Melatonin: All-Natural Alternative Sleep Inducer
When you find it hard to fall asleep; wake up too often in the middle of the night; and still feel tired after you wake up in the morning —- chances are, you are suffering from a sleeping disorder. In many cases, all that a sleepless person needs to do to solve his nite woes is to take a natural sleep aid. This type of sleep aids help induce sleep due to the bio-chemical effects brought about by herbs and other natural ingredients.
Studies suggest that melatonin supplements help induce sleep in people with disrupted circadian rhythms such as those suffering from jet lag or poor vision or those who work the night shift. Those with low melatonin levels, usually the elderly and individuals with schizophrenia, have benefited from the use of melatonin. In fact, a recent review of scientific studies found that melatonin supplements help prevent jet lag, particularly in people who cross five or more time zones.
A few studies suggest that when taken for short periods of time, melatonin is significantly more effective than a placebo in decreasing the amount of time required to fall asleep; in increasing the number of sleeping hours; and for boosting daytime alertness. Another study indicates that melatonin may improve the quality of life in people who suffer from insomnia and some experts suggest that melatonin may be helpful for insomniac children who also suffer from learning disabilities.
There are now a number of products that serve as all-natural alternatives prescription and over-the-counter sleeping pills. Aside from treating insomnia and combat jet lag, melatonin has been shown to be effective for the:
Prevention of pregnancy;
Protection from free-radicals;
Boosting the immune system; and
But what is melatonin in the first place? Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain that helps regulate other hormones and maintains the body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is an internal 24-hour time-keeping system that plays a critical role in determining when we fall asleep and when we wake up. Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin while light suppresses its activity. Exposure to excessive light in the evening or too little light during the day can disrupt the body’s normal melatonin cycles. For example, jet lag, shift work, and poor vision can disrupt melatonin cycles. In addition, some experts claim that exposure to low-frequency electromagnetic fields (common in household appliances) may disrupt normal cycles and production of melatonin.
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 1milligram) and work way up to larger doses if necessary. Melatonin should only be taken at nighttime. It is usually most effective when taken about thirty minutes prior to going to sleep.
If a person is traveling across multiple time zones and wishes to use melatonin to counteract the effects of jet lag, he or she may want to take a dosage prior to getting on the flight and a higher dosage prior to going to bed. If a person commonly sleeps during the night, melatonin should not normally be taken during the day, and vice versa because melatonin can influence the body’s internal clock.
When thinking about using melatonin as a sleep aid there are some issues that everyone should be aware of. First, there has been no long-term research on the safety and effectiveness of melatonin as a sleep inducer. There is also a lack of information regarding melatonin’s interaction with other medications.
Melatonin is only for adult use. It should not be used by children, teenagers, pregnant or lactating women. If a person has diabetes, epilepsy, leukemia or taking a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor, consult a physician before taking them.