What Is Melatonin?
Secreted mainly by the pineal glands, melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone responsible for regulating the circadian rhythm of the body. It is an important hormone that helps in the determination of your sleep patterns and even the duration of sleep. Melatonin is also made in laboratories synthetically and taken by patients in the form of a pill. It is also sometimes designed to be put in the cheek or under the tongue. People often consume melatonin to adjust the body’s sleep and wake cycles when suffering from insomnia or jet lag. Melatonin is also used for curing serious sleep disorders such as Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD), insomnia caused in people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Furthermore, it is administered to cancer patients such as lungs cancer, breast cancer, neck cancer or brain cancer. Injections of melatonin may be given to heart patients after suffering from a heart attack.
Benefits/Uses of Melatonin
The principal work that melatonin performs in the body is this: it helps with the regulation of sleep patterns according to night or day time. The production of melatonin is increased during night time, as the body produces more when it’s dark. This is why during the day we don’t feel sleepy. The production of melatonin decreases while the body is surrounded by light. People who suffer from different types of sleep problems are given melatonin so that it may increase the amount of hormone needed in the body. Melatonin comes in different forms and administered mostly orally. All these different methods are used to serve different purposes.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome
It is estimated that over 50 million Americans suffer from a form of sleeping disorder. What this means is that there are many people have trouble falling asleep and stay asleep. It takes too much time for them to enter the tired-to-sleep phase. People suffering from sleeping disorders can take melatonin supplements to cut down the length of time required for them to fall asleep. It can be taken by children or by adults alike. It is important to take extra precaution when administering melatonin on children. A overdose of melatonin can occur in children. This leads to seizures in children. For some people, it has been observed that after a certain amount of time has passed, stopping the use of melatonin supplements could bring back their sleep problems.
Abnormal Sleep Patterns
The main purpose of melatonin is to control the flow of the sleep and wake cycle. It is taken by children suffering from developmental diseases like autism or some nerve damage. For such children and adolescents, melatonin has proven to be very beneficial. It reduces the time they take to fall asleep and also improves the quality of their sleep.
Moreover, melatonin supplements can also help old people with troubling sleep patterns and quality. It decreases the number of sleep interruptions. It’s also given to patients of dementia for this purpose.
Melatonin supplements as a sleep aid will reduce time-to-sleep for people with insomnia by ten to twelve minutes. It is mostly considered effective for people with primary insomnia but is also given in secondary insomnia situations (dementia, traumatic brain injury or depression).
Commonly known as seasonal depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very common type of condition that takes place due to changes in the seasons. Some studies believe that the sleep changes happen due to the changes in light during transitions of the seasons; it generally happens from fall to winter. Melatonin can help regulate the circadian rhythm. A study of sixty-eight people showed that changes in circadian rhythm were one of the contributing factors of SAD. These changes were controlled, and the symptoms of SAD decreased in participant that took melatonin.
Studies on humans as well as animals have shown that melatonin dosages can help prevent some eye damages. This is because of the antioxidants present in melatonin as they help prevent cellular damage and protect the eyes, thus promoting good eye health. Studies have even shown how useful melatonin can be in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In a study conducted on about 100 people, findings proved that participants who took melatonin had better protection for the retina and prevention against foggy visions.
Side Effects of Melatonin
During the past few years, melatonin has been used greatly for many purposes. Now its long term use and effects are being studied to know if it has any long-lasting side effects. Long term use of melatonin can actually cause a decrease in your body’s ability to naturally produce it own melatonin hormone. More studies have shown some other symptoms as side effects of using melatonin. These symptoms include, but are not limited to: dizziness, agitation, headaches, and nausea.
Melatonin supplements are prescribed or recommended to be taken around night time or evening. If taken at other times, it causes daytime sleepiness and this may significantly mess up your sleep/wake cycle. Although this can’t be considered a side effect but it may cause unfavorable feelings.
Reactions with Other Sleeping Medications
Melatonin may react with other sleeping pills and may cause side effects. In a study, it was found that melatonin taken alongside zolpidem (which is also a sleep aid) can cause harmful effects on muscles. Moreover, this can also have damaging effects on memory. A point to note: before taking melatonin with other sleeping medicines, it is important that you talk with your healthcare provider.
Use in Children
Children with minor sleeping disorder, such as taking long periods of time to fall asleep are sometimes given melatonin. Some doctors believe that melatonin should only be prescribed more to adults since there are limited studies showing the negative effects of melatonin in children.
For patients with blood pressure issues, it is strongly recommended that you consult with your doctor before taking melatonin pills. Melatonin taken in higher dosage can result in thinning of the blood. This may cause some problems with cardiovascular or blood pressure related issues.
Melatonin can cause sudden changes in body temperature. For people who already have a hard time staying warm, this could prove to be a problem as it can lead to a drop in body temperature.
The case for good quality sleep for better health cannot be overemphasized. And one of the solutions of a better and quality sleep is to take a melatonin pill. Melatonin helps you fall sleep faster and and helps you stay asleep longer. With everything we use in our lives, some are good and some are bad. With melatonin, there are the good and bad as well. For this reason, you should always talk to your primary healthcare provider before your use melatonin or any other supplement; this is very important.