Searching “melatonin metabolism” in wikipeida, it shows the molecular structure of melatonin and writes …
“Melatonin biosynthesis in humans and some other organisms involves four enzymatic steps from the essential dietary amino acid tryptophan, which follows a serotonin pathway”
Basically L-tryptophan is first converted to 5-HTP which is then converted to serotonin. Serotonin production happens mostly in the gut. Then it is transported to the brain where the pineal gland initiates the conversion of serotonin to melatonin when it detects light becoming dark. Only in darkness does a key enzyme is activated that helps convert serotonin to melatonin.
LifeExtension.com writes …
“Cofactors that facilitate the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin in the brain are vitamin B6, magnesium, and vitamin C.”
Zinc is also needed in order for the body to use B6.
Mercola writes …
“Zinc, vitamin B6, and tryptophan are all needed to produce melatonin; zinc deficiency leads to insomnia”
Summary of What is Needed to Produce Melatonin
Therefore to make melatonin, you need …
- enough serotonin during the day so that you have enough onboard to be converted to melatonin at night. Daylight sun exposure improves production of serotonin. If you are depressed (possible sign of low serotonin) and can not sleep, get out in the sun during the day more.
- enough L-tryptophan which is an amino acid found in proteins in foods. It is the raw ingredient from which both serotonin and melatonin are made. That is why some people find that taking L-tryptophan supplement and 5-HTP supplements helps with sleep. However, you also need enough lysine and niacinamide to neutralize the tryptophan-degrading enzymes. [reference]
- enough cofactors to perform this complex biochemical conversions. These cofactors includes (but not limited to) B6, zinc, vitamin C, and magnesium.
- You also need darkness at night in order to activate the enzyme that converts serotonin to melatonin.