Melatonin And Depression: The Connection Between Them In 2023
Chemical imbalances in the brain can affect a person’s mood and overall health. Those living with depression are likely to secrete low levels of hormones, such as serotonin and norepinephrine concentrations.
Melatonin is also a hormone that plays a role in depression. It moderates our circadian rhythm, which can be altered during depression, suggesting a link between melatonin and depression symptoms.
This article explains the relationship between melatonin and depression and this hormone’s role in depression symptoms.
Is Melatonin Good Or Bad For Depression?
Melatonin is a hormone the brain produces to help regulate your circadian rhythm and sleep cycle. Melatonin supplements may help people with depression fall asleep faster, but they may also have the opposite effect.
Taking melatonin for depression can lower energy levels, making the disorder’s symptoms worse. This is why melatonin should not be the only treatment for depression.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone manufactured in your brain’s pineal gland that regulates sleep. The primary regulating entity in melatonin secretion is light. The body secretes melatonin depending on light exposure, intensity, and duration, with a suppressive effect of light noted. Daytime suppresses melatonin secretion, and darkness stimulates its secretion.
The pineal gland, found in the brain’s hypothalamus, produces melatonin. You may not produce enough melatonin if you experience troubles with your pineal gland. Thus you may have difficulty falling asleep.
Melatonin production also decreases with age, affecting sleep and health in our elder years. As an alternative, melatonin supplements are available in pill form to help people regulate their sleep better.
Melatonin supplements also help overcome the jet lag many people experience when traveling. This tiny hormone can regulate sleep when there are changes in the time zone due to travel and you need to alter your sleep schedule. In addition, it helps those suffering from delayed sleep phase syndrome. This syndrome occurs when your sleep schedule is delayed two hours or more from a regular sleep schedule due to a circadian rhythm abnormality.
Someone who does not sleep properly and goes for days without rest may experience symptoms such as tiredness, irritability, stress, and concentration problems. Also, the appearance of sleep disorders such as insomnia or circadian rhythm disorders, depression, and other mood disorders like seasonal affective disorder can result from sleep disturbances.
The Relationship Between Melatonin And Depression
At first glance, there may seem to be no relationship between melatonin and depression. However, research points to a connection between the two. You have likely had moments where you have been unable to sleep well, and the next day you feel its impact on your mood.
Those who have trouble sleeping may experience problems with their mental health, such as the onset of depressive symptoms. You may feel more tired or irritable than usual, have difficulty concentrating on your work, or experience microsleep.
Sleeping problems can signal depression symptoms. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as DSM-V-TR, major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder all have insomnia as one of the symptoms of their diagnosis.
Someone with depression may feel deep sadness and no desire to do anything. They may have negative thoughts, which can alter their mood. Sleep disturbances may also occur, where racing thoughts can disrupt the quality of rest. People with depression may also develop narcolepsy or daytime sleepiness.
Depression is also associated with specific disease states, such as diabetes. Recent animal studies have shown a positive effect on anxiety and depression in diabetes using melatonin supplements. One of the mechanisms of this action is the reduction of oxidative stress.
According to studies, melatonin is fundamental in regulating circadian rhythm, improving sleep quality, endocrine functions, and reproduction. This hormone regulates seasonal adaptation, cognitive processes, and brain circuits related to mental illnesses such as depression.
Furthermore, changes in sleep-wake cycles may modify the way melatonin is secreted. People with seasonal affective disorder may see changes in melatonin secretion due to low light exposure.
How And When To Take Melatonin For Depression
Taking melatonin as an antidepressant treatment is considered an alternative therapy for depressive symptoms. Taking melatonin may help people achieve better sleep, potentially improving their mood and reducing depressive symptoms.
Melatonin dosages may vary based on individual needs and should only be taken under the guidance of your doctor or sleep specialist. It is important to identify the causes of depression so that people can get the right treatment. Melatonin usually accompanies other treatment modalities for depression because while it helps achieve quality sleep and may improve mood, it may increase daytime fatigue.
Research points to a recommended dosage of 1-5 mg for adults daily. However, the initial dose should be between 0.2-0.5 mg for children and adolescents before bedtime.
A daily dose of 1-10 mg can also be consumed as it is considered standard, but the optimal dose for depression remains unknown. Higher doses can be taken, and 2-6 mg have been deemed adequate, but their side effects must be considered. Regarding doses greater than 10 mg, can you take 20 mg of melatonin at once? There currently is no established recommended maximum dose of melatonin.
However, studies in humans on the toxicity of large doses of melatonin have not been conducted, and just because it is natural does not mean it does not have the potential to cause harm. Medical treatments for depression are different, so knowing how to combine them and the doses is essential. In the study above, melatonin was not effective in alleviating depression at the 20 mg dose or the 10 mg dose, although some positive effects were seen. Studies using 50-100 mg of melatonin daily must be conducted to measure effectiveness at larger doses and associated side effects.
Now you might wonder if you can take melatonin with antidepressants, and the answer is yes. The combination of both melatonin and an antidepressant may yield more effectiveness than either treatment on its own. Studies have shown that low doses of melatonin and fluoxetine combined help decrease negative symptoms associated with depression. Talk with your doctor before taking melatonin concurrently with any mood-altering medications.
Side Effects Of Using Melatonin For Depression
The effect of melatonin is not considered toxic, but this supplement’s high doses and certain formulations can cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, and drowsiness.
Melatonin supplements may increase daytime drowsiness, so be careful when operating dangerous machinery when taking these supplements. It may also cause a drop in blood pressure, so take care if you are on medications to lower your blood pressure with melatonin treatment.
Another less common symptom of taking melatonin may include short-lived feelings of depression. This may be because melatonin lowers a person’s energy, affecting their mood.
Effective Treatments For Depression
Treatment for depression is multidisciplinary, focused on reducing symptoms and helping people have a better quality of life. The most effective treatments may include:
Pharmacological treatment involves using medications to treat depression symptoms. These antidepressants are classified as:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors.
These antidepressants can help maintain a normal balance of mood chemicals in the brain. They work on neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These medications are prescribed by a medical professional, specifically a psychiatrist or specialized nurse practitioner.
Psychological treatment for depression may involve psychotherapy. Among the most common types of psychotherapies is cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy aims to:
- Enhance the individual mood.
- Identify and modify cognitive distortions that affect their thinking.
- Identify and modify cognitive patterns.
- Build strategies to cope with conflicts in a healthier way.
Other types of therapies may include humanistic, psychoanalytic, and systemic therapy. Clinical psychologists, social workers, specialized nurse practitioners, and psychiatrists are trained in these areas.
Alternative treatment does not seek to replace medications and psychotherapies but rather to provide more options for improving depressive symptoms. Alternative treatment includes making lifestyle changes such as eating nutrient-rich foods, maintaining a healthy weight, staying away from substances such as alcohol, and using supplements such as vitamins and melatonin.
The Bottom Line
Symptoms of depression are diverse and may include sleeping difficulties. A multidisciplinary team should treat depressive disorders to address symptoms and enhance the quality of life. Hormones such as melatonin can affect depression, as an imbalance of this circadian hormone affects sleep and mood disorders.
Melatonin treatment for depression seeks to increase the hormone’s levels, fixing sleep cycles so people gain quality rest time. Accompanied by psychological and pharmacological interventions, taking melatonin can aid in improving certain depressive symptoms. Although melatonin is an over-the-counter supplement, a prescription for combined therapy with anti-depressants is necessary to treat depression.
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