A human life has a pattern. We eat when we are hungry. We drink when we are thirsty. We wake up when it is light and sleep when it is dark.
Scientists have been studying about the sleep and waking cycle.
And only recently, they started to have an understanding about the relationship between daylight and darkness in the sleep cycle.
Sleep is regulated through exposure to light and darkness.
When you are exposed to light, a nerve pathway going from the retina to the hypothalamus is stimulated.
After stimulation is initiated, the suprachiasmatic nucleus or SCN sends signals to parts of the brain that control body hormones, temperature and functions that make you feel sleepy or awake.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF SCN?
It works like a clock.
When it is exposed to the light, the SCN starts to perform functions that can wake you up, such as raising your temperature, releasing hormones, etc.
It also delays the release of melatonin, which is associated with sleep. Hence, it is called melatonin for sleep.
When darkness arrives, SCN starts to release melatonin to help you fall asleep.
WHAT IS MELATONIN?
It is a natural hormone that is produced by the pineal gland. Melatonin has a size of a pea and it is located above your middle brain.
During daylight, your pineal gland is inactive.
When the sun goes down, it is turned on and begins to produce melatonin. After its production, the hormone is released into your blood.
The release usually occurs around nine in the evening.
When such hormone is released, you start to feel less alert. As a result, sleep becomes more appealing.
The hormone’s levels in the blood stays elevated up to 12 hours. That is, it is elevated throughout the night.
It falls back by 9 am.
Unfortunately, the production of melatonin can be affected by bright light.
DRACULA OF HORMONES
Melatonin for sleep is usually called the Dracula of hormones because it is only produced unless you are in a dimly lit surrounding.
Even if it is nighttime when there is an indoor lighting, it may still prevent the release and production of melatonin for sleep.
MELATONIN DIETARY SUPPLEMENT
Studies showed that melatonin for sleep dietary supplements can alleviate jet lag. In fact, British scientists considered it as remarkably effective supplement when it is used by people who are crossing over five or more time zones.
This supplement is available in various health food stores (Vim Chi does not have one yet). Because it is a supplement, it does not need the approval of the FDA.
It is not a drug. Thus, you can find melatonin for sleep supplements made by factories that are not regulated by the FDA.
But this can cause danger to your health. The reason for this is that the listed dose may not be accurate or controlled.
This could mean that the amount of melatonin may not be the same amount found on the package.
Some supplements offer it at a dose that will dangerously increase the level of melatonin in the body.
Bear in mind that the method, time and dosage of this supplement must be correct to alleviate sleep problem.
If you take it at the wrong time of the day, then you suffer from undesirable effects as your body’s biological clock will be reset in a wrong way.
Fortunately, there are no reported cases of overdose and toxicity related to the use of melatonin for sleep supplement.
STUDIES ABOUT MELATONIN
Although results about the intake of melatonin for sleep when taken for jet lag were remarkable, the evidence is less solid in curing everyday insomnia, even though it induces shut-eye.
Some scientists theorized that melatonin for sleep supplement will only work for people with naturally low levels of this hormone in their bodies.
It is also not conclusive that the level of melatonin in the body decreases with age.
In a Scottish study, scientists found that participants who took 2 mg of melatonin for sleep supplement helped them get a good night’s sleep.
The result was the same as taking a sleeping pill.
Those who are taking this supplement slept better and they felt more alert after waking up.
They also reported to have a better quality of life.
Its availability may vary from one country to another. Some countries allow it to be freely available while others totally banned it.
Other countries do allow it to be available only with prescription or restriction.
Thus, before you consider taking this supplement, you must consult your physician.
Even if you do not need to obtain a prescription to purchase it, you still have to talk to your doctor to know about the effects of this supplement to your body.
WHEN SHOULD YOU TAKE MELATONIN FOR SLEEP?
As mentioned earlier, melatonin for sleep works for jet lag. Thus, it can be beneficial for you if you will be up late for a few nights in one row.
You can benefit from it if you have trouble returning to your normal sleep cycle.
Geriatric patients may also take advantage of this supplement. People who are 60 years old or over may have trouble sleeping. With the assistance of this supplement, they may be able to sleep better. Still, they have to consult their physician before taking such.
On the other hand, you must not take this supplement if the cause of your trouble sleeping is stress, depression or anxiety.
It is because the cause of the problem is not the result of your body’s inability to produce melatonin. Instead, you may benefit from using muscle relaxation exercise to your body and distract your brain.
You must also avoid taking too much melatonin for sleep supplement as it can disrupt your normal sleeping pattern. If you do take too much of it, it may wake you up in the middle of the night.
Some people even experience a melatonin hangover causing them to feel groggy and un-rested.
The reason for this is that the remaining melatonin in your system in the morning will trick your body into thinking that it is still night time. In other words, it will make it harder for you to wake up.
HOW SHOULD YOU TAKE MELATONIN FOR SLEEP?
You must take it as directed by your physician. It is wrong for you to consider it as a sleeping pill.
Melatonin for sleep will not induce sleep but it will only speed up your body’s sleep preparation. It tells the brain to prepare for a night time.
You must avoid taking it at daytime as it can cause adverse side effects. If there are light signals, melatonin may not work properly.
Even though this supplement is a natural product, it can still cause harm to your body and pose serious health risks.
Some studies showed that taking of this supplement during daytime may cause depression.
TYPES OF MELATONIN FOR SLEEP SUPPLEMENTS
There are three different types of melatonin for sleep supplements.
The first one is the time-released type. It is used if you need to change your sleep cycle for more than an hour. Try to take the lowest dose. But do not cut the pill as it will only reduce its potency.
Take it one to three hours before your bedtime. But, you must not take it if you are exposed to bright sunlight.
The second type is the standard melatonin for sleep. It is the lowest dose and it is usually the best option. It must be taken at least two hours before sleep time.
The third type is for nighttime awakenings. It is a sublingual pill that is released through the blood stream. Because it is not metabolized by the digestive system, the effects are immediate.
Before you head to your bedroom and sleep, make sure that the lights are down.
You must turn off your television and computer. The reason for this is that light exposure can prevent your body from making its own melatonin.
As a result, you will not get a good night’s sleep that you desire, even after taking melatonin for sleep supplement.
It will also not hurt you to change your lifestyle to help you get a better amount of sleep each night. In this way, you do not have to rely on the power of this type of supplement.
IS IT OKAY TO TAKE IT FOR LONG TERM?
Sleep experts may recommend melatonin for sleep only for short-term use. In fact, some sleep experts only recommend it to be taken for less than two weeks.
Long-term use may cause serious medical problems.
If your problem has not been resolved, you should talk to your doctor as you may be suffering from a sleep disorder that must be resolved immediately.
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF MELATONIN FOR SLEEP?
It is still unclear as to the safety of melatonin for sleep supplement if taken long-term. Thus, sleep experts do not recommend it.
They also warn against every day use of this supplement.
The possible side effects will include the following:
- Nightmares/vivid dreams
Abdominal discomfort, confusion and depression may also arise.
If you are taking medicines, you must consult your doctor.
Remember that this supplement may interact with the effects of anticoagulants, diabetes medicines, immune-suppressants, and birth control pills.
As mentioned earlier, you must check with your doctor first before considering this supplement. Your doctor can determine the right dose based on your condition.
You must choose supplements made in a lab, instead of opting for products produced from animal sources.
And if you do take it, make sure that you do not perform activities that require your full alertness.
You must only take it less than two weeks or up to two months, depending on the recommendation of your doctor. In some cases, however, long-term use is appropriate.
The correct dose can vary.
It can be 0.3 mg or 1.0 mg. Thus, it is a must that you talk to your physician to determine the right amount of melatonin for sleep supplement that you can truly benefit.
Another thing you must remember when you take this supplement is to avoid taking it with other sleep-inducing medicines or pills.
If you do so, then you will surely suffer from serious negative side effects, like inability to sleep or insomnia.
Grogginess, depression and irritability will arise.
Instead of relying on melatonin for sleep supplement, you can perform some activities that will help you get a good night’s sleep.
Anxiety is one of the reasons of insomnia.
To lower it, you should consider getting bright light in the morning and early afternoon to regulate internal body clock.
This controls, not just your mood but also your sleep cycle.
As a result, you will get a good quality sleep and boost your mood.
Avoid drinking alcohol a few hours before bedtime. Although it can make you feel tired, it will wake you up once it has been processed by your body.
Then, your sleep environment must be conducive for sleeping.
Take the temperature, for instance. It must be 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
If it is too cold, put on a blanket.
If it is too hot, turn on the air-conditioning unit.
Practice relaxation. Pilates and yoga are good exercises that can make you feel relaxed and may help in getting you a good quality of sleep.
Slow down your body and mind through visualizing happy images or counting backwards.
It also takes time for you to reach the type of sleep that restores your body, i.e. REM.
According to experts, it usually takes about an hour to reach deep sleep. Thus, they recommend setting a wake up time and stick to it every day.
It is also important to stick to your sleep time, as much as possible.
Melatonin for sleep may be able to help you get a good night’s sleep only on certain conditions. You must not abuse its use as it may cause serious negative effects.