Pandemics add stress, the world learned in 2020, and we collectively haven’t a good night’s sleep since.
Where to turn when you’re tossing and turning?
For an unprecedented number of people, the choice has been melatonin.
Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the body triggered by darkness that signals the circadian rhythm it’s time to sleep. It doesn’t cause sleep so much as prepare a body to enter a state of sleep, and supplements have become a popular remedy for jet lag and sleeplessness, especially during Covid.
Nielsen data shows that in 2020 consumers spent more than $825 million on melatonin supplements. That’s a 42.6% increase compared to consumption in 2019.
Dr. Hal Stewart, a sleep specialist in Flower Mound, Texas, says the best way to treat stress-induced insomnia is eat a well-balanced meal, get some regular exercise, avoid alcohol in the hours before sleep, avoid carb-heavy foods around bedtime, and turn off your screen. It’s what no one wants to hear, but the body is an amazing self-correcting system, he says, and you can throw your sleep cycle out of whack by introducing melatonin artificially. He also suggests using readily-available apps for meditation. Start with a minute and move up the duration incrementally.
A survey by Sleep Judge finds more than a quarter of the 1,000 individuals they surveyed report sleeping worse during the Covid pandemic.
It doesn’t help that schedule disruptions and lockdowns also mean more time spent in front of online blue lights and less time in sunlight.
Among those who say they are getting less sleep, their biggest complaint is a lack of focus at work. Actually, taking melatonin supplements, Dr. Stewart suggests, can make your brain even fuzzier.
photo: Getty Images