People often prefer the use of melatonin for sleep, which is a hormone found in all biological organisms. It is also known as 5-methoxy-N-acetyltryptamine. The amount of melatonin contained in organisms is affected by the amount of light received by the body. It is produced on humans by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin works on the body in such a way that the body knows when its time to sleep or wake up.
Melatonin for Sleep – Uses
Though melatonin is popularly used as a sleep aid, it is also a natural treatment for insomnia. Aside from improving sleep, it also has other uses. Studies show that it can be used as:
- An antioxidant
- Skin protective agent
- Cancer protective agent
- And as a treatment for depression
Melatonin is a multi-functional hormone. Most of its common uses are mentioned here:
- For vivid dreams or sleep aid – Melatonin naturally serves the purpose of a sleeping aid. Melatonin supplements make people sleepy during the day time. People who use melatonin have been reported to have an increased frequency and vividness of their dreams.
- As an antioxidant – Melatonin is active as an antioxidant in both water and oil.
- Cancer protection – Cancer free patients have higher levels of melatonin as compared to cancer patients. Melatonin inhibits the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells in women. Preliminary tests suggest that melatonin has the tendency to improve the effectiveness of some chemotherapy drugs.
- Oral contraceptive – Melatonin acts on the endocrine-reproductive system by reducing the circulation of the luteinizing hormone. It inhibits ovulation in women and is often suggested by physicians to use with a combination contraceptive medications. It is also noted to decrease sex drive and sperm mobility in men, when taken in high doses.
Protection of the skin from ultraviolet light – when combined with vitamin C and E, Melatonin exhibits a photo protective effect on the skin. It can be used as a natural sunscreen.
- Insomnia – Studies suggest that melatonin makes people fall asleep faster, when taken orally through the mouth.
- Depression – Some studies suggest that people suffering of panic attacks or major depressions have low blood levels of melatonin. Experimental studies show that melatonin increases the level of serotonin in the body, which helps reduce depression.
- Work shifts and jet lag – Melatonin helps people who are suffering of sleep disorders by reducing the time it takes for them to fall asleep and daytime tiredness. Working late night shifts upsets the natural circadian rhythm of the body. This causes problems such as, dizziness, fatigue and the disability to think and focus clearly.
When using melatonin for sleep, the most common side effects seen are altered sleep patterns or headaches. Mental changes or mood swings may also occur more often, as well as itching, heavy headedness and fast heartbeats. Melatonin may lead to low body temperatures. Its side-effects are usually temporary and don’t last long once the dosage had been reduced.
Dosage And Overdose
A dose of 1 to 5mg is considered to be a safe for use. For new users it is advisable to start melatonin supplements at low dosages like 0.3 mg, and then gradually increase the dose to 5 mg. Melatonin is available as tablets as well as in syrup form.
Children and Melatonin
There have been many investigations and researches going on presently on melatonin. Some studies show that the use of melatonin is a safe way to promote sleep in children. Most studies are based on children suffering from neurological disorders. It has turned out to be quite helpful for Autistic children and those suffering of ADHD who have difficulty in falling asleep easily. The production of the melatonin hormone is sometimes less and totally absent in some autistic children, and those suffering of ADHD and also visually impaired children. Most physicians don’t prescribe the use of melatonin for healthy children. This is because its long term side effects are still not fully known.
There are some precautions that need to be taken when using melatonin for sleep. People suffering of immune system disorders, liver diseases, diabetes, depressions, kidney diseases or strokes should first consult their physicians before starting the use of melatonin supplements. More importantly, people also need to limit their intake of alcohol consumption, because it triggers some side effects of melatonin. Extra caution is advised for people when performing tasks that require their complete focus and alertness, such as driving. The use of melatonin is not advisable for females who are trying to conceive or planning to get pregnant in the near future. Melatonin is not recommended for use by minors or people under the age of 20. People over the age of 65 should ask their physician before using melatonin for sleep, so that the blood levels can be monitored.