Melatonin for Athletes | Full Guide

This article will provide a full guide to melatonin supplementation for athletes. We will discuss what melatonin is, the benefits of melatonin for athletes, possible side effects of melatonin, and a question that I’m excited to dive into: Can you build a tolerance to melatonin?

Some personal background on my use of melatonin. I often find it quite difficult to fall asleep and lie in bed for over an hour before falling asleep several times a week. Obviously, this isn’t ideal, and as result, I’ve experimented with melatonin quite a bit and noticed I fall asleep drastically quicker and wake up feeling better in the morning.

But I have some serious questions about possible side effects and where or not you build a tolerance to supplemented melatonin and I’m hoping to answer these questions today.

What is Melatonin?

If you want to get fancy with it, “[m]elatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland and is involved in the regulation of the human sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythm” (1).

All that means is melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that your body produces in response to darkness. It helps regulate your body’s natural sleep cycle and helps you fall asleep.

Future Athlete Falling Asleep From Melatonin

While your body does naturally produce it, over-the-counter melatonin supplements that you find at your local pharmacy are often made synthetically.

Benefits of Melatonin For Athletes

According to a study from 2016 melatonin “has been shown to synchronize the circadian rhythms, and improve the onset, duration and quality of sleep” (1).

Sleep plays a critical role in the recovery of an athlete and any opportunity to fall asleep quicker, for longer, and with better quality will have an immediate positive effect on athletic performance.

A lack of melatonin production has also been linked to those who suffer from insomnia and melatonin supplementation has been proven to increase sleep quality for those with insomnia (1).

In addition, a dose of 5mg of melatonin has been demonstrated to be consistently effective at reducing the effects of jet-lag on long-distance trips (2). This would be incredibly useful for athletes who are constantly travelling and want to ensure they get a good sleep the night before competition.

Benefits of Melatonin
  • Improved ability to fall asleep quickly
  • Improved sleep duration
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Treatment of insomnia
  • Reduction of the effects of jet-lag

Side Effects of Melatonin

Despite the widespread availability of melatonin, the supplement is relatively understudied. As a result, It has only been theorized that melatonin could potentially increase an individual’s predisposition to disease especially if they have a history of medical disorders (3).

I am definitely not a medical professional and you should consult your doctor before beginning any supplementation especially if you have a history of health conditions.

Mild effects of “dizziness, headache, nausea and sleepiness” (4) have been reported but there has never been a demonstrated serious adverse effect from the supplementation of melatonin.

Potential Side Effects
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness (upon waking up)

Can You Build a Tolerance to Melatonin?

This is the question that I was really interested in as it would determine whether consistent use would be helpful or harmful.

A study from 2020 determined that daily use of melatonin (1mg, 2mg, or 4mg per day) over a period of 26 weeks prior to sleep resulted in consistently quicker times to fall asleep and increased perceived quality of sleep (5).

A year-long study from 2018 determined that daily use of melatonin (2mg, 5mg, or 10mg per day) resulted in an average of 62.08 minutes increase in sleep duration, an average of falling asleep 48.6 minutes faster, a 50% decrease in nightly sleep disturbances, and better-perceived sleep quality (6).

2018 Study: 2mg, 5mg, or 10mg daily for a year
  • 62.08 minutes increase in sleep duration
  • 48.6 minutes quicker to fall asleep
  • 50% decrease in nightly sleep disturbances
  • Better perceived sleep quality

Of note, both of those studies were conducted by pharmaceutical companies over the course of developing a sleep-aide melatonin product.

In addition, a six-month study from 2010 with 555 participants determined that sleep length and sleep quality were consistently improved with 2mg melatonin. Importantly, they also noted that,

“Improvements were maintained or enhanced over the 6-month period with no signs of tolerance. No withdrawal symptoms or rebound insomnia were detected. Most adverse events were mild with no significant differences between PRM and placebo groups in any safety outcome” (7).

There is evidence across studies that melatonin remains effective during long-term use and no tolerance is developed. If you decide to use melatonin long-term I would recommend monitoring your sleep quality as time goes on and taking a break every once in a while to see how you react.

Melatonin Supplements for Athletes

Here at Sled Dog Development, we are committed to only providing recommendations for the products that we use (as drug-tested athletes ourselves). Athletes are responsible for anything that goes into their bodies and as a result, we are only confident that the products we recommend are banned substance-free if they carry an NSF Certification. Melatonin is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Prohibited List and has never been, but supplements always present the risk of being contaminated with a banned substance during the manufacturing process unless they are NSF Certified.

However, like the majority of amateur athletes, I’m broke... and the NSF Certified melatonin products are outside my price range. That’s why I’m going to break my recommendations into two categories, NSF Certified, and what I use myself.

NSF Certified

The best NSF Certified pill form of melatonin that I could find was Elite Sleep by Momentous. It provides 60 servings of 3mg melatonin alongside 500mg “Magtein” and 365mg wild jujube seed extract at $65.

I don’t know what “Magtein” or wild jujube seed extract are supposed to do or whether they are effective. I just wanted to provide you with an NSF Certified pill delivery of melatonin.

Further clarification, none of us here at Sled Dog Development have used this product.

Momentous Melatonin Supplement

Elite Sleep by Momentous

An alternative NSF Certified Product is Sleeping Giant by Cytosport. It provides 18 servings of 4mg melatonin, 30 grams casein protein, 220mg tart cherry powder, and 1100mg of tryptophan in a flavoured powder.

Coach Ozzy’s Tidbit

Consuming protein and amino acids before you sleep is especially beneficial for muscle growth as your body is in a relaxed state and places high emphasis on protein synthesis.

Do some research about whether tart cherry powder or tryptophan are of interest to you.

Further clarification, none of us here at Sled Dog Development have used this product.

Cytosport Melatonin

Sleeping Giant (Hot Chocolate) by Cytosport

What I Use Myself

I use Webber Naturals 5mg Melatonin supplement with no additional ingredients. Why? In Canada, it is only around $10 for 144 servings. It is significantly cheaper than the other available melatonin supplements.

But it is not NSF Certified. I cannot guarantee that it is banned-substance-free. I view it as a low-risk supplement but there’s always that chance. And when the punishment for having a banned substance in your body is an 18-24 months suspension that risk should be carefully considered.

Further clarification, while I use it, this product is NOT NSF Certified.

Webber Supplement

Melatonin by Webber Naturals

Conclusion

After doing all this research I am more confident in the benefits of melatonin and will actually start experimenting with using it long-term.

I plan on using 5mg melatonin daily for the next 4 weeks. I’ll report back to you either in an update to this post or a separate article. If you want to stay updated on my experiment sign up for our email list below.

I know this article has been full of disclaimers but because your personal health is a serious matter and highly individualized I will emphasize one more time. I am not a medical professional, consult with your doctor before using any supplement especially if you have a history of medical conditions.

Thanks for reading!

References

  1. Zizhen Xie, Fei Chen, William A. Li, Xiaokun Geng, Changhong Li, Xiaomei Meng, Yan Feng, Wei Liu & Fengchun Yu (2017) A review of sleep disorders and melatonin, Neurological Research, 39:6, 559-565, DOI: 10.1080/01616412.2017.1315864 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28460563/
  2. Herxheimer A, Petrie KJ. Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of jet lag. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(2):CD001520. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001520. PMID: 12076414. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12076414/
  3. Claustrat B, Leston J. Melatonin: Physiological effects in humans. Neurochirurgie. 2015 Apr-Jun;61(2-3):77-84. doi: 10.1016/j.neuchi.2015.03.002. Epub 2015 Apr 20. PMID: 25908646. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25908646/
  4. Andersen LP, Gögenur I, Rosenberg J, Reiter RJ. The Safety of Melatonin in Humans. Clin Drug Investig. 2016 Mar;36(3):169-75. doi: 10.1007/s40261-015-0368-5. PMID: 26692007. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26692007/
  5. Yuge K, Nagamitsu S, Ishikawa Y, Hamada I, Takahashi H, Sugioka H, Yotsuya O, Mishima K, Hayashi M, Yamashita Y. Long-term melatonin treatment for the sleep problems and aberrant behaviors of children with neurodevelopmental disorders. BMC Psychiatry. 2020 Sep 10;20(1):445. doi: 10.1186/s12888-020-02847-y. PMID: 32912180; PMCID: PMC7488027. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32912180/
  6. Maras A, Schroder CM, Malow BA, Findling RL, Breddy J, Nir T, Shahmoon S, Zisapel N, Gringras P. Long-Term Efficacy and Safety of Pediatric Prolonged-Release Melatonin for Insomnia in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2018 Dec;28(10):699-710. doi: 10.1089/cap.2018.0020. Epub 2018 Oct 11. PMID: 30132686; PMCID: PMC6306655. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30132686/
  7. Wade AG, Crawford G, Ford I, McConnachie A, Nir T, Laudon M, Zisapel N. Prolonged release melatonin in the treatment of primary insomnia: evaluation of the age cut-off for short- and long-term response. Curr Med Res Opin. 2011 Jan;27(1):87-98. doi: 10.1185/03007995.2010.537317. Epub 2010 Nov 24. PMID: 21091391. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21091391/

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