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Benefits of Melatonin for Athletes

Published : Feb 08, 2022 5 mins read Updated On : Apr 17, 2024

As athletes, the relentless pursuit of peak performance demands a thorough understanding of the recovery process. Sleep, the often-underestimated component of recovery, plays a crucial role in muscle repair, immune function, and overall well-being. Recognizing the significance of quality sleep, athletes have turned to melatonin in their quest for optimal recovery. In this blog, we delve into the science behind melatonin's potential benefits for athletes.

Benefits of Melatonin for Athletes

How does Inadequate Sleep Affect Athletic Performance?

• Impaired Cognitive Function: Sleep deprivation can impair cognitive function, including decision-making, reaction time, and concentration. In sports that require quick thinking and precise actions, such as cricket or football, this can lead to poor performance and increased risk of errors.

• Decreased Physical Performance: Lack of sleep can result in reduced physical performance. Athletes may experience decreased strength, power, endurance, and overall athletic ability. This can manifest as slower running times, reduced jumping height, or decreased accuracy in throwing or striking sports.

• Increased Risk of Injury: Fatigue from inadequate sleep can increase the risk of injury during training and competition. Slower reaction times and decreased coordination make athletes more susceptible to accidents, falls, and collisions.

• Impaired Recovery: Sleep is crucial for the body's recovery processes. During sleep, the body repairs muscle tissue, synthesizes hormones, and replenishes energy stores. Inadequate sleep can hinder these processes, leading to prolonged recovery times between workouts and competitions.

• Negative Mood and Motivation: Sleep deprivation can lead to mood disturbances such as irritability, mood swings, and increased stress levels. These psychological effects can negatively impact an athlete's motivation, focus, and enjoyment of training and competition.

• Hormonal Imbalance: Sleep plays a vital role in regulating hormone levels, including those involved in metabolism, muscle growth, and stress response. Inadequate sleep can disrupt hormone balance, potentially leading to decreased muscle mass, increased fat storage, and elevated levels of stress hormones like cortisol.

Benefits of Melatonin to the Athletes

• Maintain Sleep-Wake Cycle

Professional athletes have a very irregular schedule. Late night games, traveling, playing under artificial lights, fatigue and late-night celebrations can impact the sleep cycle of an athlete. This can lead to sleep deprivation that can affect physical, neurophysiological, and cognitive parameters, which can have consequences for the performance and recovery of elite athletes. Taking a melatonin supplement can help athletes to regulate their sleep-wake cycle. It can provide athletes with much needed sleep and keep them fresh the next morning for optimal performance (1).

Benefits of Melatonin for Athletes

• Helps in Recovery

The role of recovery is very important for any athlete. Research indicates that melatonin, though not shown to significantly impact morning performance, reveals promise in aiding recovery. In a study, thirty-two percent of surveyed runners reported using melatonin, ranking it as the second-highest recovery modality after stretching. Contrary to common misconceptions, melatonin's function goes beyond inducing sleep; it subtly shifts the circadian rhythm, facilitating an easier transition into restful sleep (2).

• Reduce Exercise Induced Oxidative Stress

Melatonin has been shown to exert antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions and other physiological properties. Intense exercise or training can lead to oxidative stress in athletes. Studies found that melatonin showed high potency in the reduction of the oxidative stress and inflammation markers generated during intense and prolonged exercise (3).

• Eases Jet Lag

Athletes travel all across the world to participate in the tournaments. Traveling to different parts of the world can impact athletes sleeping patterns due to differences in time zones. Lack of sleep impacts the performance of an athlete. One study found that melatonin supplements taken before targeted bedtime at the destination reduce jet lag from flights crossing five or more time zones (4).

• Reduce Anxiety and Nervousness

Some athletes may experience pre-race anxiety or nervousness, which can interfere with their ability to fall asleep and get adequate rest before a competition. Melatonin's calming effects may help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, leading to better sleep quality.

Common Myths about Melatonin Supplements for Athletes

• Improved Performance

One common myth is that melatonin supplements directly enhance athletic performance. While melatonin may help regulate sleep patterns, there isn't strong evidence to suggest it directly boosts physical performance or athletic abilities. Its primary function is to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

• No Known Side Effects

Some athletes might believe that melatonin supplements are completely safe with no side effects. While melatonin is generally considered safe for short-term use, it can cause side effects such as daytime drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, and nausea in some individuals.

• Hormonal Imbalance

There's a myth that taking melatonin supplements can disrupt the body's natural production of melatonin and lead to hormonal imbalances. While it's true that long-term supplementation might affect the body's ability to produce melatonin naturally, the extent of this impact and its significance in healthy individuals isn't fully understood.

Are There Any Risks Involved?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), short period use of melatonin supplements appears to be safe to use for most adults and children. It is often said that too much of something can lead to side effects, however, there are mild side effects of consuming excess melatonin i.e. headache, dizziness, and excessive drowsiness. Melatonin supplements, unlike many sleeping pills, are safe and one is unlikely to become dependent.

Are Melatonin Supplements Banned in Sports?

Melatonin supplements are not banned in sports by major anti-doping agencies such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) or the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). However, it is important to note that melatonin supplements are considered as dietary supplements which means they are not regulated by any anti-doping agencies. There is a chance some melatonin supplements are contaminated with a substance prohibited in sports. Hence choose a melatonin supplement that is banned substance free.


The significance of quality of sleep cannot be overstated in the world of athletic performance and recovery. As athletes strive for peak performance, understanding the role of sleep and exploring adjunctive measures, such as melatonin supplementation, becomes paramount. While melatonin supplements are not banned in sports, caution must be exercised due to the lack of regulation in the supplement industry.
Nevertheless, the potential benefits of melatonin for athletes are compelling, ranging from aiding in maintaining sleep-wake cycles and facilitating recovery to reducing exercise-induced oxidative stress and easing jet lag during travel. Consider taking a melatonin supplement to improve your sleep pattern and improve your athletic performance.

Shilpa Manwani
Shilpa Manwani
Health and Nutrition

Shilpa is an expert on food science. She enjoys writing blogs that give complete information about nutrition. She is also a foodie and loves to talk about different types of food. her extensive kno... Read More

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