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Is melatonin good to take to help with my sleep? What exactly is melatonin?

Related Topics: Melatonin

Answers From Experts & Organizations (1)

Sleep Disorders
105 Answers
4,308 Helpful Votes

Melatonin is a hormone. It is not an herb, a vitamin, or a mineral. Hormones are naturally produced by your body as you need them.  Which means it is very unlikely that someone has a melatonin deficiency. While melatonin could be considered natural, in most cases it doesn’t come from the earth. There are exceptions of foods that contain melatonin in them, but this is a different type of melatonin than what is produced in your brain.

Your melatonin levels can be tested with a blood test, urine test or saliva test. If you are concerned that you may actually be melatonin deficient, ask your doctor about testing. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland and sends a signal to regulate the sleep-wake cycle in the sleep center of the brain.

This is the really important thing you should understand about melatonin:  Melatonin is a sleep and body-clock regulator not a sleep initiator. Melatonin works with your biological clock by telling your brain when it is time to sleep. Melatonin does not increase your sleep drive or need for sleep.

Melatonin is called the “Vampire Hormone” because it is produced primarily in darkness and inhibited by light. The levels of your melatonin increase in the middle of the night and gradually fall as the night turns to morning, so exposure to light before bed can push your biological clock in the wrong direction — making melatonin ineffective.

Melatonin treats circadian rhythm disorders (where you sleep the right amount of minutes but your body clock is at the wrong time), shift work sleep disorders and early morning awakenings — all things that deal with the timing of your need to sleep. Melatonin is not considered an effective treatment for insomnia.

Melatonin in pill form does not function like your body’s naturally produced melatonin: it affects the brain in bursts and rapidly leaves the system, instead of the slow build up and slow wash-out that your body’s naturally produced melatonin experiences.

The correct dosage of melatonin can be a problem.  According to research conducted at MIT, the correct dosage of melatonin for it to be effective is 0.3-1.0 mg.  Many commercially available forms of melatonin are in 3 to 10 times the amount your body would need. In fact, there is some evidence that higher doses may be less effective. In Europe, melatonin at very high doses has been used as a contraceptive.

Melatonin can have side effects. Melatonin (2-3 mg or higher) has reported side effects of:

  •     Headaches.
  •     Nausea.
  •     Next-day grogginess.
  •     Hormone fluctuations.
  •     Vivid dreams and nightmares.

Melatonin may also have some issues with safety. In the US, melatonin is sold as a dietary supplement, not a medication, so until recently melatonin has not been subject to the same purity rules and standards as prescription medications.

So what does all this mean if you want to try melatonin as a supplement? Melatonin has been shown to be safe in healthy people when used for up to three months at the correct dosage.

Over-the-counter (OTC) melatonin:

  • When taken several hours before sleep, melatonin can shift the biological clock earlier, making a better environment for falling asleep and waking up on time.
  • When taken in the correct dose (0.3-1 mg), it can be effective for shift workers and people with circadian rhythm disorders.

However, most melatonin sold over the counter is packaged in doses ranging from 1 mg to 10 mg, with most doses containing double or triple the amount that is needed to be effective for the population that will benefit from its use.

Caution should be taken when using melatonin:

  • It should be used under the guidance of a doctor and sleep professional.
  • It should be used at the correct dosage.
  • It should be taken about 90 minutes before lights out.
  • It should be used for a short time (less than three months).
  • It should never be used in combination with other sleep-inducing medications.
  • It should never be used with alcohol.
  • It should never be used with children (younger than 18 years).
  • There are possible interaction effects and could change the effectiveness of your current medication regimen.

This answer should not be considered medical advice...down arrowThis answer should not be considered medical advice and should not take the place of a doctor’s visit. Please see the bottom of the page for more information or visit our Terms and Conditions.up arrow

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Read the Original Article: Melatonin: Not a Magic Bullet for Sleep

Answers from Contributors (1)

1 Answer
74 Helpful Votes

If you read the comments from Michael Breus opinion, you will learn that he is right most of the time (not in every instance).  I know of more than one M.D. who uses their judgemrnt (like Michael Breus does) by suggesting and perscribing melotonin.  This demonstates the truth that the majority of people are unaware of.  Doctors simply use their best judgement and therefore can have different opinions depending on their experiance and knowledge.   My personal experiance did have limited success with melotonin and groginess the following day when using 3 mg (I may have also taken it too late at night).  Some other insomiac nights, a tried 1 mg. or less, combined with chamomile tea and that worked much better.  Now I don't take melotonin at all and in retrospect beleive that, for me at least, the chamomile tea is what really relaxed me and gave me sound sleep.  Now if I drink coffee too late in the day, I understand that I created my oun insomnia.  Still if I need to go to sleep, rather than using melotonin, I use the two herbs; chamomile and valarian. also potatoes seems to make me sleepy (very strange).  In any event I like the one answer of the person who found that "GABA" calmed her anxiety and "worked like a charm".  I also found that GABA is an inhibitor of anxious thougts and insomnia.  I now take it weather or not I can sleep well.  It just seems to make my moods more even.  One more thing when I get more activity or exersize earlier in the day, or when I'm working in the day (paid or not), my "nervous energy" is spent up, my body makes it's OWN melotonin (via: serotonin created through exersize) and I sleep soundly.  Maybe that's what a writer of Provbers meant once when he observed, "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, weather he eats little or much; but the restlessness of the rich man (because they do no psysical labor) will not allow him to sleep".  No wonder in his day Solomin was called the wisest man.  He was rich too, but not before he was wise.  And that's the key, wisdom.   Because if we don't know what we're doing, we cannot get the desired result.   One more thing, if I exersize or work hard during the day, but I drink much coffee after 12:00 noon, then I STILL can't sleep.  It's only natural.   And it isn't nice to fool with mother nature.  So let's be nice to ourselves and our true nature.  Our body is wiser than our minds and it is best to understand and "listen to it" so we don't get fooled again.   P.S.  "If at first you don't succeed, try another way".   and  my favorite poam of hope and peace, "For every ailment under the sun, the is an answer - or there is none.  If there be one TRY and FIND IT.  If there be none never mind it.   Who could ask for more?   But first Try and Find it.  Anything non-termanal has AN answer, sometimes several good answers.  Take care, everywhere!   It's after midnight and I think I'll sit my tea now.  The turkey didn't make me sleepy earlier.  Perhaps it never did.  I just use to eat too much on Thanksgiving.   Now I look a little "like a duck" so I decided to stop overeating and to eat healthier.  Good side effects, I feel better and have better dreams when sleeping (keeps me from wanting to wake up).  I'm done.


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