Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be frustrating and embarrassing for the many men who are affected by it. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), ED affects about 30 million men in the United States, and those numbers increase with age. The NIH also reports that about 4 percent of men in their 50s and about 17 percent of men in their 60s report that they’re completely unable to get an erection.

There are as many different causes of ED, as there are medical treatments. For those who are interested in alternative treatments, melatonin is one option. Read on to learn about melatonin and its effects on ED.

ED is defined by the inability to get and maintain an erection that’s hard enough for sexual intercourse. Having trouble getting an erection every once in a while doesn’t necessarily mean you have ED. It’s when the problem becomes a regular issue that you should speak with your doctor. ED can also be a sign of other health issues that may need medical treatment.

Although ED can have psychological causes, in many cases the cause is physical. It could be injury, disease, or a side effect of certain medications. In order to have an erection, the spongy penis tissue must fill with blood, which is carried through the arteries. If the arteries, nerves, or tissues are damaged, it’s difficult for this process to happen. Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease can all be possible contributors to ED. This is why you should talk to your doctor about it.

Some medications that can contribute to ED are antidepressants, antihistamines, tranquilizers, and blood pressure drugs.

Melatonin is a hormone that’s made naturally in your brain. It’s responsible for telling your body when it’s time to sleep. When it’s dark outside, your brain produces more melatonin, and it produces less when it’s light. The hormone is also available in pill form and is taken for a wide variety of health issues, the most popular being trouble sleeping or sleep disorders.

There is only one study in the literature that has addressed melatonin and ED, and this study also included a medication that is used to treat ED. This study, performed on rats, found that large doses of melatonin given after a spinal cord injury were able to help them regain their ability to perform sexually. Researchers believe it may have something to do with melatonin’s antioxidant capabilities, meaning the hormone might be able to prevent or restore tissue damage. However, this study needs to be duplicated in humans, and for melatonin to be recommended, it would need to be studied independently of other medications.

When taken as a supplement, melatonin, like other supplements, does have potential side effects. You should talk to your doctor about your ED before using it. The supplement is typically considered safe at doses of 1 to 20 mg, but it can react with other medications, specifically blood pressure drugs. It can also affect your blood sugar, so people with diabetes should not take it without discussing it with a doctor.

ED is often treated by treating the underlying issues. However, there are drugs you can take that are designed specifically for ED, as well as vacuum devices that pump up the penis, and in rare cases, surgery.

For men whose ED is caused by conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, lifestyle changes that help these conditions can also help ED. Eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, quitting smoking, and limiting your alcohol intake are all important for promoting good health and helping with blood flow issues. These are all changes your doctor is likely to recommend.

If medication is the issue, you can talk to your doctor about lowering the dose or switching to a different medication that is less likely to have ED as a side effect.

Talking with a therapist can help you with issues like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem that may be causing your ED.

Whatever method you choose, remember that you’re not alone and that there are ways to overcome erectile dysfunction.