Melatonin Benefits and Uses – Can This Hormone Help You Get Better Sleep?

Melatonin Benefits and Uses – Can This Hormone Help You Get Better Sleep?

If you have trouble sleeping, your body may not be producing enough melatonin. This hormone helps regulate your natural sleep-wake cycles and may play a role in other vital bodily functions. You can also purchase melatonin as a supplement.

While many people use melatonin supplements to help correct sleep issues, you should ensure that you understand any potential risks. Here is everything that you need to know about melatonin.

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland. With a normal sleep schedule, your body should produce more of this hormone at night and less during the day.

High melatonin levels help you fall asleep and stay asleep while low levels help keep you up. If you suffer from a lack of melatonin, you are likely to experience sleep difficulties.

As you age, your body naturally produces less melatonin. Electromagnetic waves may also lead to a decreased production of melatonin.

However, the most common cause of a melatonin deficiency is the disruption of sleep. Anything that disrupts your normal sleep routine may cause your body to produce less melatonin in the evening.

Drinking alcohol, consuming caffeine, and stress are three of the biggest factors. Working late, blood sugar imbalances, and constantly changing your sleep schedule may also lead to less melatonin.

Melatonin is naturally produced. When you suffer from a deficiency, you may consider taking a melatonin supplement to restore your natural levels.

These supplements are typically sold in tablet form and taken orally. The dosages can vary, as can the effectiveness of the supplement.

There are also natural ways to increase melatonin production, such as avoiding things that disrupt sleep, including caffeine and stress. Blocking light may also help increase production.

You can find melatonin in some foods, including rice, bananas, barley, ginger, and tomatoes. Eating a single serving of one of these foods in the evening may help boost melatonin levels.

Common Signs of a Melatonin Deficiency

Melatonin deficiencies can affect people of all ages, including toddlers and the elderly. As this hormone is primarily responsible for regulating sleep, the most common signs of a melatonin deficiency are related to your quality of sleep.

If you or someone that you know suffers from a melatonin deficiency, you may detect one or more of the following:

  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue

Depression is the only symptom not directly connected to sleep. However, studies have shown that people suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are more likely to experience unusual melatonin levels.

These individuals may have lower melatonin levels during the night, which makes it difficult to stay asleep. They may also experience increased melatonin levels during the day, which can lead them to feel drowsy and fatigued.

A melatonin deficiency may also lead to additional changes to your health. Sleep disorders connected to a lack of melatonin may increase nervous system activity at night, which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Low melatonin levels may also increase adrenaline production and may damage the walls of blood vessels.

Benefits of Melatonin Supplements

Increasing melatonin levels may help address the symptoms discussed, including insomnia and depression. Improving the quality of sleep is the primary reason for taking melatonin.

People may take melatonin when they need help falling asleep and staying asleep. It is often used to treat circadian rhythm disorder, insomnia, delayed sleep phase, jet lag, and various sleep problems.

Blind people also sometimes take melatonin to help maintain a normal sleep-wake cycle. As they cannot see the difference between night and day, they are more likely to suffer from issues that affect their circadian rhythms.

Besides treating issues related to the sleep cycle, melatonin is often used by patients suffering from a wide range of health issues. Melatonin has been taken by people suffering from bipolar disorder, dementia, fibromyalgia, hyperpigmentation, high blood pressure, and bone loss.

Melatonin contains antioxidants, which may have a positive impact on a variety of bodily functions connected to the conditions listed. Unfortunately, there has not been a lot of research into the benefits of melatonin for easing symptoms related to these health issues.

Potential Side Effects of Melatonin Supplements

The potential side effects of melatonin are rare and typically minor. Some of the most commonly reported side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness

The drowsiness is a natural side effect of increased melatonin levels. Taking a melatonin supplement tells your brain that you should be sleeping.

However, if you take too much melatonin, you may continue to feel drowsy during the day. In fact, you should not drive or operate heavy machinery for at least five hours after taking a melatonin supplement.

Some people may experience mild anxiety, depression, irritability, confusion, or disorientation. These side effects are also rare and typically short-lived.

The supplement may also be less effective when taken with specific substances, foods, or drinks. For example, consuming caffeine or alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of melatonin supplements, as they disrupt your normal sleep cycle.

Are Melatonin Supplements Safe for Adults?

There are no major side effects to taking melatonin supplements

Unlike other sleep medications, there is a much lower risk of developing a dependency on the supplement. People that take melatonin supplements also rarely report experiencing a hangover effect, which is common for other sleep medications.

While melatonin is considered safe, there is a minor risk of drug interactions when taking melatonin supplements. Patients taking blood pressure medications may experience higher blood pressure when taking these supplements.

Anticonvulsants, seizure-threshold-lowering drugs, and immunosuppressants may also react negatively to the melatonin.

Besides these medications, melatonin is likely to interact negatively with other sleep medications and sedatives. Any medication that produces a sedative effect may cause additional drowsiness or fatigue when taken with melatonin.

Anyone who is currently taking medications should talk to their doctor before taking any supplement, including melatonin supplements.

Are Melatonin Supplements Safe for Children?

Circadian rhythm disorder and delayed sleep phase are two disorders that are often treated with melatonin supplements. These supplements may be used to help improve conditions in adults or children.

However, doctors also advise that melatonin supplements should only be taken short-term. They are not intended as a long-term solution for continual regulation of sleep cycles. They may help you or your child get better sleep, which will allow you to address the root cause of the problem.

While melatonin supplements are typically considered safe for short-term use in children, some doctors are concerned about the potential interaction with normal hormone production.

The concern is that melatonin supplements may interfere with the natural development of a child during adolescence. This is an area that has not been fully researched, which is why some doctors may be hesitant about recommending melatonin for your child.

Recommended Dosage for Melatonin

Most medical professionals agree that you should consult with your doctor before giving a melatonin supplement to your child. Your doctor should also be able to provide recommendations for dosage.

While you should talk to your doctor before taking melatonin, it is available over the counter. You can buy melatonin in pill form, which is typically taken by mouth.

The doses can vary, depending on the condition that you want to treat. A low dose is considered 0.5 mg while a high dose is 10 mg.

If you are having trouble falling asleep, most doctors recommend 0.5 mg to 5 mg of melatonin each day. If you regularly wake up at night, you may try 2 mg to 10 mg before bedtime.

People who suffer from insomnia may need to take melatonin more frequently. 2 mg to 3 mg before bedtime is the typical recommendation. However, serious cases of insomnia may require higher doses for a short-term period.

For example, your doctor may recommend that you take 10 mg each night for up to 4 weeks.

If you suffer from jet lag, a smaller dose is often recommended. Just 0.5 mg to 3 mg may help correct your sleep-wake cycle without producing any of the side effects, such as drowsiness.

Doses for children are lower compared to doses for adults. Children who are having trouble falling asleep may need 1 mg to 3 mg for up to one month. Small doses of 0.5 mg are also sometimes used to reduce anxiety before surgery for children one to eight years old.

Conclusion – Should You Start Taking Melatonin

If low melatonin levels are keeping you from getting quality sleep, you may consider taking a supplement. Just make sure that you are aware of the possible side effects.

While melatonin supplements are mostly considered safe for adults and children, they can pose minor health risks, including drowsiness and headaches. There is also a potential risk for negative interactions with other medications, including anticonvulsants.

Melatonin is primarily used to correct sleep disorders. If you or your child suffers from a sleep problem, you should first consult with your doctor. You can review any possible interactions with other medications and address the issues that are causing a lack of sleep.

With melatonin, it may be easier to determine why you, or your child, is having trouble maintaining a normal sleep cycle.

If you suffer from jet lag, a smaller dose is often recommended. Just 0.5 mg to 3 mg may help correct your sleep-wake cycle without producing any of the side effects, such as drowsiness.

Doses for children are lower compared to doses for adults. Children who are having trouble falling asleep may need 1 mg to 3 mg for up to one month. Small doses of 0.5 mg are also sometimes used to reduce anxiety before surgery for children one to eight years old.

Written by Cascia Talbert for The Healthy Moms Magazine.

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