How does melatonin work?
23rd October 2019
Melatonin is a hormone produced by your body to help regulate sleepfulness and wakefulness. It is often referred to as the "sleep hormone" as it has a big contribution to being able to get a good night's sleep. Melatonin itself does not cause sleepfulness, however, it lets your body know that it is night-time so that you can relax and sleep better.
Melatonin tablts are popular with people who experience insomnia. This is because Melatonin does not develop tolerance, meaning it does not become less effective the longer you use it. Most other sleeping tablets will eventually have diminishing returns because of the tolerance effect.
How long does it take for melatonin to kick in?
When taken as a tablet, Melatonin reaches the maximum concentration in your blood after approximately 30 minutes. Therefore, you should take Melatonin a half hour before you wish to fall asleep.
Is melatonin safe?
Melatonin is generally considered safe. There are potential side effects including headache, short-term feelings of depression, daytime sleepiness, dizziness, stomach cramps, and irritability. None of these side-effects are considered serious, however, they may be exacerbated by larger doses of Melatonin. Therefore, it is a good idea to experiment with lower doses if you experience any of the above symptoms.
What are melatonin side effects?
Melatonin is generally considered safe. People can take Melatonin for years without experiencing addiction and without diminishing effectiveness because of tolerance. There are no serious side effects from taking Melatonin, though you may experience some of the following when taking it:
- short-term feelings of depression
- daytime sleepiness
- stomach cramps
Can you overdose taking melatonin?
While taking too much Melatonin may not be dangerous, it could disrupt your sleeping patterns. It also may exacerbate side effects such as headache, dizziness or irritability. To keep it safe, only use melatonin as directed by your doctor and only take it approximately 30 minutes prior to going to sleep.
Other health benefits of melatonin
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has the following list of health benefits for people who take Melatonin:
Jet lag prevents people who travel from getting a good sleep at night. It also contributes to not feeling well, disturbed sleep, daytime tiredness and impaired functioning and digestion. Studies have shown that Melatonin reduces symptoms of jet lag.
Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD)
People with DSWPD find it difficult to go to sleep prior to 2am and would prefer to sleep until 10am (or as late as 1pm). Melatonin appears to help people who suffer from DSWPD.
Sleep disorders in children
According to studies listed at the NIH website, children with autism were able to sleep 37 minutes earlier when taking Melatonin, and slept on average 48 minutes longer. Children with ADHD fell asleep 20 minutes earlier and 33 minutes longer. Children with atopic dermatitis slept 6.8 minutes earlier and 35 minutes longer. Children with chronic sleep-onset insomnia slept 24 minutes earlier and 25 minutes longer.
Anxiety before and after surgery
Up to 80% of patients suffer from anxiety before and after surgery. Melatonin appears to be helpful in reducing anxiety before surgery, based on 744 people who took Melatonin prior to their surgery. More information on this is available at the above-linked NIH website.
Does melatonin treat insomnia?
Melatonin is commonly used in the treatment of insomnia and improving sleep where insomnia is due to various conditions. For example, it can be used for jet lag, adjusting sleep-wake cycles in people who have daily work schedule changes (shift-work disorder), and by helping people establish a day and night sleep cycle.
I've taken melatonin but still have insomnia, what can I do?
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