August 05, 2021
August 05, 2021

Melatonin for Sleep

Sleep deprivation has become one of the leading causes of multiple mental and physical health issues. The problem of poor sleep has been on the rise for the past couple of years. It is affecting millions of adults and negatively impacting their daily lives. In fact, as per some studies, almost 30% of adults in the US report that they usually sleep for less than 6 hours every night.

Problems like insomnia, sleep deprivation, sleep anxiety, etc., have become widespread today. And if they remain untreated, they possess the power to cause severe health issues.

Inadequate sleep lowers your mental and physical energy, reduces your productivity, and makes you more frustrated in general. It also increases the risk of serious health conditions like diabetes, heart diseases, and high blood pressure.

Sleeping is a natural phenomenon for our bodies. To facilitate it, our body produces a sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin. It helps our brain to form sleep patterns telling us when it's time to go to bed and when to wake up. People who have trouble falling asleep generally have low levels of melatonin. And adding it with the help of sleep aid supplements helps them to improve sleep.

This article will help you understand what melatonin is, how it works, its benefits, safety, and recommended dosage. Read on!

What Exactly is Melatonin?

photo showing the chemical compositon of melatonin

As we said before, melatonin is a sleep-inducing hormone. It is produced by a pea-sized gland called the pineal gland, which is found just above the middle part of our brain. Serotonin gets converted into melatonin  when your internal clock sends the correct signals. In simple terms, melatonin adjusts our body's internal clock by telling it the right time to fall asleep and wake up in the morning.

Generally, our body increases natural melatonin production at night as soon as the sun starts dipping down. It reduces the melatonin levels during the day. The amount of light we get every day and our internal clocks help in optimizing these levels. This is the reason why health experts often recommend getting some sunlight every day for dealing with insomnia.

Our body creates melatonin naturally, but when used as a supplement or medicine, it is synthetically made in a laboratory under the supervision of experts. A melatonin sleep aid is easily available as a dietary supplement  over-the-counter as a short-term solution for better sleep quality. It comes in the form of pills. It is also available in a tablet-like form that you can keep under your tongue. Consuming melatonin in this way allows it to be absorbed directly into your body.

As it facilitates sleep, melatonin has become a popular supplement for people with sleep deprivation, sleep anxiety, and jet lag.

How Does Melatonin Work?

Melatonin basically works in sync with your body’s circadian rhythm, that is, your internal clock. Its main job is to regulate your sleep cycle and alert your body when it's time to head to bed and when it's time to rise.

Due to these sleep-inducing characteristics, melatonin is also known as the "sleep hormone." However, it should be noted that melatonin itself doesn't make you fall asleep, it helps you sleep better. It just optimizes your body's sleep clock and lets it know that it's night. This makes it easier for your brain to relax and doze off.

A dark environment increases melatonin production in your body, thereby signaling your body that it's time to go to bed. This is why it is preferred to dim the lights of your bedroom while you try to fall asleep. Similarly, the production of melatonin decreases in light, thereby preparing your body to wake up.

Melatonin also regulates your body temperature and decreases the dopamine levels in your body. Dopamine is a hormone that keeps your mind alert, excited, and awake.

Benefits of Consuming Melatonin Supplements

woman taking a melatonin supplement in bed

If you are dealing with insomnia, sleep deprivation, shift work disorder or other sleep problems like Sleep-Wake Rhythm Disorder , adding melatonin supplements may help you effectively manage your condition.

Here are some of the benefits of consuming melatonin supplements:

      • Taking melatonin can reduce the length of time required to fall asleep.
      • It helps to manage high blood pressure at night.
      • Melatonin can also be effective in treating Delayed Wake-Sleep Phase Disorder (DSWPD). People suffering from this disorder find it difficult to fall asleep during early night hours.
      • Taking melatonin supplements can help in dealing with jet lag too. Jet lag often occurs when your body's internal clock couldn't sync with a different time zone. Melatonin helps in dealing with this situation by syncing your internal clock with the new time zone. It also help with daytime sleepiness also known as daytime drowsiness, due to jet lag.
      • Some reports also suggest that melatonin has certain antioxidants which help in relieving heartburn and stomach ulcers.

      Safety and Side Effects of Melatonin Supplements

      Melatonin supplement is safe to consume. It is non-toxic and non-addictive. The supplement has little to no side effects, and even if they arise, the effects are short-lived, very minor, and easy to manage. Please keep in mind that melatonin is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so consult your doctor before beginning use of melatonin supplements.

      The rare side effects that some people might face are

      • Dizziness
      • Nausea
      • Fatigue/Drowsiness 
      • Headaches the next day
      • Mood swings

      If you are consuming blood thinners, antidepressants, immunosuppressants, medicines for diabetes or epilepsy, blood pressure, oral contraceptives, or sedatives, there are chances melatonin supplements might increase the chances of drug interactions. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests that people with dementia should not take melatonin because it may increase feelings of disorientation. 

      So it is recommended that you consult with your health care provider before starting with melatonin or any other supplement for that matter.

      Recommended Dosage

      If you are just starting with a melatonin supplement, we recommend that you begin with a lower dose of it. You can start with 0.5 to 1 mg of the supplement and take it thirty minutes before you go to bed. Children who have ADHD or suffer from neurodevelopmental disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder may benefit  low doses of melatonin if they are experiencing sleep disturbances.

      Beginning with a smaller melatonin dosage dose will help you see if it causes any side effects. It will also give your body some time to get accustomed to it to see if you are ready for higher doses. Once you are sure about it, you can increase the dose to 3 to 5 mg. Sleep onset may come quicker with higher doses of melatonin.

      However, it's always best to talk with your doctor and find out whether you actually need a melatonin supplement or not. And if you do, what should be the ideal dosage.

      Final Words

      Melatonin is indeed a great short-term use supplement that can act as a savior for people who have difficulty with their sleep-wake cycle .

      It also helps you to effectively manage your jet lag, relieve some symptoms of insomnia and/or restore you sleep schedule better than a placebo. It also has several other health benefits too. Melatonin, in the form of a pill or chewable, is generally well tolerated by our bodies. Even if some side effects emerge, which is rare, they are very mild and easily manageable.

      However, it should be noted that the supplement cannot replace a doctor's treatment for severe sleep disorders like sleep apnea, chronic insomnia, sleep dread, panic attacks during your sleep, etc. So if you happen to suffer from any such severe sleep-related issues, it's best to visit your doctor and take their advice rather than self-medicating.

      Written by Karina Lima

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