Melatonin is a hormone found in the body naturally. It is a ‘sleep-inducing hormone,’ playing a key role in sleep. It is also shown to help regulate the body’s circadian rhythm towards setting a natural sleep cycle. Melatonin is the secretion of the pineal gland in the brain.
The Role of Melatonin in Improving the Sleep and Wake Cycle
Insomnia, which refers to a complaint of delayed and/or inadequate sleep, is a common disorder resulting in negative health effects. The primary role of melatonin is to regulate the body’s wake-sleep cycle each day and night. The body’s internal clock tells the brain how and when to regulate the release of melatonin.
Darkness causes our body to produce more melatonin that signals our body to prepare for sleep. Light reduces the production of melatonin and signals your body to prepare for being awake. Some individuals who face difficulty in sleeping have low melatonin levels. It is believed that adding melatonin from supplements may help such people sleep.
Humans are not the only melatonin producers. Other organisms capable of secreting melatonin include algae, fungi, insects, and plants among others. Vegetables and fruits also contain melatonin. When the hormone is produced within the body, it is termed endogenous melatonin. When produced artificially, it is exogenous melatonin. These days, it is available in the form of supplements, such as pills, capsules, and liquids.
As melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone, the short-term effects of supplements can help with certain sleep disorders such as:
- Irregular sleep-wake cycle
- Delayed sleep disorders
- Circadian rhythm disorders
- Jet lag
How to Use Melatonin Correctly?
- When you find it difficult to fall asleep, maybe due to work stress or long travel, melatonin supplements can help.
- If you decide to take supplements, ensure not to take a high dose. One to three milligrams of melatonin is advisable.
- It is best to take it two hours before going to bed. According to sleep experts , the human body naturally produces melatonin two hours before the typical bedtime.
- Individuals who wish to prevent jet lag should start taking it a few days before leaving for their trip. Time it properly.
- Watch for side effects if any. Side effects of melatonin supplements are not too severe, but can include nausea, headaches, and dizziness.
Who should not take melatonin ?
- Depression: Melatonin can worsen depression symptoms
- Bleeding disorders: Melatonin can worsen bleeding in people with bleeding disorder
Diabetes: Melatonin can raise blood sugar in diabetic people. Carefully monitor the blood sugar levels, if you or any loved one have diabetes and are taking melatonin
- Seizure disorders: Using melatonin may raise the risk of having a seizure
- High blood pressure: Melatonin can raise blood pressure in people who are taking certain medications to control blood pressure. Avoid using it
- Transplant recipients: Melatonin might increase immune function and can interfere with immunosuppressive therapy used by individuals receiving transplants
What are the things to avoid while taking Melatonin supplements?
- Avoid driving for a minimum of 4 hours after consuming melatonin supplements.
- Refrain from using melatonin supplements with other prescribed medications, OTC drugs, or dietary supplements.
- Avoid alcohol while taking melatonin.
- Avoid beverages like tea, coffee, cola, and other caffeinated drinks. They might counteract the beneficial effects of melatonin.
What Are the Risks Associated with Melatonin?
While melatonin is safe for use at a lower dosage, always consult your doctor before taking a melatonin supplement. The most common risks of melatonin include:
- Allergic reactions
- Lack of clarity on its safe use during pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Blood thinning
- Drowsiness during the daytime, especially in the elderly
- In older adults, it may cause memory-related issues
Are There Any Side Effects?
While the side effects are not too severe, individuals taking the supplements may complain of:
- Upset stomach
- Heavy head
- Sleepiness during the day
- Short-term depression
- Paranoia from extreme overdoses
- Disturbed ovulation cycle in women
- Disrupted natural hormone secretion
- Low blood pressure
Melatonin supplements are generally safe when used in a controlled manner. You should always consult the doctor before taking supplements.
Treating a Melatonin Overdose
The treatment plan for a melatonin overdose depends on the severity of the symptoms. Patients who suffer from chest pain or troubled breathing may require other medical interventions.
When to See a Doctor?
Talk to your physician before starting supplements. Your doctor will suggest the right dose and inform you whether or not the medication will cause any side effects. Consult your doctor immediately if you experience high blood pressure, shortness of breath, or sudden chest pain.
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You may find melatonin supplements effective and helpful. But make sure you do not overdose on them to avoid other health issues, as mentioned above. Individuals who find it difficult to sleep on time must consult their doctor. Try other alternatives that your doctor may recommend. Children should be strictly kept away from melatonin.
Before you begin taking any supplements, do not forget to consult your doctor. They will suggest the best solution for your sleep issues based on your health history, age, and other medical conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Is Melatonin FDA Approved?
No. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agency describes melatonin as a dietary supplement. Dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, and other substances that help supplement the diet. Thus, the FDA has not approved it for safety or effectiveness.
- What Happens if I Miss a Dose?
That is nothing to worry about. Sometimes, you may feel slightly dizzy, but take a dose as soon as you remember. Do not double the dose when you have missed one.
- Are There Any Side Effects of Melatonin Supplements for Children?
Drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea are the common side effects of melatonin supplements both in adults and children.
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