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Melatonin Supplements for Better Sleep: Common Questions and Answers

Many people are striving to achieve better sleep to improve their overall sleep quality and well-being. People are using different techniques to remedy their sleepless nights, whether for short or long-term inability to sleep well. Reaching for natural treatments and remedies is the first step in our road to sleep improvement. Sleep supplements and vitamins are crucial, and adding them to our daily routine can significantly help in reducing sleeplessness and achieving better sleep. There are many supplements and vitamins that can help with aspects of sleep deficiencies. A well-known supplement that improves sleep quality is Melatonin.

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the pineal gland. The pineal gland is a small gland located in the center of the brain. Melatonin is a hormonal derivative of serotonin, the happiness hormone. This hormone helps us in regulating the sleep-wake cycle, also referred to as circadian rhythms. There are other functions that Melatonin is involved in. It also functions as an antioxidant, it is involved in the protection of cells, in the reproductive cycle, and other functions of the body. It can be produced by laboratories, and it is regularly sold as a supplement for achieving sleep improvement.

When is melatonin naturally produced?

The Natural production of Melatonin is prompted by darkness and night-time, and it is subsequently released into the bloodstream. Melatonin secretion is cyclical and only occurs during darkness. Secretion is prompted when the retinas of the eyes are relieved of light and sense darkness.

Does age affect natural melatonin production?

It is a valid question to ask, whether our natural Melatonin production declines as we age. Sleep patterns are so different between age groups. Babies and children spend more time sleeping than being awake. As we mature, our bodies seem to need less and less sleep, with the elderly sleeping the least of all the age groups. Just like other hormones, melatonin production also decreases with increasing age. The pineal gland is unable to produce as much of it, due to various reasons, possibly the calcification of the pineal gland, or their changes in eyesight and declining vision. Due to this decreasing natural level of melatonin, people can start feeling less rested and more tired as they age. As we age, melatonin supplements can help us avoid all the disadvantages of melatonin deficiency, and should be considered as a possible treatment for insomnia and sleep disorders in mature adults and the elderly.

When is taking melatonin supplements advised?

Taking Melatonin supplements is advised for some, but not all people who suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders. They are mainly used by people over 55 years of age to deal with short-term sleep pattern disruptions. In situations, where we are forced to break our regular sleep-wake cycle, melatonin can help our bodies sleep at times it is not used to. Traveling across time zones and the following jet lag is a good example of a sleep pattern disruption. Another example is the switch to shift work, where night shifts are common. Any situation that is out of the ordinary and disruptive to our circadian rhythms can be eased by taking melatonin supplements. In some cases, they are also used to treat headaches. When taken short-term, they are thought to be generally safe. A consultation with a physician is needed before long-term use or before use in children and youth. However, if you have allergies, suffer from kidney or liver problems, or suffer from any pre-existing conditions, consultation with a physician about melatonin use is absolutely necessary.

What dosage of melatonin supplement is appropriate?

If taking melatonin supplements without medical advice or prescription for short-term use, it is recommended to use the lowest possible dose necessary to help sleep, while not causing any of the side effects of melatonin overdose. The dose varies depending on individual characteristics such as age, body weight, sensitivity, and such. Generally, melatonin should be dosed at 0.5 to 5 milligrams once daily, with the maximum recommended dose of up to 10 milligrams daily. For first use, it is recommended to start with 0.5 to 1 milligram daily. Supplements should be taken approximately two hours before wanting to go to sleep.

Can you get addicted to melatonin?

Many sleep medications are proven to be addictive. Melatonin is different, as it has not been reported to be addictive with short-term use. If using short-term for adjustments to sleep pattern disruptions, melatonin supplements do not cause an increase in tolerance and do not cause any common withdrawal symptoms, and symptoms of drug dependence. However, it is unclear if long-term use can cause dependency because more research is required in this area. For this reason, long-term use of melatonin supplements is generally not advised.

Can you overdose on melatonin?

As with any other medication, it is certainly possible to overdose on melatonin supplements. Usually, an overdose of melatonin will result in the reverse effect of its intended purpose. Melatonin overdose will highly disrupt the sleep-wake cycle, making it even more difficult to fall asleep. Once asleep, nightmares and vivid dreams are common. Other side effects may also occur, these are described below. If you think you are suffering from melatonin overdose contact a physician or poison control immediately.

What are the common side effects of taking melatonin supplements?

Some people do experience side effects. Side effects are usually experienced if supplements are not taken in an appropriate dosage and an overdose is present. The most common side effects of taking melatonin supplements are headaches, dizziness, nausea, and drowsiness. Additionally, less commonly reported side effects are short-lasting feelings of depression, mild tremor, mild anxiety, abdominal cramps, irritability, reduced alertness, confusion or disorientation, and hypotension. It is important to remember that as with any other medication, taking melatonin supplements can interact with other medications being used. Medications that can interact with these supplements are anticoagulants and anti-platelet medications, contraceptives, anticonvulsants, immunosuppressants, and diabetes medication. If you take any of these medications, it is necessary to seek advice from a physician before use.