Melatonin and sleep
Melatonin (5-methoxy-N-acetyltryptamine) is a hormone that occurs naturally in human body.
At night, when we are sleeping, melatonin is secreted by a tiny, pea-sized organ at the centre of our brains called the pineal gland to help our bodies regulate our sleep-wake cycles.
Melatonin regulates the body's circadian rhythm, our internal 24-hour time-keeping system which plays an important role in controlling when we fall asleep and when we wake up.
Melatonin has been used successfully in the treatment of many sleep related disorders.
Darkness, stimulates the release of melatonin and light suppresses its activity in our nervous system. See also Sleeping Conditions.
Melatonin, sleep and age
While our pineal gland is capable of producing melatonin for the entirety of our lives, scientists have observed evidence which suggests melatonin production slows down as we age.
Scientists believe this is why younger people tend to have less difficulty with sleeping than older people.
Melatonin as a supplement
In addition to occurring naturally in the body, melatonin has also been synthesized in the laboratory and is available as a supplement without a prescription in health food and drug stores in the United States for several years, but Melatonin is not regulated by any government agency.
Because Melatonin is contained naturally in some foods, the U.S. Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 allows Melatonin to be sold as a dietary supplement, which do not need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or controlled in the same way as drugs.
However, since melatonin products have not been approved by the FDA, their safety, purity and effectiveness can't be guaranteed.
Melatonin as a sleep aid
When thinking about using melatonin as a sleep aid there are several issues that everyone should be aware of.
First, although Melatonin is available over the counter and has been used for several years without instances of severe side effects, the use of melatonin has not yet been confirmed to be safe by a regulatory body authorized to do so.
Of particular concern is the lack of information regarding melatonin's interaction with other medications.
The proper dosage varies greatly from person to person. Pills are available in a range of doses (commonly from 1mg to 3mg). It is typically suggested to begin with a small dose (around 1mg) and work your way up to larger doses if necessary.
When taking Melatonin to assist with the quality of your sleep, Melatonin should be taken at nighttimes. It is usually most effective when taken about thirty minutes prior to going to sleep.
Melatonin - a treatment for jet lag?
Melatonin is particularly effective in treating delayed sleep-phase disorders, and has also been very useful in treating and preventing jet lag and jet lag's resulting insomnia.
If you are travelling across multiple time zones and wish to use melatonin to counteract the effects of jet lag, you may want to take a dosage prior to getting on your flight and a higher dosage prior to going to bed.
If you commonly sleep during the night, melatonin should not normally be taken during the day, and vice versa, due to melatonin's role in adjusting the body's internal clock.
Melatonin is for adult use only. Do not use Melatonin for children, teenagers, or pregnant or lactating women. If you have an auto-immune disease, diabetes, a depressive disorder, epilepsy, leukaemia or a lymphoproliferate disorder, or are taking an MAO inhibitor, consult a physician before taking Melatonin.