We’ve all had sleepless nights, and while twisting and turning in bed, we were wondering how to help ourselves to finally fall asleep.
You might have made a chamomile tea that’s supposed to calm you. But nothing happened. What would be some alternatives?
You heard about supplement pills everyone’s speaking about. You may be asking yourself now: ”Should I take melatonin?”.
Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in the body. But is it the same as the one you take in pills? Is it bad to take melatonin?
First, let’s discover main things about this hormone before jumping to conclusions.
What Is Melatonin And How Does It Work?
Melatonin is a hormone that your body normally produces and plays a big role in your sleep cycle.
Your brain controls the production of melatonin according to daylight.
Accordingly, your body produces and releases higher levels of this hormone during night time, and then decreases its production during the daytime. Melatonin actually switches its peak times with cortisol – a hormone that regulates our metabolism and activates our built-in alarm system.
To understand better how it works check out this graph that shows the levels of melatonin and cortisol produced during the day.
It’s our bodies way of switching from the alert phase to the sleeping phase.
Unlike the one naturally made, melatonin in pills is produced synthetically in laboratories. They are safe if used properly, but also the melatonin supplements are not regulated so some people are overusing its application.
How Is It Used And How long Does It Take For Melatonin To Kick In?
Melatonin pills are usually taken by mouth but can be also placed in the cheek or under the tongue in order to allow this hormone to be directly absorbed into the body.
In some severe cases, like treating cancer or post-treating a heart attack, melatonin may also be injected into the muscles or veins.
The amount of time needed for melatonin to kick in depends on the method of using it. When taken as an oral supplement, it needs about 30 minutes to achieve the highest concentration possible in your bloodstream.
What Not To Take With Melatonin?
You shouldn’t take melatonin with coffee or alcohol as this might interfere with your circadian rhythm and alter your natural melatonin production.
If you’re taking other medication you should talk to your doctor first before considering the usage of this supplement.
For instance, mixing birth control pills, anticoagulant drugs or corticosteroids with melatonin might have bad consequences for your organism.
What Is It Used For?
Melatonin is mostly taken for sleep-related disorders. Some take it for jet lag, others for insomnia, but what are all of its applications?
Let’s run through all the disorders and conditions melatonin might help you with :
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome
- Improving Body temperature
- RBD – Rapid Eye movement during sleep
- ADHD-related Insomnia
- Insomnia related to traumatic brain injury
- Alzheimer’s or dementia
- Bipolar disorder
- COPD – Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- High blood pressure
- Hyperpigmentation (darkened skin)
- Depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Migraine and other headaches
- Age-related vision loss
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
We now realize that melatonin’s application is pretty wide and covers different ranges of disorders and conditions.
It is also used for treating anxiety, birth control or even to help blind people establish a good day and night cycle.
If you happen to have stopped smoking, or know someone who has, melatonin can reduce side effects of stopping smoking.
How To Use It? When Should I Take It?
So far we have made it clear that melatonin has a main role in regulating our biological clock, also called circadian rhythm. So you would probably use it in the situations when your regular sleep cycle is altered.
Some people take it if they have trouble falling asleep, or simply when they know that some events might interfere with their sleeping time like jet lag, or working late night shifts.
When taking melatonin timing has to be higly respected, as it directly effects your circadian rhythm.
Here Are Some Tips To When To Take Melatonin Based On What You’re Using It For:
- If you’re troubling with falling asleep, make sure to take it at night and about 30 minutes before bedtime.
- For people who are night owls and suffer from delayed sleep phase syndrome, should consider using it several hours before the desired time they want to fall asleep. Taking your dose about 2 hours before sleep is advisable in this case.
- Less than 1% of people are affected by the condition of advanced sleep phase syndrome in which they feel a strong desire to fall asleep and then wake up a few hours too early. In this case, it’s suggested to take Melatonin upon awakening.
If you happen to be a night owl make sure you have ample light exposure at the opposite time from when you take your melatonin dosage.
It is a safe supplement and you can use it on a nightly basis without fearing of adverse consequences. However, before deciding to take it every night or every day, based on your particular sleeping cycle issue, you should talk to your doctor.
What Dose Of Melatonin Should I Take?
The proper dosage is the key in getting all the benefits Melatonin has. According to a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a perfect dose is one of 0.3 milligrams.
Research suggests that taking lower doses proved to be more effective than taking the stronger variants of the pill. The relationship between the dose and the effect does not appear to be applicable to melatonin.
Although it is known that a dose between 0.2 to 5 mg is considered to be safe, it is hard to say what is an optimal dose for an adult. So, it’s advisable to consult your doctor before including melatonin into your daily routine.
Is It Addictive?
No. As mentioned above, the “sleepy” hormone is safe for use. Melatonin is not habit-forming, therefore you cannot become addicted to it.
Nevertheless, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and regulating naturally your sleep cycle is always a better choice than getting used to consuming artificial supplements. Make sure you don’t overuse melatonin just of pure laziness.
Can I Overdose On Melatonin?
Yes. Although the dosage varies from the condition you have, you should be careful not to take too much of it. No matter how safe this supplement is, it’s still a hormone and you might overdose on it.
It’s hard to say what dose is too much, but, for example, 30-mg range melatonin might be very harmful.
Overdose symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or anxiety. A Melatonin overdose can give you the most vivid dreams or nightmares or leave you completely dizzy and groggy during the day.
Go for 5 mg or fewer melatonin pills, rather than 20 mg or higher.
Can I Give Melatonin To My Child?
Melatonin is often used in treating sleep problems in children with disorders like autism, cerebral palsy and other intellectual disabilities. Nevertheless, your doctor might prescript minimal dose based on what your child is having trouble with.
Even though it is considered safe, there is still some caution advised in children and pregnant women because of its potential effects on hormones.
Now that we have understood what melatonin is, what’s it used for and how, let’s run through the health benefits of the “sleeping” hormone.
Melatonin Health Benefits
1. Reduces Jet Lag Symptoms
Traveling across time zones is something more and more people experience nowadays. This alters our circadian rhythms and makes us suffer from Jet Lag.
Melatonin reduces certain jet-lag symptoms especially for people crossing more than 5 time zones. It helps to stay awake during the day and improves movement coordination.
2. Melatonin Helps In Treating Anxiety and Depression
Studies have suggested that mood disorders are often paired with sleep agitation. In the end, we all know how worth is a night of good, healthy sleep.
Not only can Melatonin help with fighting anxiety and depression, but it also improves the condition of patients affected by bipolar disorder.
3. Melatonin Protects The Brain
Not only melatonin is being used in treating brain and neurological disorders, but it was also shown that it protects nerve cells. In fact, Melatonin turned out to have an antioxidant effect on the spinal cord, optic nerve, and the brain itself.
Its usage in brain-related disorders and conditions is wide, doctors use it in treating brain trauma, Alzheimer’s disease and more. Thanks to melatonin, the brain can regenerate faster. Wow!
4. Melatonin Is Important For Our Eye Health
An interesting fact is that the cells of our eyes actually make melatonin. As the light influence its production, the eye cells that react to light by producing melatonin.
This hormone is also very important for a healthy eye development. And as if it wasn’t enough, melatonin decreases elevated pressure in the eye.
5. Melatonin Makes Those Annoying Noises In Ears Disappear
We all felt it at least once in our lives, and it’s not really the most pleasant of experiences. Melatonin was more effective compared to other drugs in treating this hearing disorder.
6. It May Help Prevent And Treat Cancer
Melatonin may have a role in preventing and treating different types of cancers. A research has shown that breast, prostate and colorectal cancer patients had lower melatonin levels compared to healthy patients.
Not only, but in laboratories, scientists experienced that while adding melatonin in the environment of cancer cells, it actually blocked the cancer-like growth. We hope to hear more about the application of melatonin in this field!
7. Melatonin Helps With Aging
Melatonin levels decline with aging. The antioxidant effects of this hormone may help stop the oxidative damage that causes excessive aging.
Scientists are trying to figure out if it also can help stop bone loss in elderly people.
8. It May Help With Fertility
Melatonin helps in improving overall movement of sperm cells, which increases the chances of a successful fertilization.
9. Melatonin Helps Stop Hair Loss
Topical application of melatonin improves hair condition and texture. In various studies, it was shown that this hormone was a successful solution to partially reduce hair loss.
In some of the cases, melatonin helped in growing new hair too.
Now, this melatonin craze doesn’t seem that absurd in the end, right?
It could definitely help you sleep like a baby, but make sure to consult your doctor and not to overuse it.
Melatonin pills are a perfect way to calm your mind and body if you’re too stressed out, cannot sleep well or at all, and are losing energy because of your altered circadian rhythm.
In the end, a good sleep is the core of our health. So we guess helping yourself to have a good night of restful sleep time with melatonin is much better than getting sick because of our lack of sleep and turning to some drugs that might be harmful.