Melatonin is a hormone that’s commonly referred to as the hormone of darkness because it’s naturally released at night. However, it can also be taken as an oral supplement in case of insomnia and other sleep issues. Namely, a whopping 3 million Americans are using it to treat their sleep disorders. Unfortunately, even though it may stimulate sleep, it may not improve sleep quality and duration.
Who Should Take Melatonin?
In general, anyone experiencing difficulty falling asleep may benefit from taking melatonin as a supplement. According to a study, insomnia patients who take melatonin fall asleep a bit faster while those who suffer from delayed sleep phase syndrome may enjoy greater benefits.
Furthermore, research focusing on the benefits of melatonin on adults with primary sleep disorders like non-24 sleep-wake syndrome in blind people, insomnia, delayed sleep phase syndrome, and REM behavior disorder found that melatonin induces sleep more quickly and helped in sleep patterns regulation in blind people.
Another research showed that melatonin could also help children suffering from sleep issues, including insomnia. The supplement helped them fall asleep faster, wake up less frequently, and fall back to sleep more quickly when they get up. This means that children with insomnia get more sleep every night if they take melatonin as a supplement.
Is Melatonin Safe for Regular Use?
Speaking the truth, the main advantage of taking melatonin when compared to other sleep medications is that it is non-addictive and short-term use is completely safe for most adults and children. Still, information regarding the effects of long-term melatonin use is lacking.
One study showed that long-term melatonin supplements use in adults may lead to experiencing some mild side effects when compared to a placebo. And, although such studies in children are limited, some experts worry that long-term use of melatonin may delay puberty onset because the levels of melatonin naturally reduce at the beginning of puberty. But, there’s still no proof of that.
What are the Disadvantages of Melatonin?
When compared to other prescribed medications and other substances controlled by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), there are some downsides to taking melatonin. In fact, melatonin manufacture isn’t controlled by the U.S. FDA and is sold as a dietary supplement.
Research conducted on melatonin supplements from numerous brands showed that the content varies from one brand to another. What’s more, the researchers found serotonin in eight of the brands researched. Serotonin is actually a hormone that regulates mood and feelings and is therefore used to treat certain neurological disorders and depression. And, taking serotonin without being aware of it could lead to serious side effects.
Another issue with taking melatonin for sleep is dosing. One review showed that a 0.3 milligrams dose of melatonin has proven to be the most effective. However, the pills that are available on the market contain even up to 10 times this amount. And, when taking that dose, the melatonin brain receptors stop responding.
Common side-effects of using melatonin include dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, and headache, whereas less common side-effects include mild tremor, mild anxiety, irritability, reduced alertness, disorientation, confusion, abdominal cramps, hypotension, and short-lasting depression.
Finally, note that melatonin can interact with other medications like blood-thinning, epilepsy, diabetes, blood pressure, and birth control medications. That’s why you have to ask your doctor before starting to take melatonin as a supplement.