Many people find it hard to get a good night’s sleep, and this can have serious health implications. When you don’t sleep well, your stress levels increase and so does your risk of developing other chronic conditions, like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
You’re not alone if you’re struggling to sleep. The Sleep Foundation reports 35.2 percent sleep less than seven hours every night; close to half of American adults say they feel sleepy in the daytime three and seven days per week, and of the working adults surveyed, more than 36 percent say they get six or fewer hours every night.
For some people, the solution could be as simple as replacing an old bed with a mattress designed for a specific issue (e.g., bad back, excessive sweatiness). For others, however, sleep aids can be much smaller than a queen-sized or king-sized bed.
Can a solution to better sleep come in the form of a melatonin diffuser?
What’s a Melatonin Diffuser?
A melatonin diffuser is a device that emits light to help you fall asleep faster. Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone in the body with a sleep-wake cycle connection.
When the sun sets, your body produces more melatonin and less of it when the sun rises. This process if called the circadian rhythm, which can be disrupted when you can’t deal with stress, when traveling too much affects your sleep patterns or when shift work doesn’t agree with you.
So the whole concept behind melatonin diffusers is to introduce more of the hormone to your body through inhalation. Some people use it as an alternative treatment for insomnia because it supposedly helps regulate sleep cycles and improves quality of sleep. It’s designed to help you sleep faster, stay asleep longer and wake up feeling refreshed in the morning.
One of the more recognizable brands is the Cloudy melatonin diffuser. Its products contain essential oils meant for easing anxiety and stress, like lavender, along with melatonin. Another brand is InhaleHealth, which is the first melatonin diffuser in the market in 2016.
Unlike a rather bulky diffuser, melatonin sleep solutions look like vape pens, making them an attractive option. But much like e-cigarettes, melatonin diffusers are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Does a Melatonin Diffuser Work?
Limited studies on any new consumer product should be taken with caution, and this includes melatonin diffusers. Although diffusers like Cloudy melatonin and InhaleHealth combine essential oils (i.e., natural ingredients) in their formulations, manufactured melatonin is still deemed as a chemical compound. Some doctors are uncertain about vaping as an efficient delivery system as well.
But brands behind the sleep aid tout its benefits, including:
- improved regulation of sleep cycles
- ability to use daily to fall asleep faster
- stay asleep longer
- wake up feeling refreshed
- improves the quality of sleep and overall well-being (increased energy, etc.)
- raises serotonin levels in the brain to help reduce symptoms associated with depression and seasonal affective disorder.
- helps those suffering from insomnia due to circadian rhythm disorders or disrupted light cycles because of traveling across time zones. The sunlight emitted by a melatonin diffuser mimics natural daylight that is beneficial for regulating your biological clock.
- helps people regulate their internal body clocks when they experience jet lag after long flights. It also has positive effects on sleeping during transmeridian travel, which can be helpful for military personnel serving overseas who often work different hours than home base.
- helps people suffering from Delayed Phase Sleep Disorder fall asleep earlier by regulating their internal body clocks better, so they aren’t compelled to go back to bed after waking up in the morning.
Other purported benefits include: boosting mood, reducing pain, improving memory retention and decreasing anxiety levels.
You could use a melatonin diffuser to mimic natural sunlight during daytime hours and sleep at night, allowing you to stay awake when others are sleeping.
What are Melatonin Diffuser Side Effects?
Despite all its positive effects, you must consider certain risks when using a melatonin diffuser before using one.
Some people may feel drowsy or experience headaches after long-term usage, which could lead to serious issues if continued over time. Other users may notice no side effects, but should still be cautious when using a melatonin pen or vape around children and pets. Kids and pets are more sensitive than adults and can suffer from headaches at lower amounts of exposure.
Potential side effects include headache, fatigue, dizziness and irritability. The side effects are usually mild and go away within a few days of discontinuing melatonin diffuser, pen or vape use.
The light melatonin diffusers emit can also interfere with your body’s natural production of melatonin, especially if you use it close to bedtime. The product may end up disrupting your sleep patterns, potentially causing insomnia in the long run.
Is Inhaling Melatonin Safe?
Safety precautions and considerations come with any product used in treating insomnia.
- Do NOT use this device regularly Use only once in a while, especially if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, sleep apnea or any other serious diseases affecting your health (you should consult your doctor first before using).
- Also avoid overusing Too much melatonin will decrease effectiveness overtime by desensitizing receptors which regulates hormones like serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain.
- Use the lowest setting Do this when it’s first used because high light intensity can cause headaches if you’re sensitive to melatonin diffusers. If this happens, decrease the amount of time exposed until your body doesn’t react as strongly anymore. It may take a few days for some people, but others are more immediately affected – just pay attention and don’t force yourself to keep using it until you get used to how much is too much.
- When starting out, exposing only 15 minutes at night It should be sufficient enough while increasing exposure times by 15-minute intervals each day (upwards) – do NOT increase settings or expose longer than recommended amounts unless instructed via an accredited physician who knows what they’re doing with regards to human physiology and biochemistry in general.
- Melatonin diffusers are not a cure all for sleep disorders You should use if ONLY as an adjunct to other treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or medications prescribed by your doctor – who will best be able to help you with your specific disorder.
A melatonin diffuser is still a new product that has yet to go through further studies to determine its efficiency and impact on health. The same caution applies for products containing natural ingredients.
So before you grab a diffuser pen, try other natural approaches to getting a good night’s rest.
Other Ways to Help You Sleep
Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Night
This one is a no-brainer. If you go to bed and wake up at different times, it throws your body off cycle, which can lead to insomnia. If you’re finding it difficult, take small steps over time such as going to bed 15 minutes earlier than the day before until your body gets accustomed.
Keep Your Electronics Outside of Bed
It’s hard enough falling asleep with all those thoughts running through your head, but when you’re also being bombarded by bright screens and notifications, it’s nearly impossible. Reserve the bed for sleep and sex only, that means no working, watching TV or eating in bed.
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol Before Bed
Both of these substances can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
Sleep in Complete Darkness
Light exposure inhibits melatonin production, which can negatively affect sleep quality. Make sure to close the curtains, turn off the lights and keep electronics on silent.
Get Up and Move Every Day
Exercise releases endorphins, which can help you relax and promote better sleep at night.
Avoid Napping in the Evening
If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, avoid taking naps in the evening as they will only make it harder to fall asleep later on.
Some Light Meditation
Light meditation can be a relaxing way to reduce stress and help improve your mood. Try using an app like Headspace for some guided meditations every day.
Avoid Alcohol Before Bedtime
Although alcohol may make you sleepy, it also disrupts your sleep pattern, which means that even if you fall asleep quickly, the quality of sleep will not be as good.
Eat a Balanced Diet
A healthy diet is key for overall health and wellness, including sleep quality. Make sure you’re eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and avoiding processed foods high in sugar and sodium.