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Melatonin & Weight Gain: Is There a Connection? Here's the Research We Found

When you get a good night of sleep, there’s a hormone to thank for that: melatonin.

 

Melatonin is more than just a popular sleep supplement—it’s an essential hormone that the body naturally produces to help maintain a regular sleep cycle. Created by the brain’s pineal gland, melatonin regulates your body’s circadian rhythm (the internal clock that helps your body know when it’s time to sleep and wake up (1, 2).

Animated graphic explaining the Circadian Rhythm. Inhibition of melatonin in the daytime. Stimulation of melatonin in the nighttime.

In supplement form, melatonin helps make up for any natural melatonin deficiencies you may have. It can also help you sleep well in spite of irregular work shifts, insomnia, or other issues that may keep you up at night. Melatonin supplements encourage the sleep aspect of your sleep-wake cycle by blocking the wake factor. So much so that research has linked melatonin to better, deeper, longer sleep (3).

 

Melatonin deficiency (and the need for better sleep) is becoming all too common: the use of melatonin supplements has grown over 500% over the last twenty years (4)!

 

But there’s something else that’s had an uptick over the years: obesity. With obesity affecting over 500 million adults worldwide, several individuals are wondering whether melatonin deficiency can cause weight gain (5). In this article, we’ll explore whether melatonin-related weight gain is possible, how it could happen, and how to prevent it.

Melatonin Side Effects: Weight Gain?

First things first: taking a melatonin supplement does not cause weight gain. In fact, taking melatonin has been associated with lower body weight (6).

 

What is a concern, however, is whether melatonin deficiency can cause weight gain. Research has indicated a correlation between low melatonin levels and weight gain. In a 2014 study, low levels of melatonin were associated with a higher appetite and an increase in weight. Interestingly, the participants were able to lose weight again when they began taking a melatonin supplement (7). Another study, conducted on lab rats, found that low levels of melatonin can interfere with your body’s fullness signals, increase your cravings, increase your weight, and prompt you to eat more (8).

 

Of course, preventing this problem begs the question of why you might have low melatonin levels in the first place. There are a whole host of possible culprits. Screen time late at night can throw off your circadian rhythm (9). Illnesses and conditions like dementia, mental health issues, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and more can decrease melatonin levels (10). On top of that, melatonin naturally decreases with age (11)! So you may owe your melatonin deficiency to the simple passage of time.

6 Simple Steps to Increase Your Melatonin Production

If your melatonin levels are low, there are six simple things you can do to keep your sleep quality up and your weight down.

Infographic listing 6 simple steps to increase your melatonin production.

1. Get Full-Body Sun Exposure

Portrait of smiling woman in the sunshine looking away at nature during sunset.

Did you know that exposure to bright sunlight in the morning (without sunglasses) activates your nocturnal melatonin production sooner, which helps you fall asleep more easily at night?

 

Spending time in the sun is one of the best ways to regulate your circadian rhythm, combat insomnia, ease PMS symptoms, and treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Strive for 30 minutes of sunshine first thing in the morning (without sunglasses). Then once noon hits, head back outside for an hour to soak up even more benefits (12, 13).

 

Here's what melatonin researcher, Russel J. Reiter of the University of Texas Health Science Center, has to say about melatonin...

"The light we get from being outside on a summer day can be a thousand times brighter than we’re ever likely to experience indoors. For this reason, it’s important that people who work indoors get outside periodically, and moreover that we all try to sleep in total darkness. This can have a major impact on melatonin rhythms and can result in improvements in mood, energy, and sleep quality.”

"The light we get from being outside on a summer day can be a thousand times brighter than we’re ever likely to experience indoors. For this reason, it’s important that people who work indoors get outside periodically, and moreover that we all try to sleep in total darkness. This can have a major impact on melatonin rhythms and can result in improvements in mood, energy, and sleep quality.”

2. Wear Blue Light-Blocking Glasses When the Sun Goes Down

Older woman with short gray hair sitting in bed with a tablet and blue light-blocking glasses on.

Blue light emitted from laptops, tablets, and other screens can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle and keep you up long after bedtime. This is because researchers believe it may suppress your body’s natural melatonin (14). To help prevent this, you can wear a pair of blue light-blocking glasses after sunset (we recommend these). These glasses have a special coating to allow you to enjoy your screen time without the melatonin dip.

3. If You Can, Limit Screen Time After 8:00 PM

Happy mother with her little daughter lying on bed and reading a book in the evening at home.

Blue light isn’t the only reason screen time can harm your sleep. Studies have found that more than two hours of screen time at night can interfere with your body’s natural evening melatonin boost. That means you might find yourself awake and wired way past your bedtime (15).

 

Try to switch this up by shutting off your tech devices after 8:00 PM. If you can’t cut things off right at 8:00, aim to at least power off your devices an hour before going to bed.

 

Here are a few other activities you can do instead: Read a book, knit, play a board game, do a Paint By Numbers, practice some gentle yoga or stretching, or have a meaningful conversation with loved ones.

4. Drink Collagen PM 30 Minutes Before Bedtime

Tea kettle pouring hot water into a clear mug with NativePath Collagen PM powder.

We crafted NativePath Collagen PM to provide a more well-rounded sleep aid than melatonin alone. This formula includes 5mg of melatonin alongside four other sleepytime ingredients: collagen, GABA, L-theanine, and magnesium.

 

Melatonin and magnesium are an especially effective combination. When taken together, they increase melatonin and decrease the stress hormone cortisol for extra relaxation (16).

 

Take Collagen PM 30 minutes before bed to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep.

5. Avoid Eating After 7:00 PM

Young woman in pajamas looking into the fridge deciding what to eat for a night snack.

Eating before bed is a hotly debated topic, and many researchers agree that curbing overeating before bed is helpful for managing weight and sleep hygiene. Unfortunately, low melatonin creates a negative cycle: when you’re tired, you’re more likely to overeat and gain weight (17).

 

One way to help combat this and get better sleep is to finish eating 3 to 4 hours before bed. For most people, this falls around 7:00 PM (18).

 

If you’re truly hungry, don’t feel like you have to deprive yourself! But it’s important to be aware of snacking or overeating late at night because, in addition to causing weight gain, it disrupts your sleep.

6. Go Through NativePath's 7-Day Sleep Course

Woman restfully sleeping in bed.

We created the NativePath 7-Day Sleep Course with the goal of helping you get the best sleep of your life. It’s the perfect thing to try when you’re experiencing melatonin deficiency! The course includes long-forgotten sleep secrets from our ancestors along with several tips to make sure you have an evening routine that sets you up for restorative rest (19, 20).

The Bottom Line

Melatonin deficiency can cause weight gain. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to boost your melatonin levels naturally. From getting sun exposure first thing in the morning to changing your evening eating habits to supplementing with Collagen PM 30 minutes before bed. You’ll be off to dreamland—and a weight you feel great about—in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any risks to taking melatonin?

Melatonin is considered to be safe for adults to use for the short-term or long-term (21).

That said, most healthcare professionals warn against teens or kids taking melatonin since there’s not enough research to establish safety (22). Melatonin does occasionally cause a few side effects, including nausea, dizziness, and headaches (23). It shouldn’t be taken with some medications, including blood thinners, antidepressants, and blood pressure medicine (24).

Are melatonin hangovers a thing?

Yes! And they’re exactly what they sound like—a groggy, depleted feeling in the morning after taking melatonin (25). But there’s a way to prevent melatonin hangovers. We explain it all in this article.

Should melatonin be used as a sleeping aid for elderly people?

Melatonin levels decrease with age, making melatonin supplements a great option for many elderly patients, especially those with insomnia (26, 27).

How many mg of melatonin is safe?

Experts usually suggest you aim to take the lowest effective dose. For most people, anywhere between 2mg and 10mg can be safe. When you’re first starting out, try not to take more than 5mg until your body adjusts to melatonin.

As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.

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Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.