• Micah Kidd

Melatonin 101

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

We all know how very difficult it is to get a restful nights while working with kids in China. One suggestion I see often in various groups is to use melatonin. It sounds great, a pill you can take that helps you sleep. Let's look a little deeper into what this pill actually is. Is it safe for us and should we take it.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It's man function is to help regulate sleep/wake cycle and is secreted in a diurnal pattern. In general, when it is dark out side melatonin is switched on and when it is daytime, melatonin turns off.

Do your research and talk to a physician

This information is only for informational purposes, I am not a doctor, I am a researcher. My advice would be for people to do their own research and talk to their physician first before taking melatonin on a regular basis. There are side effects and risks that we will discuss.

Respect melatonin as a hormone

It isn't a form of medication, it is not a supplement and it is not a vitamin. It is a synthetic hormone in a pill form. This is an important thing to consider, I mean just think about hormones in general. We typically don't do hormone therapy without the aid of a physician. The reason why melatonin is so lightly controlled is because it is found naturally in many of the foods we eat and is considered safe. This does not mean we should be popping melatonin like tic tacs. The truth is we really don't know the long term effects of taking high doses of melatonin for a prolong period of time. It appears to be safe.


  • It's not tightly regulated so quality varies.

  • There are some side effects: Nausea, dizziness and headaches, and vivid dreams/nightmares as well as others.

  • Taking it at the wrong time could result in adjusting your clock in the wrong direction.

  • Many unknowns: doing and long term efficacy are fuzzy areas.

  • Not approved by the FDA for medical purposes


  • Shown to be effective in testing delayed sleep syndrome.

  • It has anti-oxidation properties (this is important)

  • May help get to sleep more quickly during the day for night shift workers.

How to use

  • .3-1 mg show to be effective, though dosage seems to range from .3-10 mg

  • Take 2-3 hours before you want to be asleep.

  • over a long period tolerance may change

  • Make sure you do everything else to protect sleep i.e. light, noise, screen time and limiting caffeine.

Should you take melatonin?

This comes down to a personal choice. My suggestion would be to seek the advice of your physician, get a sleep test done and improve your sleep environment first. Everyone likes the idea of a magic little pill and many say it works, but don’t underestimate the placebo effect, it’s real and reliable.

Nutritional support as an alternative.

A different approach, instead of taking these over the counter hormones, would be to eat whole foods that promote the production and releases of melatonin as well as our sleep of course.

Here are a few foods high in melatonin not all inclusive by any means.

  • Cherries

  • Goji Berries

  • Bananas

  • Walnuts

  • Almonds

  • pineapple

  • Oranges

Foods that contain the precursor L-Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid that when ingested gets turned into the neurotransmitter serotonin and then converted into the hormone melatonin. Do not take Tryptophan supplements.

Again, just a few examples.

  • Soy nuts

  • Cottage Cheese

  • Pumpkin seed

  • Yogurt

  • Fish / poultry

  • yogurt (watch the sugar though)

There it is. This Article gave me fits for some reason. I hope this may help some people get a restful nights sleep. Make sure to do everything else you can to protect sleep.

Recipe: Overnight Oats topped with Cherry Purée

What makes this so awesome?

  • They can be made the night before so make for a great breakfast option after a long night of teaching.

  • Cherries contain melatonin!

  • Both cherries and oats contain l-tryptophan, which help the body to produce melatonin.

  • Cinnamon aids the efficiency of insulin, which assists in the regulation of blood sugar levels. If our blood sugar drops too low when we are sleeping, it can trigger the release of stress hormones that help raise blood sugar back to a safe level. This is a good thing for our survival, this same stress response can be enough to wake us up.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 cup of tart cherries (frozen is OK)

  • 1 cup of rolled oats

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds

  • 2 cups of almond milk

  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste(substitute pure vanilla extract)

  • 2 medjool dates


  1. Combine oats, chia, almond milk, vanilla bean and cinnamon & leave it to soak for 15 minutes, and then stir.

  2. Divide into containers. Refrigerate overnight while you teach.

  3. Once you are ready to eat, place cherries and dates (pitted) into a blender, and blend until smooth. Remove oats from the fridge and top with cherry puree.


The information on this website is for general information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease.

The sole purpose of this site is to serve as a resource of online ESL teachers. To educate and promote safe occupational health measures that to enhance the teaching experience.