Better Sleep Naturally!
With today’s frantic lifestyles and constant activity, it’s no wonder more and more people are having trouble sleeping at night. In the past decade, the number of people taking prescription sleeping aids has skyrocketed, with 25% of Americans currently taking some form of medication to help them sleep. Many women are concerned about the potential side effects of sleeping pills and are looking for a natural solution. Melatonin is one option, but does melatonin work?
What is Melatonin?
If you’re like most adults, you’ve had trouble sleeping at some point in your life. For many of us, occasional insomnia is a fact of life. For others, sleeplessness is a serious, chronic condition. Recent years have seen the introduction of dozens of prescription and over the counter sleeping pills, including major brands like Ambien and Lunesta. While these medications are useful for some people, the vast majority of those with insomnia can find safe, effective treatment without a prescription.
One drug that is increasingly popular is melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin levels rise in the mid to late evening, remain high during the night, and gradually fall in the morning. Melatonin production is related to changing light levels, and can be affected by things like seasons, shift work, or exposure to indoor lighting.
While most people make their own melatonin, the levels can change with age or circumstance. Many older adults lose the ability to naturally produce melatonin all together. Those with seasonal affective disorder (or SAD) can also suffer from melatonin deficiencies. Proponents of natural medicine promote the use of melatonin to treat sleeplessness and other conditions.
How Does Melatonin Work? Melatonin Facts
- Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone. Melatonin supplements are safe for both short and long term use and do not cause addition or dependence.
- Melatonin supplements are found at natural health food stores and drug stores. They are also available online.
- Melatonin can be used by children and pregnant women, but only under the supervision of a doctor.
- Melatonin does have mild side effects such as drowsiness, morning grogginess, vivid dreams, slight changes in blood pressure, and lower body temperature.
- Melatonin has been shown to help people fall asleep faster (4 minutes on average) and sleep longer (13 minutes on average).
- Melatonin is considered very safe, but until you know how melatonin effects you personally, don’t drive or perform other dangerous activities while taking it.
- Melatonin supplements may have other potential benefits like treating cluster headaches, combating some types of cancer, and strengthening the immune system. However, further research is needed to substantiate these claims.
How Many Milligrams of Melatonin is One Dose?
Adults should start taking melatonin at a low dose, 0.3 milligrams, and work their way up as needed. Often, melatonin supplements come in 1 or 3 milligram tablets, so begin by cutting them up into smaller pieces. If you feel groggy after taking melatonin, try reducing your dose. You can enhance the effect of this natural sleep aid by lowering the lights and turning off electronic devices at least 20 minutes before bedtime.