Chances are you've heard of melatonin
if you're having sleep problems and maybe even used it to help. If you haven't heard or even just want to know how it helps, we'd like to offer the full facts on this supplement. After all, melatonin is a pretty neat substance.
What is it?
In short: It helps the body relax so it can rest.
The longer version is that melatonin is a natural hormone produced naturally by our pineal gland when the sun goes down. It gets released into the bloodstream for around 12 hours to decrease alertness. If you've ever tossed and turned thinking about a million things at once, you can see how shutting down that part of your brain would help you get some sleep.
How To Use it
Short-term use of melatonin can help regulate your sleep pattern back into a healthy schedule. Studies have found that longer use, like taking it every night for years, to be caused by a placebo effect. That's when our body responds to something because we mentally think of the effects instead of actually experiencing them. That said, if taking a melatonin once in a while helps you get to sleep, it doesn't seem to matter if that's what's causing it or just a mental push to help you. In the end you're still getting to sleep.
Benefits and UsesInsomniaHeart DiseaseFibromyalgia and Chronic PainADHD and Autism symptomsLotions and gels with melatonin may protect against sun damageMay reduce symptoms of IBS like abdominal painStudies suggest there may be a correlation to melatonin and a reduced frequency of seizures
Side EffectsVivid dreams or nightmaresDrowsinessStomach crampsDizzinessHeadachesIrritabilityDecreased libidoGynecomastia (breast enlargement in men)Reduced sperm count
There have been no reports of toxicity or overdose due to melatonin. However, in order for it to work, you should be taking it correctly. The amount and when the supplement is taken is important to its effectiveness.
For jet lag: 0.5 - 5 mg one hour prior to bedtime at final destination. This can be started the day of departure or begun up to two days in advanced for preparation.
For regulating sleep schedule: Take 0.5 mg of melatonin one hour before bedtime. Increase up to 5 mg as needed for up to two months. Works best with the same bedtime every night.
For children: Due to various conflicting opinions, we recommended speaking to your child's doctor before giving them this supplement.
Pregnancy or NursingDesipramine and Fluoxetine (Prozac) (Antidepressants)Antipsychotic MedicationsBenzodiazepines (trizolam [Halcion])Birth ControlBlood Pressure Medications (Vasoxyl, Catopres, along with calcium channel blockers like Procardia, Norvasc, Calan, Isoptin, Cardizem, Plendil, Sular, Vascor)Beta-Blockers (Sectral, Tenormin, Zebeta, Cartrol, Lopressor, Toprol XL, Corgard, Inderal)Anticoagulants (Blood-thinning Medications)Interleukin-2NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)Steroids and immunosuppressant medicationsTamoxifenCaffeine, Tobacco and Alcohol
Taking melatonin with these conditions or with these medications may have negative side effects and interactions. Talk to your doctor first if any of the following applies to you:
Alternatives to Melatonin
If you're not able to use melatonin, try giving these a shot. They're also used to calm the body and promote a most restful sleep.
Always talk to your doctor about the supplements you're taking and discuss with them before trying new ones, especially if you are on other forms of medication. Because there is no FDA regulation on melatonin, some supplements may contain more than the amount stated on the bottle. Purchase from brands you trust. Melatonin derived from animals may carry the risk of viral contamination so it's encouraged to purchase synthetic or lab-made.
You may be able to improve your sleeping patterns by making a few changes to your behavior and attitude towards sleep. We know it's hard - we work hard and love binge-watching too - but these tips are great to help you stay well rested.
Keep a sleep schedule. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.
Monitor and restrict the amount of caffeine you consume during the day and at what time. Try cutting back on the coffee after the morning. Learn how to break the habit here.Create a routine for getting ready for bed to help your mind relax and switch into "sleep mode".Eliminate distractions in the bedroom. TV and computers should be turned off and monitor the temperature (it should be around 60 to 67 degrees). Use a separate alarm clock instead of your phone, if you can help it.Exercise daily. It doesn't have to be hard exercise, a 30 minute walk will do. Just avoid physical activity before bed. What else is there to say about melatonin? Have you taken it? If so, tell us your experience on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.