Blood pressure control is something everyone needs to be concerned about. High blood pressure is a silent killer that can damage most organs in the human body, including blood vessels, without causing obvious symptoms.
For example, high blood pressure increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and also damages the kidneys and the retina, the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eyes that allow us to see. Plus, the likelihood of being diagnosed with hypertension goes up with age, although it’s occurring at younger ages, as early as childhood, due to rising rates of obesity.
Six in Ten Adults Have It
How common is high blood pressure? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 60% of adults over the age of 60 have high blood pressure. Since your blood pressure can be high without causing symptoms, it’s a vital sign you should follow closely and follow a heart-healthy lifestyle.
The standard therapy for hypertension is blood pressure-lowering medications. However, diet, lifestyle, and even supplements can reduce blood pressure in some people with mild hypertension and people who have borderline high blood pressure readings. One that shows promise is melatonin, a hormone with antioxidant activity that helps bring on sleep. Melatonin, released by the pineal gland in the brain, regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle and has antioxidant activity.
Melatonin also has the vital job of setting the body’s internal biological clock. The pea-sized pineal gland in your brain releases the most melatonin between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. However, light exposure can interfere with how much melatonin the pineal gland releases. That’s why it’s important to sleep in a dark room without electronics that emit light. Blue light from devices suppresses the release of melatonin and can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle.
What Impact Does Melatonin Have on Blood Pressure?
It’s important not to interfere with the body’s natural release of melatonin, a hormone that plays a role in the release of a number of other hormones in the body, including ones that affect blood pressure. Because of its impact on the sleep-wake cycle and setting the internal biological clock, could melatonin also play a role in regulating blood pressure?
One double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Hypertension looked at men with essential hypertension. Those who took 2.5 milligrams of melatonin an hour before bedtime lowered their systolic blood pressure by an average of 6 mm. Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 4 mm. Hg a significant drop. For some people, that might be enough to eliminate the need for blood pressure medications. As a bonus, the subjects also slept better, not surprising since melatonin affects the body’s sleep-wake cycle. One reason people take melatonin as a supplement is to improve sleep and treat jet lag.
Why might melatonin reduce blood pressure? Some people with hypertension have an overactive sympathetic nervous system, the “fight-or-flight” component that increases heart rate and blood pressure. Since melatonin sets the body’s biological clock, it alters the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. For example, studies show that melatonin can reduce noradrenaline, a key hormone released by the sympathetic nervous system that increases heart rate and blood pressure. By blocking hormones like noradrenaline, melatonin could lower blood pressure.
In addition, melatonin has an antioxidant effect that reduces inflammation within the lining of blood vessels. By improving endothelial function, how blood vessels behave, it may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. One study found low levels of melatonin in people with cardiovascular disease. Expect to see more research looking into whether melatonin has protective benefits for heart health. Supplementing with melatonin may be even more beneficial for people with hypertension who also suffer from insomnia.
Is It Safe to take Melatonin for Hypertension?
As with any supplement, it’s best to consult with a physician before taking any supplement. Although melatonin may lower blood pressure in people with mild hypertension who aren’t on medications, there’s some evidence that it can raise it in people who take anti-hypertensive medications. So, it might be most useful for people with borderline or mild hypertension who aren’t already taking blood pressure pills and those who want to use a natural approach to treat mild hypertension. Melatonin appears to be safe short term, but some people may experience side effects such as daytime sleepiness, but melatonin usually has fewer side effects than prescription blood pressure medications.
The Bottom Line
Melatonin may prove to be a safe alternative to blood pressure medications for people with mild high blood pressure. Further studies can help determine the best dose and timing for the supplement and whether it’s safe to take melatonin at these doses for longer periods of time. In the meantime, healthy lifestyle habits such as not smoking, limiting alcohol, doing aerobic exercise, and eating a heart-healthy diet also help with blood pressure control.
Keep tabs on your blood pressure too by monitoring at home and see how it changes in response to your lifestyle. You can buy monitors for home use. The advantage of this is you can measure your blood pressure at different times of the day and get a more accurate picture of how your blood pressure changes from morning to evening. Be sure to keep a record of your readings to show your physician. This gives them more information than they get from an isolated blood pressure reading when you go in for physical examination. Keep tabs on your blood pressure! It’s important to your future health and well-being.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Hypertension Prevalence and Control Among Adults: United States, 2015-2016”
- HealthLine.com. “5 Functions of the Pineal Gland”
- Hypertension. 2004 Feb;43(2):192-7. Epub 2004 Jan 19.
- WebMD.com. “How to Pick a Home Blood Pressure Monitor”
- WebMD.com. “Take Charge of Your Blood Pressure”
- Hypertension Research volume 36, pages682-683(2013)
- Curr Opin Lipidol. 2016 Aug; 27(4): 408–413. Published online 2016 Apr 25. doi: 10.1097/MOL.0000000000000314.
- Front Physiol. 2018; 9: 528.Published online 2018 May 17. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00528.