Are Your Melatonin Levels Affected by Your Genes?

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Are Your Melatonin Levels Affected by Your Genes?

Date of Content: January 8, 2024
Written by: Jess Gayo
Reviewed by: Shinedip Kaur, MS


What is Melatonin?

A microscopic compound, often referred to as the “sleep hormone,” weaves through your system, synchronizing the rhythm of your internal clock with the external world. But what exactly is melatonin, and how does it influence your sleep patterns?

Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, regulates the circadian rhythm—the body’s internal 24-hour clock. Its synthesis and release are intricately tied to the absence of light, with levels typically rising in the evening, peaking during the night, and diminishing as dawn approaches. Scientifically validated, melatonin governs the onset and duration of sleep, playing a crucial role in maintaining a balanced sleep-wake cycle.

Melatonin Levels

Where is Melatonin Found?

Melatonin, the chronobiological orchestrator of circadian rhythms, is primarily synthesized and secreted by the pineal gland, a pea-sized gland located deep within the brain. This endocrine organ often deemed the “third eye,” operates in response to environmental light cues. When ambient light diminishes, especially during the evening, the pineal gland activates the synthesis of melatonin from its precursor, serotonin.

While the pineal gland serves as the primary source, it’s worth noting that melatonin production isn’t confined to this singular location. Peripheral tissues, such as the retina, gastrointestinal tract, and skin, also exhibit the capability to produce melatonin, albeit in smaller quantities. Furthermore, recent research has unveiled the existence of melatonin receptors in various organs, underscoring its broader regulatory role beyond the sleep-wake cycle.

Crucially, the intricate relationship between melatonin and light exposure underscores its photosensitive nature. Artificial light, particularly the blue wavelengths prevalent in electronic devices, can suppress melatonin production, disrupting the delicate balance essential for circadian regulation. Understanding the multifaceted origins of melatonin sheds light on the complex interplay between environmental stimuli and the body’s innate timekeeping mechanisms.

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Does the Body Need Melatonin?

Yes, the body requires melatonin for various physiological functions, with its primary role centered around the regulation of circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin is crucial for maintaining the body’s internal clock, ensuring synchronization with the day-night cycle. The hormone is intricately linked to the natural sleep-wake transition, signaling the onset of sleep in response to diminishing light.

Beyond its role in sleep regulation, melatonin exhibits potent antioxidant properties. As a free radical scavenger, it helps mitigate oxidative stress, a process implicated in aging and various diseases. Scientific studies have demonstrated melatonin’s ability to protect cells and tissues from oxidative damage, highlighting its broader impact on overall health.

Moreover, melatonin influences the endocrine system, modulating the secretion of other hormones. It plays a regulatory role in reproductive processes, immune function, and the stress response. The hormone’s influence extends to cardiovascular health, with evidence suggesting its potential role in blood pressure regulation and cardiovascular protection.

What Can Affect Melatonin Levels?

Genetic Factors


Some people handle shift work better than others, and a study aimed to uncover the genetic factors linked to intolerance. Using data from shift workers, a genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified a significant association between job-related exhaustion and a variant near the melatonin receptor 1A gene (MTNR1A). This finding was replicated in additional studies, strengthening the link.

The identified risk allele was also associated with decreased gene expression of MTNR1A in the brain and showed potential connections to changes in DNA methylation. These results suggest that this variant near MTNR1A might be linked to job-related exhaustion in shift workers. Furthermore, it implies that the risk variant could affect melatonin signaling in the brain through epigenetic mechanisms.

In simpler terms, this study highlights a potential connection between a specific genetic variant near MTNR1A, job-related exhaustion in shift workers, and altered melatonin signaling in the brain. This insight could contribute to our understanding of how our genes influence our ability to tolerate shift work and the associated challenges with disrupted circadian rhythms.


One study found that carriers of the variant rs10830963G experienced a later offset of melatonin and a prolonged duration of elevated melatonin levels during the morning, indicating a potential association with T2D risk.

Additionally, the study revealed that the increased T2D risk in carriers of this variant was more prominent in individuals with early sleep timing compared to those with late sleep timing. The findings suggest that the genetic variant may extend the duration of melatonin production into the morning, and early waking may magnify the diabetes risk associated with this genotype.

The study’s depth and breadth of phenotypic data, including intensive laboratory studies and large cross-sectional analyses, provided valuable insights. However, the limited sample size and focus on young, healthy subjects may introduce biases, emphasizing the need for further research. 

Environmental Factors

The delicate balance of melatonin, the “sleep hormone,” is intricately tied to environmental cues. Various factors in our surroundings can significantly influence the production and release of melatonin, thereby impacting our circadian rhythms and overall well-being. Understanding these environmental factors is crucial for maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

  1. Light Exposure: The most potent factor influencing melatonin levels is light. Exposure to light, particularly in the blue spectrum, suppresses melatonin production. This phenomenon is critical for understanding the circadian rhythm, as melatonin typically rises in response to diminishing light, signaling the onset of the sleep phase. Artificial light sources, such as electronic devices, emit blue light and can disrupt the natural melatonin production, leading to sleep disturbances.
  2. Natural Sunlight: Exposure to natural sunlight during the day is vital for regulating melatonin levels. Sunlight, especially in the morning, helps synchronize the circadian rhythm, reinforcing the body’s internal clock. Lack of exposure to natural light, as seen in certain occupational settings or indoor lifestyles, can lead to melatonin imbalance and potentially contribute to sleep disorders.
  3. Darkness: Conversely, the absence of light, particularly during the evening and nighttime, triggers the release of melatonin. Creating a dark and conducive sleep environment is crucial for promoting optimal melatonin production. Light pollution, common in urban areas, can interfere with this process, potentially disrupting the sleep-wake cycle.
  4. Shift Work and Irregular Sleep Patterns: Individuals engaged in shift work or those with irregular sleep patterns may experience disruptions in melatonin secretion. The inconsistency in sleep-wake cycles can lead to a misalignment of the internal clock, impacting melatonin release. This, in turn, contributes to sleep disturbances, decreased alertness, and potential long-term health consequences.
  5. Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs): Emerging research suggests that electronic device exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) may affect melatonin production. While the exact mechanisms are still under investigation, some studies indicate that prolonged exposure to EMFs, especially during the night, might interfere with the synthesis of melatonin, potentially disrupting the circadian rhythm.
  6. Temperature: Environmental temperature can also influence melatonin levels. Cooler temperatures tend to enhance melatonin secretion, while warmer conditions may suppress it. Maintaining a comfortable sleeping environment with appropriate temperature control contributes to the optimal release of melatonin during the sleep phase.

Understanding these environmental factors and their impact on melatonin levels is crucial for individuals aiming to enhance sleep quality and overall well-being. Implementing lifestyle changes that prioritize exposure to natural light, minimize artificial light at night, and promote regular sleep patterns can contribute to a more harmonious melatonin balance and a healthier circadian rhythm.

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Are Melatonin Supplements Habit-Forming?

Melatonin supplements are not habit-forming in the traditional sense. Extensive scientific research has consistently shown that melatonin supplementation, when used appropriately, does not lead to dependence or addiction. 

Unlike some pharmaceutical sleep aids, melatonin does not induce a state of physiological reliance, and individuals do not develop a tolerance to its effects over time. Numerous clinical studies support the short-term use of melatonin to address sleep disorders, shift work-related sleep disturbances, and jet lag.

However, it’s crucial to adhere to recommended dosages and use melatonin as directed, as excessive or inappropriate supplementation may disrupt the body’s natural melatonin production, potentially impacting its efficacy. 

As with any dietary supplement, consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable to ensure proper usage and address individual health considerations. Overall, the scientific consensus affirms that melatonin, when used responsibly, is not associated with habituation or dependency.

Does Melatonin Supplement Have Side Effects?

Melatonin supplementation, while generally well-tolerated, may exhibit certain side effects, and understanding these considerations is crucial for informed use. Scientific studies and clinical trials have reported the following potential side effects:

  • Daytime Drowsiness: Excessive melatonin intake may lead to daytime drowsiness or fatigue. Dosing should be carefully calibrated to individual needs to avoid residual sedation.
  • Headaches: Some individuals may experience headaches due to melatonin supplementation. Monitoring dosage and considering individual sensitivities is important in mitigating this potential adverse effect.
  • Nausea and Dizziness: Infrequently, users may report mild gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or dizziness. Adjusting the dosage or timing of melatonin intake may help alleviate these effects.
  • Mood Changes: Melatonin’s influence on mood can vary among individuals, with some reporting changes in mood or depressive symptoms. Monitoring for such effects and consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable.
  • Interactions with Medications: Melatonin may interact with certain medications, affecting their efficacy or increasing the risk of side effects. Individuals on medications should consult with their healthcare provider before initiating melatonin supplementation.
  • Hormonal Effects: Melatonin plays a role in reproductive hormones, and high doses may influence hormonal balance. While this is generally not a concern with standard dosages, individuals with hormone-sensitive conditions should exercise caution.

It’s crucial to emphasize that melatonin is considered safe for short-term use, and many users experience minimal or no side effects. However, long-term effects and optimal dosages are areas of ongoing research. Individuals considering melatonin supplementation, particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions or taking medications, should consult with a healthcare professional to ensure personalized and safe usage.

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What is the Suggested Daily Intake of Melatonin?

The suggested daily intake of melatonin varies based on individual factors such as age, health status, and the specific purpose of supplementation. Scientifically established guidelines recommend starting with lower doses to mitigate potential side effects and gauge individual responsiveness.

For adults dealing with sleep disorders or jet lag, typical initial doses range from 0.5 to 5 milligrams taken 30 minutes before bedtime. Studies have shown that doses within this range are effective in promoting sleep onset and improving overall sleep quality.

It’s noteworthy that higher doses do not necessarily equate to better results, and the principle of “less is more” often applies to melatonin supplementation. Excessive amounts may lead to side effects such as drowsiness, headaches, or disrupted circadian rhythms.

For certain populations, such as older adults, lower doses may be more appropriate. Additionally, children and adolescents should generally use lower doses under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

As with any supplement, individual responses can vary, and individuals should consult with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate melatonin dosage based on their specific circumstances and health profile. Regular reassessment of the need for melatonin supplementation is recommended to ensure ongoing appropriateness.

Benefits of Melatonin

Melatonin, often referred to as the “sleep hormone,” plays a multifaceted role in the body, extending beyond its well-known function in regulating sleep-wake cycles. The benefits of melatonin are rooted in its influence on various physiological processes:

Sleep Regulation

Melatonin is primarily recognized for its pivotal role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Research indicates that melatonin supplementation can be effective in reducing the time it takes to fall asleep, improving sleep duration, and enhancing overall sleep quality, particularly for individuals with insomnia or sleep disorders.

Jet Lag and Shift Work

Melatonin is widely studied for its efficacy in alleviating the symptoms of jet lag and sleep disturbances associated with shift work. Taking melatonin supplements at specific times can help synchronize the body’s internal clock with the new time zone or work schedule, minimizing the disruption to circadian rhythms.

Antioxidant Properties

Melatonin is a potent antioxidant, capable of scavenging free radicals and mitigating oxidative stress. This property has implications for overall health and may contribute to the protection of cells and tissues from damage associated with aging, inflammation, and various diseases.

Immune System Modulation

Scientific studies suggest that melatonin plays a role in modulating the immune system. It can enhance the activity of certain immune cells and exert anti-inflammatory effects, potentially contributing to a robust immune response and improved defense against infections.

Neuroprotective Effects

Melatonin exhibits neuroprotective properties, influencing brain health and function. Research suggests that melatonin may help protect against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain.

Cardiovascular Health

Studies have explored the cardiovascular benefits of melatonin, including its potential role in blood pressure regulation and protection against cardiovascular diseases. Melatonin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions may contribute to vascular health and the prevention of certain cardiovascular conditions.

Mood and Mental Health

Melatonin receptors are present in areas of the brain associated with mood regulation. While the relationship is complex and requires further investigation, some studies suggest that melatonin may influence mood and mental health, potentially offering benefits for individuals dealing with conditions like depression or anxiety.

Cancer Prevention and Treatment Support

Emerging research indicates that melatonin may have the potential for cancer prevention and treatment support. Melatonin’s antioxidant properties, along with its ability to regulate circadian rhythms, may play a role in inhibiting the growth of certain cancer cells and enhancing the efficacy of cancer treatments.

While the benefits of melatonin are extensive and supported by scientific evidence, it’s essential to use melatonin supplements judiciously and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Individual responses may vary, and proper dosage and timing are crucial to maximizing the positive effects of melatonin while minimizing potential side effects.

LifeDNA’s Melatonin Levels Report

Unlock the secrets of your wellness with LifeDNA’s Melatonin Levels Report. Discover a personalized approach to your sleep and overall health by delving into the intricacies of your unique genetic profile. Our scientifically-backed and comprehensive Vitamins and Supplements Report empowers you to understand what your body truly needs.

At LifeDNA, we recognize that well-being is not one-size-fits-all. Our Melatonin Levels Report provides you with invaluable insights, guiding you toward a better understanding of how your genes influence your sleep patterns. Take control of your health journey by exploring our other reports like the Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin C Levels Reports.

Why settle for generic solutions when you can tailor your wellness routine to your genetic blueprint? LifeDNA offers a range of reports under categories like Wellness, Nutrition, Fitness, Sleep, Personality, and Cognition. With almost 200 trait reports available, our platform equips you with the knowledge to make informed decisions about your health.

Embark on your wellness journey today! Subscribe to LifeDNA and gain access to a wealth of personalized insights that will transform the way you approach your health and lifestyle. Your genetic data holds the key to unlocking a healthier, more vibrant you. Seize the opportunity to live your best life — start your LifeDNA subscription now.


  • Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland that regulates the circadian rhythm, influencing sleep patterns. Its production is tied to light exposure, rising in the evening, peaking at night, and diminishing with dawn.
  • Recent research reveals melatonin receptors in various organs, broadening its regulatory role. Artificial light, especially blue light from electronic devices, can suppress melatonin production.
  • Essential for regulating circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles, melatonin also acts as an antioxidant, protecting against oxidative stress. It also modulates the endocrine system, influencing reproductive processes, immune function, and stress response.
  • Melatonin is not habit-forming or addictive. Short-term use for sleep disorders, shift work, and jet lag is supported by scientific studies.
  • Proper dosage and usage adherence are crucial to avoid disrupting natural melatonin production. Melatonin is generally well-tolerated in the short term, but long-term effects are still under research.
  • Possible side effects include daytime drowsiness, headaches, nausea, dizziness, mood changes, and interactions with medications.
  • Some benefits of melatonin include regulating your sleep-wake cycle, effective for insomnia and sleep disorders. It can also alleviate jet lag and shift work-related sleep disturbances.
  • Proper usage under healthcare guidance for this hormone is crucial for maximizing benefits while minimizing risks.



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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

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