The Inherent Connection Between Melatonin and Sleep
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, which is located in the center of your brain. This gland releases melatonin in response to the light and dark cycles of day and night. It begins to secrete melatonin during the late afternoon and early evening hours each day, reaching peak levels between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.
The pineal gland suppresses production when it starts to get light in the morning. As melatonin levels fall, your body is prepared to become more alert and wake up.
Melatonin and Sleep Disorders
Research has shown that supplementing your body's natural supply of melatonin can help improve sleep for people with certain types of sleep disorders. Melatonin is sold as a dietary supplement in health food stores and online. If you are considering taking melatonin as a supplement, consult with your doctor first.
Although the hormone is available in natural and synthetic varieties, experts strongly advise that you only use the synthetic form of melatonin - also called man-made or pharmacy-grade.
Interestingly, this is one of those rare circumstances where "natural" doesn't always equate with "safer or better." Natural melatonin is derived from animals and may contain contaminants that are dangerous for humans.
It is also important to note that melatonin and sleep supplements have not been certified as safe by the Food And Drug Administration.
Again, this underscores the importance of talking with your doctor before taking melatonin or any herbal sleep aids to help remedy your sleep issues.
Also, because of how melatonin and sleep are connected, taking the supplement is better suited for treating certain sleep disorders than others.
For example, if your sleep/wake cycles are out of balance from shift workor time-zone changes, then taking a melatonin supplement before bed could make nodding off that much easier.
But if stress, anxiety, too much caffeine, or pain are the root of your insomnia, melatonin isn't likely to help.
Melatonin Research Findings
Research conducted at the Divisions of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School shows that taking melatonin can be an effective way to improve the ability to fall asleep.
The results also indicate that taking supplements can enhance quality of sleep for night-shift workers, people suffering from jet lag, and those who suffer from advanced sleep-phase syndrome or delayed sleep-phase syndrome.
Taking Melatonin Supplements
An adult dose is anywhere from .5mg to 20mg, depending on the manufacturer and sleep issue for which you are taking the supplement. Research on melatonin and sleep has shown that most people can tolerate the supplement without ill effects.
Though, as with any treatment option, there is a small percentage of individuals who experience some side effects.
When taking melatonin, some people may feel drowsy the next day. It may also cause you to dream more often and/or more vividly.
Other side effects could include headaches, dizziness, digestive system problems (such as nausea or vomiting), a decrease in body temperature, and changes in blood flow resulting in a drop or increase in blood pressure.
For this reason there are certain precautions and contra-indications to consider when looking at melatonin and sleep.
Also, if you experience any side effects when taking melatonin, let your doctor know right away. For information on other sleep remedies, click here: Natural Cures for Insomnia or visit the links below.