Melatonin is made naturally by your body in the brain’s pineal gland. Melatonin is a hormone that produces the “sleepy” feeling. Typically, our body produces small amounts of melatonin when the sun goes down, to signal to our body that it’s time for sleep. This is a process in the circadian rhythm.
Though melatonin is made naturally in the body, some people may still have trouble sleeping. Your circadian rhythm (and melatonin production) can be thrown off by many things: travel, stress, anxiety, and more. When someone is having trouble sleeping, they may turn to melatonin supplements.
Melatonin Supplements and Your Sleep
The body produces melatonin naturally, so research is very inconclusive as to whether someone ever needs to take additional melatonin in the form of a supplement. However, melatonin supplements are widely available and therefore lots of people use them to get a better night’s rest.
Although there’s no conclusive answer as to whether you should be reaching for that melatonin bottle when you are having trouble sleeping, there is interesting research on the connection between melatonin supplements and sleep.
Melatonin and Sleep Hallucinations
Some people experience hallucinations in their sleep, sometimes referred to as sleep paralysis. This kind of dream can make the person feel as though they are awake; however, they will often see and hear things in their room that are not there. These hallucinations are distressing.
In a 2018 study, those with sleep hallucinations were given melatonin supplements. In the study, the researchers found that giving a 5mg supplement of melatonin to the sufferers solved the symptoms immediately.
Memory Processing and Melatonin
Some people report extremely vivid dreams on melatonin. A 1987 study may show why. The research found that in rapid eye movement (otherwise known as REM) sleep, melatonin releases a substance called vasotocin. Vasotocin helps the brain process and erase recent memories in your sleep.
REM is the point in the sleep cycle where you have the most vivid dreams. By taking extra melatonin, the level of vasotocin in the brain increases, leading to longer periods of REM sleep. Longer periods of REM results in more intense, vivid dreams.
Though there is no real guidance on whether anyone should take melatonin supplements, there is interesting research on its effects on our sleep and brains. The studies available show melatonin can change sleep patterns, therefore changing dreams.