent upon it to fall asleep if you use it more than like once or twice a week.
  • And often if you take too much of it you’ll kind of wake up with a Melatonin hangover, feeling groggy and tired in the mornings, as opposed to inspired by an awesome night of sleep.

Ashwagandha — The Melatonin Alternative

After years of using Melatonin on and off, I discovered something better, the anxiolytic adaptogen Ashwagandha. It has none of the downsides of Melatonin…

  • I’ll use a smaller dosage of 500 -1000 milligrams to relax at the end of the day and read.
  • If I really want to knock myself out I’ll do 2 grams or more.
  • I enjoy taking it as a nice herbal tea often combined with Chamomile.
  • It’s non-addictive, I’ve cycled off it plenty of times
  • I’ve never experienced a hangover the morning after dosing. I awake feeling awesome.

I now use Ashwagandha often, it’s a staple in my biohacker regimen.

Apple Cider Vinegar Tea

Instead of taking sleep medication or Melatonin nightly try this sleep cocktail that Tim Ferriss recommends.

My go-to tranquilizer beverage is simple: 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg brand) and 1 tablespoon honey,
(p. 140)

Food Sources

Melatonin is produced in the Pineal Gland, common food sources of Melatonin are

  • Olive oil
  • Wine
  • Tomatoes
  • Walnuts
  • And even beer

However, Melatonin comes in food sources in much smaller amounts so supplementation is the best option even if you have a good diet.


Melatonin is most commonly taken in tablet form, it’s quite cheap with monthly supplies starting at $5.

A Dreaming Enhancer

Melatonin is also a favorite supplement of Lucid Dreamers, as it promotes the kind of deep REM Sleep that enables vivid dreaming experiences.

Mechanism of Action

Melatonin is also a potent antioxidant which protects DNA according to Free radical-mediated molecular damage. Mechanisms for the protective actions of melatonin in the central nervous system.

This review briefly summarizes the multiple actions by which melatonin reduces the damaging effects of free radicals and reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. It is well documented that melatonin protects macromolecules from oxidative damage in all subcellular compartments. This is consistent with the protection by melatonin of lipids and proteins, as well as both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.

It’s chemically referred to as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine,

Immune Hack

Melatonin’s main utility to Biohackers is as a sleep aid. It supplements an important hormone that puts you to sleep.

Sleep is crucial to immune function, a night of bad or insufficient sleep puts you at increased risk of getting sick, especially during the cold winter months.
If you’re stressed over the hectic holidays (or drank too many coffees) it really costs you quality of sleep, but if you use Melatonin sparingly you will sleep like a baby and awake feeling refreshed.

To quote an authoritative 2013 paper on Melatonin and the immune system

While some authors argue that melatonin is an immunostimulant, many studies have also described anti-inflammatory properties. The data reviewed in this paper support the idea of melatonin as an immune buffer, acting as a stimulant under basal or immunosuppressive conditions or as an anti-inflammatory compound in the presence of exacerbated immune responses, such as acute inflammation.

This is interesting, it’s saying that Melatonin helps the immune system when it needs it and also turns down the immune system when it is overactive as an anti-inflammatory agent.

A Swiss study delved deeper into its immunotherapeutic effects

The interaction between the brain and the immune system is essential for the adaptive response of an organism against environmental challenges. These mediators may counteract stress-induced immunodepression and other secondary immunodeficiencies and protect mice against lethal viral encephalitis, bacterial diseases and septic shock. Therefore, [Melatonin] has interesting immunotherapeutic potential in both viral and bacterial infections.

Melatonin also regulates the female menstrual cycle.

Vs Cancer

A 2017 Chinese paper explored Melatonin’s potential in preventing cancer (since it is a good free radical scavenger), depression and soothe headaches.

The epidemiological studies have indicated a possible oncostatic property of melatonin on different types of tumors. Besides, experimental studies have documented that melatonin could exert growth inhibition on some human tumor cells in vitro and in animal models… Melatonin could be an excellent candidate for the prevention and treatment of several cancers, such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, gastric cancer and colorectal cancer.


A German paper, Melatonin as an antiaging drug: between facts and fantasy, delves deeper into its antiaging potential:

In addition to these receptor-mediated functions, melatonin may act as a modulator of intracellular signal transduction to enhance or suppress the responses of many different cells to other incoming signals. Melatonin is also a potent scavenger of reactive oxygen species and may thus protect cells and tissues against radical-mediated damage… Of particular interest in this respect are reports on the influence of melatonin on the brain and the immune system. More research data are urgently needed in order to more clearly define the possible sites and mechanisms of these actions.

A 2012 German paper explored its potential as a skin care hack:

Regarding UV-induced solar damage, melatonin distinctly counteracts massive generation of reactive oxygen species, mitochondrial and DNA damage. Thus, there is considerable evidence for melatonin to be an effective anti-skin aging compound, and its various properties in this context are described in this review.


Moderation is key with Melatonin

  • 1–3 milligrams is fine to help you get sleepy.
  • 5–20 milligrams will knock you out if you’re dealing with some insomnia or badly need some sleep.
  • Some lucid dreamers take dosages as high as 50 milligrams but this is probably inadvisable.

Side Effects

Melatonin supplementation is highly safe, however, some reported side effects include…

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepwalking
  • Vivid dreams
  • And nightmares

According to Mayo Clinic large amounts of Melatonin can create a risk of blood clotting, disorientation and difficulty walking. Because of its hormonal effects, Melatonin should be avoided by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

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Jonathan Roseland

Jonathan Roseland

Adventuring philosopher, Pompous pontificator, Writer, K-Selected Biohacker, Tantric husband, Raconteur & Smart Drug Dealer 🇺🇸