Check Your Sleep Aids: Melatonin Should Be in the List
If you ask most insomniacs or elderly people who just couldn’t get a good night’s sleep what’s the best of all sleep aids, melatonin would most probably be their answer. Although mild sedatives are also effective sleep-inducers, melatonin has gained more popularity in the market.
Perhaps one of the reasons why melatonin is popular with the public is because the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has labeled it as a supplement rather than a drug – and most people often associate drugs as having side effects while supplements don’t. Since “supplement” is a much safer term for any person outside the medical field, there is no surprise that melatonin has topped the list of most popular sleep aids.
What is Melatonin?
Speaking of sleep aids, melatonin is actually somewhat different since it is a naturally occurring substance in our body – it’s a hormone. Melatonin functions as a sleep inducer, and a light-sensitive gland known as the pineal gland produces it. When the light of the day shines upon the retina, the eye tissue sends impulses to the gland to shut down melatonin production.
Obviously, as night approaches, the retina sends fewer impulses that shut down the production of melatonin, thus the hormone’s production increases. This explains why at night you feel sleepy. Melatonin production is influenced by some factors such as hormonal imbalances and age.
Is it Effective?
Since melatonin is a natural sleep inducer, it is the most commonly used sleep aid of insomniacs and individuals with sleeping problems. It has also been used to relieve jet lag. Melatonin is said to work best if taken between twenty to forty minutes before the target time of sleeping.
In terms of relieving jet lag, previous studies made have suggested that among all other sleep aids, melatonin works best in alleviating any discomforts brought about by jet lag. In a study by Claustrat (1992), which involved subjects who are flying from North America to France, melatonin has been helpful in relieving jet lag for subjects on eastern bound flights.
Consequently, another study conducted by Lino (1993) gave the results that melatonin should be taken at a time near the flight schedule to achieve positive results. The study suggested that if melatonin is taken days prior to the actual flight, the hormone will have no effect in relieving jet lag and, worse, individuals may experience negative effects such as headaches.
Too Much is Not Good
Although there is proof that melatonin is effective in aiding sleep, other studies also suggest that abusing this supplement may cut short its effectiveness. Doctors can prescribe melatonin at varying doses from .1 mg to 200 mg. The dosage requirement differs from one individual to another, depending on its effectiveness.
On the other hand, if the hormone is abused in the sense that one takes too much of it, its effectiveness may wane. A study headed by Professor Richard Wurtman had sparked issues about the hormone’s efficacy if taken in relatively large dosages. The study said that about only .3 mg of melatonin is needed to produce a restful sleep. However, melatonin pills available in the market are ten times more than the effective dosage. This may render the hormone to be ineffective after days of taking it.
The researchers added that the brain’s receptors become unresponsive if they are actually exposed to too much melatonin. Nevertheless, a meta-analysis conducted by the same research team involving 17 peer-reviewed scientific works regarding the hormone gave out the answer that in terms of effectiveness, melatonin is indeed effective.
These findings then concretize the idea that among sleep aids, melatonin is very effective and even much safer. However, one should not misuse it extensively to the point that one develops dependence with it.