Micro-Dosing Your Way To Sleep!
What is micro-dosing?
The phenomenon of ‘micro-dosing’ refers to the ingestion of very small quantities of substances for general health and wellbeing. Whilst micro-dosing initially started with the use of psychedelics at non-hallucinogenic doses, the ideas of micro-dosing have challenged our assumptions that ‘more is better’ in conventional pharmacological research. There is emerging evidence that low-dose exposure to substances can have a beneficial effect. This has been shown for natural substances such as resveratrol and melatonin. In this article we will discuss micro-dosing melatonin for better sleep.
Sleep and melatonin: recap
Just to recap, studies have shown that lack of sleep puts our bodies under a state of stress and out of balance. In fact, prolonged sleep deprivation (prevalent in our modern society) can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation, which is a risk factor for many illnesses. Melatonin is a hormone known for its role in maintaining the body’s circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) and is therefore used as a pharmaceutical intervention to help restore sleep quality and efficiency.
Many studies have investigated the effects of melatonin supplementation for improved sleep. Melatonin supplements are sold in tablets of 1, 3, 5 and 10 mg as well as oral sprays and topical melatonin-containing gels.
According to current research, the maximum effect of melatonin is generally achieved at low-doses (e.g. 0.3 mg) as this best mimics the normal physiological circadian rhythm. Administration of melatonin at low-doses has shown no reported ‘hangover effect’, no negative effects on alertness and mood the next day, and minimal side effects.
On the other hand, higher doses appear to do no better (plateau effect) or even worse. A study by Zhdanova et al. (2001) found that whilst high-dose supplementation (3.0 mg) improved sleep as well as low-dose supplementation, it also had negative effects like reducing body temperature and causing blood melatonin levels to remain elevated in beyond the typical rest period. Prolonged, elevated levels of melatonin can disrupt the normal sleep-wake cycle. Side-effects, like headache, dizziness, nausea, drowsiness are too more common after high-dose supplementation.
In fact, a study by Vural et al. (2014) provided the following recommendation based on scientific evidence: “in older adults we advise the use of the lowest possible dose of immediate-release formulation melatonin to best mimic the normal physiological circadian rhythm of melatonin and to avoid prolonged, supra-physiological blood levels”.
To conclude, it is a common practice to test doses at their upper limit as this is thought to achieve maximum benefit. However, there is an increasing body of knowledge suggesting that more is not always better when it comes to health.
Auld, F., Maschauer, E.L., Morrison, I., Skene, D.J. and Riha, R.L. 2017. Evidence for the efficacy of melatonin in the treatment of primary adult sleep disorders. Sleep Med Rev. 34, pp.10-22.
Brzezinski, A., Vangel, M.G., Wurtman, R.J., Norrie, G., Zhdanova, I., Ben-Shushan, A. and Ford, I. 2005. Effects of exogenous melatonin on sleep: a meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev. 9(1), pp.41-50.
Chua, H.M., Hauet Richer, N., Swedrowska, M., Ingham, S., Tomlin, S. and Forbes, B. 2016. Dissolution of Intact, Divided and Crushed Circadin Tablets: Prolonged vs. Immediate Release of Melatonin. 8(1), p2.
Gooneratne, N.S., Edwards, A.Y., Zhou, C., Cuellar, N., Grandner, M.A. and Barrett, J.S. 2012. Melatonin pharmacokinetics following two different oral surge-sustained release doses in older adults. J Pineal Res. 52(4), pp.437-445.
Hack, L.M., Lockley, S.W., Arendt, J. and Skene, D.J. 2003. The effects of low-dose 0.5-mg melatonin on the free-running circadian rhythms of blind subjects. J Biol Rhythms. 18(5), pp.420-429.
Vural, E.M., van Munster, B.C. and de Rooij, S.E. 2014. Optimal dosages for melatonin supplementation therapy in older adults: a systematic review of current literature. Drugs Aging. 31(6), pp.441-451.
Zhdanova, I.V., Wurtman, R.J., Regan, M.M., Taylor, J.A., Shi, J.P. and Leclair, O.U. 2001. Melatonin Treatment for Age-Related Insomnia. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 86(10), pp.4727-4730.
Rusne is a United Kingdom-based writer passionate about nutrition as treatment and prevention of illness. She is currently completing her Bachelor in Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds, and has Research & Development experience in the reformulation of sugary soft drinks.
Apart from her studies, Rusne particularly enjoys cooking, travelling and exploring independent coffee shops.