I have talked generally about how melatonin can cause easy sleeping, but now I’d like to be more specific on what melatonin actually is and how it may benefit those that can’t sleep. Melatonin is a hormone secreted naturally in the pineal gland of our brain and it helps to regulate other hormones and the body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is our internal 24 hour clock that plays a critical role with our sleep/wake cycle. During the day our melatonin production decreases and at night we produce more melatonin. Its highest production level is between 2am and 4am. Our body has the amazing ability to adjust hormones by how much or how little light we receive. When we receive too much light at night is disrupts our sleep/wake cycle because we are not producing enough melatonin. Shift work, night work and jet lag can cause you to produce less melatonin. You also produce less melatonin naturally as you age and that may be the reason older adults sleep less or develop chronic insomnia.
How to go to sleep easy? Research has shown that a melatonin supplement can help people with low melatonin levels to sleep better. Not only is it good for people that are working the night shift or jet lag, it also helps those that are suffering from schizophrenia, ADHD and symptoms from insomnia such as falling a sleep easy and sleeping through the night. Human studies measured the effects of melatonin and sleep on a number of healthy subjects and they found that melatonin works best for people that are 55 or older.
Other benefits of melatonin are an antioxidant, cancer protective agent, skin protective agent and helps treat SAD/seasonal affective depression. Women especially can benefit from taking a melatonin supplement if breast cancer runs in their family. Women with breast cancer have lower levels of melatonin compared to cancer free individuals. Melatonin can inhibit the growth of certain kinds of breast cancer cells. In another small study of women who were taking tamoxifen for breast cancer but seeing no improvement, adding melatonin caused tumors to modestly shrink in more 28% of the women. Melatonin can also help alleviate symptoms associated with menopause.
The same works for men who have prostate cancer in their family and studies have shown when men take high doses of melatonin with anti-cancer drugs it enhances their survival rate with men with metastatic prostate cancer. Note: men that take high doses of melatonin can find decrease sperm mobility and sex drive.
Melatonin is a natural sunscreen as it helps protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet light when combined with vitamins C and E. Getting enough sunlight is two-fold; we not only have to protect our skin from its cancer causing rays we still need the sun to keep our sleep/wake cycle in check by producing enough sleep/wake hormones. When we don’t get enough sun such as during the winter months we can experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), because of low levels of melatonin. We need melatonin to produce serotonin levels which help reduce symptoms of depression caused by SAD.
Some evidence suggests that melatonin can help children with ADHD fall asleep faster, although it doesn’t improve the behavioral symptoms associated with ADHD. Children also afflicted with epilepsy may benefit from taking melatonin as some reports propose a reduction of frequency and duration of seizures. Other reports say that melatonin may increase episodes. Please talk to your child’s neurologist or pediatrician before taking melatonin for epilepsy as it may interfere with other medications and/or cause additional medical problems. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that the product may be useful for teenagers who experience delayed-sleep-phase syndrome, an inability to fall asleep during the early nighttime hours that causes problems in awakening the next morning
Is irritable bowel syndrome keeping you awake at night? Preliminary studies have reported that patients taking melatonin have reduced symptoms, such as abdominal pain, but may not help bloating or frequency of bowel movements.
Melatonin is available as tablets, capsules, cream, and lozenges that dissolve under the tongue. It is available at your local health food store, pharmacy or online. Doses vary per individual depending on age and medical issues. Low doses may work better for people under the age of 55 who occasionally cannot fall asleep. If you take too high of a dose you may experience anxiety, irritability and vivid nightmares/dreams. If you wake up drowsy try lowering your dose. Other side effects include; stomach ache, dizziness, headache, decreased libido and decreased sperm count in men. Men should also be aware that is may cause breast enlargement or what is known as gynecomastia. Women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid melatonin. Your doctor can help you or your family members determine the dose you need for your/their situation.
The Bad and the Good when taking a melatonin supplement with other drugs or medications:
Melatonin supplements may interfere with certain drugs like Prozac or SSRI’s (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) by reducing their effects. It also reduces the effects of some blood pressure drugs like Vasoxyl and Catopres. Medications known as calcium channel blockers may lower melatonin levels, some include; Procardia, Norvasc, Sular and Vascor. Beta-Blocker such as Cartrol and Setral also reduce melatonin levels. Melatonin may increase the risk of bleeding from certain anticoagulant medications. It is not recommended to take a melatonin supplement if you are taking an immunosuppressant medication. Melatonin production levels can also be lower by some over-the-counter medication like Advil or Motrin, and even caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.
On the other hand melatonin and Halcion can help those improve their quality of sleep when they are going through the withdrawal of benzodiazepines. If you are taking an antipsychotic medication you may be experiencing the condition known as tardive dyskinesia, which causes involuntary movements. A study has shown that those who took melatonin had fewer symptoms verses those you did not take the supplement. Taking melatonin in combination with interleukin-2 led to more tumor regression and better survival rates that treatment with interleukin-2 alone. Preliminary reports suggest that melatonin and tamoxifen taken together can help those with breast and other cancers.
If you have an immune system disorder, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, stroke or depression you should first consult with your doctor before taking melatonin. Limit use with heavy machinery. Even though melatonin has been available for years without a prescription, it has not yet been confirmed to be safe by the FDA. The content provided in Melatonin Can Cause Easy Sleeping is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for your sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.