An Integrative MD Explains The Sneaky Link Between Melatonin & Metabolism

mbg Associate Editor By Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Associate Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and health. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
An Integrative MD Explains The Sneaky Link Between Melatonin & Weight Gain

Melatonin is one cool hormone. Not only does it send sleepytime signals to your body, but it also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit mitochondrial health and even skin care. Not to mention, melatonin has legs in fertility: "One of the richest sites of melatonin in the body is the ovaries," midwife and integrative medicine doctor Aviva Romm, M.D., says on the mindbodygreen podcast. "And fertility actually depends on healthy melatonin levels in the brain and in the ovaries." We repeat: Melatonin is a pretty cool hormone to have around. 

But when it comes to taking melatonin supplements, some concerns do arise: There's the dosage point—where experts pose that taking many milligrams over time may affect your other hormones—and there's a much sneakier hitch Romm says is important to keep in mind. 

Apparently, melatonin may affect weight gain—well, depending on what time you take it.

The link between melatonin and weight gain. 

When melatonin gets released at night, the hormone sends signals to your body that it's time to start winding down. As a result, your body goes into "rest mode," with a focus on repair and restoration—and daytime functions like digestion is slower. (That's why experts say to avoid eating late at night if you can, as your metabolism naturally slows.) 

When you take melatonin, you kick-start this rest-and-recover process. So if you take the sleep aid, say, right after eating, you could impinge on your digestion without even knowing it. "If you eat your dinner late, let's say 7:30 p.m., and then you take your melatonin at 8 p.m., you may be quieting your metabolism a little bit," says Romm. "You may not get as much digestive fire, and it may actually affect weight gain." 

Of course, there's an easy fix to her theory: Just space out the time between eating and taking your melatonin! "If that means you need to bump your dinner a little earlier or take your melatonin a little later, that seems to be the antidote," Romm adds. 

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And if you're looking for a sleep supplement that doesn't include melatonin, you can always try other well-rounded formulas, like mindbodygreen's sleep support+. It contains magnesium bisglycinate (a highly absorbable form of magnesium that promotes a steady state of relaxation), as well as calming nutrients like pharmaGABA and jujube to enhance sleep quality and support a healthy circadian rhythm.* 

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The takeaway. 

It's not that melatonin itself causes weight gain—again, the hormone is a well-being multi-hyphenate with a lion's share of benefits. But according to Romm, if you do take a melatonin-containing supplement to support your sleep rhythm, you might not want to take it right after eating; once your body enters rest-and-recovery mode, functions like digestion are put on the back-burner. And it's best to have some space between dinner and sleep anyway.

Everyone is unique, but for most individuals, taking any sleep supplement (melatonin or not) 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime is generally the most supportive time period for helping them fall asleep and stay asleep at night.*

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