I’ve been taking melatonin for years. I have a pretty bad anxiety disorder, and most of it happens at night time, so melatonin has come in pretty clutch in helping me prevent those late night panic attacks. But like most people, I have associated melatonin with sleep and only sleep, so I was a little surprised when I discovered that right now doctors are looking into a connection between melatonin and how it might help your body fight COVID-19.
In fact, there are several studies going on right now, and they all began when Feixiong Cheng, a data analyst at the Cleveland Clinic, began using artificial intelligence back in January of 2020 to see if he could figure out a way to fight the virus. One thing stood out in trials: melatonin. This is all according to a recent article exploring the use of melatonin on COVID-19 in The Atlantic. What Cheng began to discover is that, yes, melatonin helps people sleep; it’s actually a chemical that your body naturally produces due to sun exposure, and then gets released at nighttime. However, what is less commonly known is that melatonin also helps calibrate your immune system. As explained in The Atlantic: “Essentially, it acts as a moderator to help keep our self-protective responses from going haywire—which happens to be the basic problem that can quickly turn a mild case of COVID-19 into a life-threatening scenario.”
Naturally, science is doing what science does, and there have been more studies looking at how melatonin can help the body fight COVID-19. In October, researchers at Columbia University performed a study on COVID-19 patients that had been intubated, and found that those who were given melatonin had a better chance of survival. According to the above-mentioned Atlantic article, when former president Donald Trump was treated for COVID-19 by a number of the best doctors in the U.S., along with the massive cocktail of proven and experimental drugs, he was also given — you guessed it — melatonin.
As I write this sentence, there are eight clinical trials going on around the world to further flesh out the connection between melatonin and COVID-19 recovery and prevention. And to be honest, in the grand scheme of medical treatments, particularly in the U.S., the cost of melatonin is pretty cheap. You can get a bottle for between five and fifteen bucks online, without a prescription. My wife just spent three weeks in the hospital for septic shock; the bills are coming in now, and it’s really shameful what a stay in the hospital cost. Spending the cost of a family meal at Taco Bell for a supplement that might prevent COVID from going off the rails and sending you to the hospital seems pretty reasonable.
The inexpensive, widely-available nature of melatonin may also be a boon for underserved populations which get hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19: namely Black, Latinx and the elderly. Margarita Dubocovich, PhD, who leads one of the melatonin trials at UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said in the school’s newsletter, “The value of a low-cost, widely available and effective treatment that could attenuate the detrimental effects of COVID-19 — especially in underserved populations — cannot be overstated.”
In the medical journal Diseases, a research team from the University of Toronto called melatonin a “potential silver bullet” for treatment of COVID-19, citing its multiple uses: from anti-inflammatory benefits, to combating conditions that aggravate COVID symptoms, to protection against neurological damage. The researchers even suggested that melatonin could be an adjuvant — or a substance that enhances the body’s immune response – which may boost the effectiveness of COVID vaccines.
However, it should be noted that many researchers looking into the correlation between COVID-19 and melatonin are, right now, faced with a bit of a “chicken or the egg” situation. Going back to The Atlantic, what scientists are grappling with is trying to decide if the issue isn’t the need for supplemental melatonin, but rather getting our bodies to produce more melatonin naturally. And the way we are living at the moment, on lock down, indoors all the time, is not a good way to get your body to naturally produce melatonin.
According to Asim Shah, a psychiatry and behavioral-sciences professor at Baylor College of Medicine, “The general recommendation is that getting your body’s melatonin cycles to work regularly is preferable to simply taking a supplement and continuing to binge Netflix and stare at your phone in bed. Now that so many people’s days lack structure… the key to healthy pandemic sleep is to deliberately build routines. On weekends, wake up and go to bed at the same time as you do other days. Take scheduled walks. Get sunlight early in the day. Reduce blue light for an hour before bed. Stay connected with other people in meaningful ways, despite being physically distant.”
So my dear readers, here are the facts: The connection between melatonin and preventing COVID-19 from turning a dark corner and sending people into the hospital is still being studied, but it looks promising. Above all, one of the best things you can do to naturally raise the melatonin levels in your body is to try and get more natural light, and keep to a regular sleep schedule.
This is doable. And if it isn’t… well… supplemental melatonin is cheap and there is some proof that it’s safe, so talk to your doctor if you’re interested in using it as a tool to get better sleep.
Note: This is not medical advice. If you think you have COVID-19, talk to your doctor. Also, make sure to consult your doctor before taking melatonin to be sure it’s the right choice for you.
Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.
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