Widely known as the sleep hormone, melatonin is the central part of the body's sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin production heightens when it's dark, thereby stimulating sound sleep and orienting our circadian rhythm.
The circadian rhythm is a pattern in which our body follows an internal clock of 24 hours for people who do not experience sleeping difficulty. Melatonin is a sleep hormone that has generated so much interest in the public as researchers ponder about developing external sources of the naturally occurring hormone.
Lack of sleep remains a significant health concern in many countries. As a result, the use of melatonin to manage sleeping difficulties is gaining ground. While studies have shown that melatonin can help improve sleep, it doesn't work for everyone.
In this article, we would discuss everything melatonin, from what it does to the body, dosage, and if we can become immune to melatonin. Before then, let's look at the term melatonin.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland in the brain and then released into the brain. Once it's dark, the pineal gland gets prompted to produce melatonin. Light causes production to stop, which helps synchronize our sleep-wake cycle with night and day.
Exposure to light blocks melatonin production, so it is vital to sleep in a dark room. Melatonin also helps to regulate the circadian rhythm, thereby promoting healthy and quality sleep. Melatonin exists in two forms, namely.
Endogenous melatonin: This is Melatonin created within the body.
Exogenous melatonin: This form of melatonin is produced outside the body and is often synthetically produced in laboratories. You would find it as a dietary supplement sold as capsules, liquid, pills, or chewable.
What Does Melatonin do to the Body?
Individuals who find it difficult to sleep due to the low melatonin production in their bodies can take melatonin supplements to improve sleep. Melatonin works by changing how the body responds to darkness by helping its transit to a mode of nighttime sleepiness.
When exposed to light at night, your body reacts by suppressing melatonin production, thereby affecting your sleep. Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder( DSWPD) is a circadian rhythm disorder in which sufferers experience a shift in their sleeping schedule.
In most cases, the shift in sleeping schedules could be as much as one hour. Individuals suffering from this disorder often find it challenging to get enough sleep if they have activities slated for the day that needs them to wake up early.
Research has shown that low doses of melatonin can help people with DSWPD adjust their sleep cycle forward. While studies of the benefits of melatonin in shift workers remain inconclusive, many people say it works for them. Night shift workers may find it difficult to sleep during the day as there is a disruption in the circadian rhythm.
However, Some night shift workers have reported improvements in their sleeping during the day after taking low dosages of melatonin.
Jet lag is a common phenomenon that people experience when they travel rapidly across multiple time zones. Traveling between timelines could affect the body's internal clock and disrupt circadian rhythm. Studies show that melatonin supplements could help reset the sleep cycle and improve people's sleep quality with jetlag.
Just as in adults, melatonin may be pretty beneficial in children with sleeping difficulties to fall asleep more quickly. Research also shows that melatonin may be helpful in children with specific conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and epilepsy.
How Much Should you take?
People take melatonin in different forms on a short-term basis to relieve temporary sleep difficulties caused by jet lag. The US food and drug administration regards melatonin as a dietary supplement, so there are no guidelines on dosage in the United States. However, several factors determine what is considered a safe melanin dosage. They include:
Melatonin Dosage for Adults
Though there is no official recommended melanin dosage for adults, a range of 0.5 milligrams to 5 kilograms gets seen as safe and effective.
As we age, our melatonin levels decline naturally, thereby affecting our sleep-wake cycle.
Older adults should begin with the lowest dosage of melatonin to avoid extended drowsiness.
Melatonin Dosage for Children
Most children appear to tolerate the short-term use of melatonin in small doses. The effective dosage of melatonin for children ranges between 0.05 milligrams per kilogram to 5 milligrams of melatonin.
There are no conclusive studies that support the potential long-term use of melatonin in children or its recommended dosage. Experts warn that Parents of children with sleep issues should seek the advice of a doctor before administering melatonin.
Melatonin Dosage for Breastfeeding or Pregnant Women
Breastfeeding and pregnant women must consult with their doctors before using melatonin. Studies on the safe dosage of melatonin for this group are still very inadequate.
Best Time to Take Melatonin
Studies have revealed that the best time to take melatonin is about several hours before bedtime. Melatonin is regarded as the evening hormone because your brain naturally produces melatonin about one or two hours before sleep. Avoid taking melatonin with alcohol as it can affect your sleep quality and disrupt natural melatonin production levels.
Similarly, taking melatonin with caffeine is not advisable as it disrupts your sleep quality and affects your natural melatonin production levels.
Can you Become Dependent on Melatonin?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the body, and for that reason, it is not addictive. Unlike other sleep medications, you are very much unlikely to become dependent on melatonin.
It doesn't cause a sleep hangover, and you would not have to require more doses after using it for a while.
What are the Side Effects of Taking Melatonin?
The short-term use of melatonin has pretty few side effects, and it is well tolerated by many people who use it. Some of the common side effects of melatonin reported by people include headaches, daytime drowsiness, nausea, and dizziness.
However, only a handful of individuals who take melatonin gets to experience these symptoms. There are less common side effects of melatonin use, and they include:
Abnormally low pressure
The side effects of short-term use of melatonin in children are not much different from adults. However, some children may face an increased risk of bedwetting when using melatonin.
Consulting a doctor before administering or use melatonin for both adults and children is very important to avoid possible allergic reactions or interactions.
Do not combine melatonin with any of the following:
Sedatives medications: The use of melatonin may cause drowsiness or sleepiness. Combining it with sedative medications can cause drowsiness and could result in too much sleep. Some notable sedatives are zolpidem, lorazepam, clonazepam, etc.
Birth control pills: Birth control pills increase the body's melatonin production, which, when combined with melatonin supplements, leads to excessive melatonin production levels.
Caffeine: Combining caffeine with melatonin supplements can reduce its effectiveness as caffeine decreases melatonin levels.
Immunosuppressants: Melatonin supplements can affect the immune system. So taking melatonin with medications that decrease the immune system would reduce the effectiveness of the immunosuppressants.
Nifedipine GITS: Nifedipine is used to lower blood pressure. Combining melatonin with Nifedipine can reduce its effectiveness to lower blood pressure.
Choosing the Right Melatonin Supplement
The Food and Drug Administration does not fully regulate melatonin because it gets sold as a food supplement rather than medication. You will likely find a wide range of brands with different formulations and dosages in groceries and drug stores.
So choosing the right melatonin supplements could be pretty confusing if you do not know what important quality to consider. To avoid selecting the wrong melatonin supplement, ensure you go for a reputable brand you can trust.
Note that many brands carry dosage information that might be misleading or inaccurate. Look out for products with good customer ratings and reviews from independent and trusted sources.
Can you Become Immune to Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural component of the body, so you are not likely to be immune to it. However, overusing melatonin has consequences as the brain receptors might start getting desensitized to some people.
Total dependence on melatonin would not give you a healthy sleeping habit. To decrease the need for melatonin use, you have to improve and maintain good sleeping habits includes:
Sleep in a cool dark room
Avoid drinking coffee in the afternoon and evenings if you are affected by caffeine.
Maintain a healthy diet: Eating meals just before bedtime may affect your sleeping habit, so you should avoid eating just before going to bed.
Get regular exercise: Ensure you exercise regularly at least two hours before bedtime.
Limit or avoid alcohol intake: Alcohol is a sedative that can interfere with your sleep during the night. Avoid drinking alcohol for at least four hours before going to bed.
Melatonin has proven to be beneficial to adults and children suffering from sleep difficulty issues. However, users should always consult their doctor to ensure safe and effective use.
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