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Melatonin: All You Need to Know
Last Updated on April 21, 2020 by Ben Locke
Melatonin is a hormone that occurs in the body naturally. It is used as a medicine after being synthetically produced in the laboratory. Melatonin is easily available in the form of pills; however, if you want, you could also get melatonin that has to be consumed by placing it under the tongue or in the cheek. This helps the hormone to be absorbed, directly by your body. Most people consume melatonin orally in order to adjust their internal body clock. Melatonin is frequently used for insomnia and to help improve various sleep conditions. For instance, it is also used for jet lag, for adjusting the sleep-wake cycles, especially in people who change their daily working schedule frequently. This disorder is known as shift-work disorder, and melatonin is very helpful in helping to cure this otherwise mild condition.
How to Buy Melatonin?
Melatonin is easily available over the counter in the US and Canada and is labeled by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a dietary supplement. The regulations of FDA, which are applicable to medicines, do not apply to melatonin. Melatonin can cause harm in combination with a few medicines or in the case of certain disorders. Thus, it is important that you consult a doctor or a pharmacist before you administer melatonin. In a large number of countries, melatonin is regarded as a neurohormone and cannot be sold over the counter.
Buying and Using Melatonin- Dos and Don’ts
- Start by buying a low dosage of melatonin, especially if you have not taken any supplements before. Follow all instructions carefully and take the mildest form of melatonin available. Initially, buy melatonin supplements between .5 and 1 mg. Go for a higher dose only if recommended by a physician.
- Buy melatonin if you have traveled for long hours and are experiencing a change in your environment. Melatonin will help you greatly in getting your body to rest by giving it enough time to sleep and recover.
- If you show some adverse reaction to melatonin, make sure that you visit a doctor on time. In case melatonin is unable to solve your sleeping problems, then you might want to consider visiting a medic for a professional opinion.
- If you’re planning to administer this supplement on your children, only do that after you have consulted your doctor.
- Don’t take melatonin at a time where you will be engaging in activities that demand your full attention, for instance, driving or working out (although a study has shown that melatonin has not had much adverse effect on driving). Melatonin makes your body sleepy and encourages it to rest. Thus, it should only be taken some time before you sleep.
- Don’t buy melatonin in large quantities. Make sure that you only buy this supplement for not more than two weeks in the beginning. After two weeks, your body will become immune to its effects and start demanding more, which might not be good in the long run.
- Don’t take additional pills of melatonin if you happen to wake up in the night to avoid overdosing. It is not recommended that you take more than the prescribed dosage of melatonin.
- Don’t take melatonin if you’re breastfeeding, taking blood thinners, or during pregnancy. Since melatonin is a hormone, it often reacts with medications and cannot be passed on to children in utero or via breast milk. If you’re going through hormone replacement therapy, you should speak to your doctor before you take melatonin.
How Does Melatonin Work?
Melatonin works along with your body’s circadian rhythm. Simply put, the circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock. It helps you naturally decide your time of sleep and its duration along with the time you wake up. Melatonin also helps regulate your body temperature, hormone levels, and blood pressure. Your melatonin level starts to rise in the body once it gets dark outside; this signals the body that it’s time to sleep. Other than that, it also binds the receptors in your body and helps you relax. For example, melatonin binds itself to the receptors in your brain and helps lessen nerve activity. In your eyes, it also helps reduce the dopamine levels and allows you to feel sleepy when the time is right. Light suppresses the production of melatonin. That way, your body knows when to wake up with the daylight. Since melatonin helps prepare your body for sleep, people whose bodies do not make enough of it can often struggle to sleep. There are many factors that can cause low levels of melatonin in the nighttime. This includes smoking, being exposed to too much light in the night (also blue light), not having enough natural light in the daytime, shift work disorder as well as aging.
Recommended Melatonin Dosages
The following doses have been recommended after considerable scientific research.
Adults – Oral Administration
- In Case Of Disorders That Affect The Time, A Person Sleeps And Remains Awake: Melatonin should be taken between .5 mg to 5 mg before bedtime, especially if you plan to take it for a long time. In blind people, a high dose of 10 mg can be taken an hour before bedtime for as long as 9 weeks.
- For Trouble Sleeping at Conventional Bedtime: In this case, melatonin should be taken between .3 to 5 mg for about 9 months.
- Beta Blocker-induced Insomnia: For this disorder, melatonin can be taken daily for 4 weeks in doses of 5mg. Single doses of 5mg may also be used.
- Endometriosis: 10 mg of melatonin daily must be taken for 8 weeks.
- High Blood Pressure: 2-3 mg of controlled-release melatonin is taken daily for 4 weeks in case of high blood pressure.
- Insomnia: 2mg to 3mg of this supplement is taken before bedtime for up to 29 weeks, for the best results. Higher doses that go up to 12 mg daily are also used for shorter durations. When a person suffers from insomnia along with other conditions, then 2-12 mg for up to 4 weeks is used for treatment. Lower doses can be used up to 24 weeks.
- For Jet Lag: 5-8 mg of melatonin is used at bedtime on the day that you arrive at the destination. This dosage must be continued for about 2 to 5 days. You can take a low dose of about .5-3 mg in order to prevent getting any side effects of higher doses.
- For Reducing Anxiety Before Surgery: 3-10 mg of melatonin must be taken 60-90 minutes before the surgery for the best results.
- For Solid Tumors: 10-40 mg of melatonin is taken daily with radiotherapy, interleukin, and chemotherapy in case of solid tumors. Melatonin is started 7 days before the treatment, and the dosage is continued all through the treatment. Another way to use melatonin is by administering 20 mg of melatonin intravenously for 2 months, with 10 mg of oral melatonin.
- For Temporomandibular Disorders or TMD: 5 mg of melatonin is taken at bedtime daily for four weeks.
- For Thrombocytopenia – 20-40 mg of melatonin is taken every day for 7 days right before chemotherapy, and the cycle is continued further.
Children – Oral Administration
In the Case of Disorders That Affect the Time A Person Sleeps and Remains Awake: .5-4 mg of melatonin is used daily for up to 6 years in children who are blind. .5-12 mg of melatonin is used daily for 12 weeks in adolescents and children between the age of 3 months and 18 years.
For Trouble in Sleeping at Conventional Bedtime: 1-6 mg of melatonin is taken before bedtime for as much as one month for best results.
For insomnia: 5 mg to .05-0.15mg/kg of body weight is taken during bedtime for four weeks by children between 6-12 years of age. When insomnia occurs along with other conditions, 6-9 mg of melatonin is taken a right before bedtime for 4 weeks.
Precautions to Take
- Do not consume melatonin with sedatives such as CNS depressants. Melatonin might cause drowsiness and sleepiness when taken along with other sedatives. Some sedatives include clonazepam, lorazepam, Phenobarbital, zolpidem, and others.
- Do not take melatonin in case you are taking birth control pills. Birth control pills increase the level of melatonin in the body, thus, taking melatonin along with anti-contraceptives might result in your body having more melatonin that is healthy.
- Caffeine is known to decrease the level of melatonin in the body; thus, you should avoid taking caffeine along with melatonin supplements to make sure you get the best results.
- Melatonin might increase blood sugar levels and interfere with the working of your diabetes medications. If you take melatonin as a patient of diabetes, you might want to consult your doctor and change the dosage of your medicines.
- Melatonin enhances the immune system. Medications that are taken to suppress the immune system (as during transplants) should not be mixed with melatonin.
Side Effects of Melatonin
When Administered Orally: Melatonin, when orally administered, can cause some side-effects including headache, short term depression, daytime sleepiness, dizziness, stomach cramps as well as irritability. You should try and not use machinery for at least 4-5 hours after the intake of melatonin.
When Applied to The Skin: Melatonin is considered safe for most adults who apply it directly to the skin.
During Pregnancy: Melatonin is considered unsafe for women who take it orally or via injections during the time they are pregnant. Melatonin is known to have effects that are similar to birth control. This makes it difficult for women to conceive during their pregnancy.
In Breastfeeding: It is generally not advised to use melatonin for women who are breastfeeding.
For Children: Melatonin is safe when it is consumed by children orally. It is well tolerated by kids when taken in doses that are up to 3 mg per day and 5 mg in adolescents. There is slight evidence that melatonin might interfere with growth during adolescence.
Bleeding Disorders: Melatonin might worsen bleeding disorders in patients.
Depression: Melatonin is known to worsen symptoms of depression.
Diabetes: Melatonin may increase blood sugar in diabetic people. You should closely monitor your blood sugar levels if you are diabetic and taking melatonin.
High Blood Pressure: Melatonin sometimes raises the blood pressure in people who are trying to control it through medications. However, studies show that it might reduce blood pressure in male patients.
Transplant Recipients: Melatonin increases immune function and often interferes with the immunosuppressive therapy, which is used on people who have received transplants.
Uses and Benefits
Melatonin is highly effective for many sleep conditions. However, it has also shown some positive effects in other conditions like endometriosis. Further below we have discussed its various uses-
Melatonin Might be Highly Effective For
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome – This occurs when you cannot sleep at your conventional bedtime. When taken by mouth, melatonin reduces the amount of time that it takes for you to fall asleep, especially in young adults and children. It is basically effective for anyone who has trouble sleeping. It is noticed that after one year of stopping this treatment, the sleeping disorder tends to return
Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder – When melatonin is taken at bedtime by children and adults who are blind, it greatly helps in improving their sleep.
Melatonin Might be Slightly Effective For
Beta Blocker-Induced Insomnia – Sleep disturbances that occur because of blood pressure medicines can also be cured by melatonin. Certain beta-blocker drugs such as atenolol and propranolol tend to lower the levels of melatonin in your body. Such people usually like to take melatonin supplements in order to maintain their sleep cycle.
High Blood Pressure – When you take a controlled-release form of melatonin right before bedtime, it can lower your blood pressure to natural levels. However, immediate-release formulations do not work effectively.
Insomnia – In the short run, people suffering from insomnia find that the time taken by them to fall asleep lessens by 7-12 minutes after they begin to take melatonin. Melatonin also helps increase the time that a person with insomnia spends sleeping. People also say that melatonin helps them sleep better even when results show otherwise. Research has also shown that melatonin helps improve sleeping conditions arising from depression, epilepsy, schizophrenia, developmental disabilities, autism, or intellectual disabilities.
Jet Lag – Mostly, research has shown that melatonin also helps improve various symptoms of jet lag, including alertness and movement coordination. It also helps to improve some other symptoms of jet lag, such as tiredness and daytime sleepiness.
Sunburn – If you apply melatonin gel to your skin before you are exposed to the sun, it might reduce your sunburn to a great extent. Melatonin is used very often by people who have sensitive skin, as a potential sunscreen. However, people whose skin is less sensitive might not find it as helpful.
Solid Tumors – Solid tumors are cancerous growths without cysts or liquids. When melatonin is taken in large quantities along with chemotherapy and other treatments of cancer- it has shown to reduce the size of the tumor and has also improved the survival rate of people with tumors.
Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) – This is a group of very painful conditions that affect the jaw joint and muscle. Research has shown that by taking melatonin regularly before bedtime for four weeks, you can reduce the pain of TMD by 44% and increase the tolerance to pain in women by 39%.
Thrombocytopenia – This refers to the condition where the body shows alarmingly low levels of blood platelets. When melatonin is taken by mouth, it greatly improves the low count of blood platelets. This is also helpful in Thrombocytopenia, which is associated with cancer, cancer treatment, or other disorders.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration or AMD – This is an eye disease that causes loss of vision in older adults. Rudimentary research has shown that by taking melatonin every day, old people might delay the loss of vision in age-related macular degeneration.
Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) – It is shown by early research that melatonin greatly reduced the symptoms of eczema in children. However, even though melatonin improves symptoms of sleeping disorders and, it is not necessary that it reduces the time taken by children to fall asleep.
Melatonin is Possibly Effective For
Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – Research has shown that melatonin may reduce symptoms of insomnia in children, especially if they suffer from ADHD and are taking stimulants. However, an improvement in sleep does not necessarily imply that there will be an improvement in ADHD as well.
Autism – Research has shown that melatonin might be effective in improving the symptoms of impulsiveness and aggression in children with autism. Melatonin, however, does not improve other behaviors.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) – This is the condition of an enlarged prostate. If you take melatonin daily, you might be able to reduce excessive urination in men with BPH. However, it’s not clear whether such improvements are significant medically.
Bipolar Disorder – Early research has shown that when melatonin is taken at bedtime, it increases the duration of sleep and reduces manic symptoms for people who have bipolar disorder and insomnia. However, it is possible that the symptoms of bipolar disorder may worsen for people who take this supplement regularly.
Cataracts – When you take melatonin by mouth prior to your cataract surgery, it is possible that you might experience less pain during the operation. Melatonin has also shown a reduction in eye pressure before and during cataract surgery.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Research has shown that taking melatonin in the evening helps improve symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, such as lack of concentration and motivation as well as fatigue. Other early research has also shown that taking melatonin by mouth does not improve the symptoms of CFS.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD – There is some evidence that shows that taking melatonin helps improve shortness of breath in people who have COPD. However, this does not improve lung function or the capacity to exercise.
Cluster Headache – Taking 10mg melatonin by mouth every day has gone on to show a reduction in the number of cluster headaches throughout the day. However, lower doses of the same do not work.
Problems Related To Mental Function – A mixture of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), vitamin E, melatonin, tryptophan, soy, and phospholipids, when taken together, have gone on to show improvement in mental function as well as sensitivity to smell particularly in older people who face this problem.
Dyspepsia – This is a condition of general indigestion, which might be improved by regular intake of melatonin. However, it does not work in people who have H. pylori infection.
Epilepsy – Epilepsy is a form of seizure disorder. There is some evidence that consuming melatonin before bedtime reduces the frequency and length of such seizures in children who have epilepsy. However, more research must be done on the subject.
Fibromyalgia – Melatonin has shown that it may decrease severe pains and stiffness in people suffering from fibromyalgia.
Persisting Heartburn – If you take melatonin regularly at bedtime, it might improve your symptoms of acid reflux and also heartburn. However, conventional medicine is a much better and safer option.
Helicobacter Pylori – This is a digestive tract infection which sometimes leads to an ulcer. Evidence has shown that taking melatonin along with the drug omeprazole greatly improves healing in people who have ulcers that are caused by H. pylori infection.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome – This a long-term disorder in the large intestine, which causes frequent stomach aches. Research has shown that the intake of melatonin on a regular basis might improve some symptoms of IBS. Some research shows that melatonin suits such people better whose main symptom of IBS is constipation.
Symptoms of Menopause – When melatonin is combined with soy isoflavones, it helps relieve some psychological symptoms associated with menopause.
Tips to Consider Before Consuming Melatonin
- Although FDA controls the sale of dietary supplements, like melatonin, the regulations for such supplements are often less strict for other over the counter drugs.
- Avoid taking multiple dietary supplements together as they may interact with each other and pose risks if you have a medical condition.
- Talk to a professional, medic, or pharmacist before you start administering in your body.
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