Melatonin is a natural hormone which helps in sleep. It is produced by the pineal gland in the body. The pineal gland is located just above the middle of the brain. During day time, the pineal gland is inactive, and melatonin is not produced. While in darkness gland is turned on and melatonin is produced actively. Amount of melatonin production declines with age. Melatonin is also available in the form of supplements.
Most of the melatonin supplements are made in the laboratory.
Melatonin can easily be found in health food stores. Melatonin is the only hormone available in united states without prescription. U.S. Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 has allowed it to be sold as a supplement. Melatonin is not categorized as drug and doesn’t require regulations from the Food and Drug Administrations (FDA)
Following conditions must be fulfilled while taking melatonin supplements
- Correct dosage
- Time of dosage
Timing is very important for taking a melatonin supplement. If the dosage is taken at “wrong time” of the day, it can disturb the normal biological clock. Research shows that sleep disorders were improved when melatonin was taken at an appropriate time.
How melatonin effects body?
Melatonin is commonly used to treat sleep disorders. Many studies have shown that the use of melatonin causes a reduction in the number of awakenings. It also shortens the time taken to fell asleep.
Melatonin doesn’t cause dependence like other sleep medications. It can only cause mild habituation or a hangover. There are no reported cases of melatonin toxicity.
Research has shown that the use of melatonin can ease the following conditions:
Insomnia is generally defined as an inability to fall asleep.
Research has proved that the use of melatonin can relieve insomnia. Melatonin reduces the time taken to fall asleep. It improves sleep by increasing sleep quality and total sleep. Chronic insomnia which lasts more than six months is associated with hypertension.
Melatonin induces sleep and increases its quality. In this way, melatonin-induced sleep can reduce hypertension associated with insomnia.
The research of 2007 suggests that melatonin can improve the condition of insomnia in patients aged 55 years. The studies performed in 2013 also showed that the use of melatonin slightly improved the total sleep time, the time taken to fall asleep and the overall sleep quality in insomnia patients.
The literature review of 2011 also suggests that the use of melatonin is effective for young people. It causes minimum side effects in healthy children. The safety of long-term use of melatonin is not confirmed by studies.
Delayed sleep disorder
During this disorder, the sleep pattern is disturbed. Two or more hours delay in sleep pattern occurs which causes an individual to sleep late and wake up late. Adults with this disorder usually sleep after 2 a.m. and have trouble waking up early. The use of melatonin is effective and advances the time of sleep. It reduces the time required to sleep. Melatonin is found effective for both adults and children. In the case of children, the use of melatonin should be discussed with the doctor.
In 2007, researchers suggested the use of melatonin for delayed sleep disorder until the desired sleep time is achieved. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has also recommended the use of melatonin.
Sleep disorder of blind
Melatonin is helpful in improving the sleep cycle of blind adults and children.
Shift work disorder
Research suggests that melatonin can be helpful in case of shift work disorder. The use of melatonin can also improve the day time sleep quality and duration. It can be helpful for people whose work require night shifts. Shift work is the work outside the morning to evening working hours. Around two million Americans are affected by this disorder.
This study conducted in 2007 and 2010 have suggested that melatonin can improve day time sleep duration and quality. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has also suggested the use of melatonin. It suggests that melatonin should be taken prior to day time sleep. In this way, night shift workers can improve their day time sleep.
Jet lag is one of the most common sleep disorders. It is caused by rapid traveling across different time zones. It can affect sleep and alertness. Reports suggest that it occurs because of the disturbance in the body’s natural biological clock. Naturally, bodies work on circadian rhythms. These rhythms are influenced by the exposure to sunlight and time zone. These also determine an individual’s sleep and wake cycle. When a person travels to a different time zone, the circadian rhythms slowly adjust to new time zone.
Therefore, it takes several days to adjust to a new time zone. This condition is called “jet lag”. Its symptoms are the following:
- Daytime fatigue
- Disturbed sleep
In 2009, studies reported that the use of melatonin can ease jet lag. In 2007, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine also suggested the use of melatonin for jet lag. It was found that it can improve sleep even after traveling to more than one time zone.
Side effects of melatonin
Melatonin is considered safe when used for short term. The long-term use of melatonin is not confirmed to be safe. Melatonin can cause mild side effects which are the following:
- Day time drowsiness
- State of confusion
- depressive feelings
Studies suggest that melatonin supplements can worsen mood in people suffering from dementia. FDA also issued a warning to the companies making and selling “relaxation brownies” containing melatonin. Long term use of melatonin still requires more research.
Melatonin should not be used by people suffering from autoimmune disease.
Can Melatonin interact with other drugs?
The use of melatonin can be dangerous if it is used along with other medicines. Melatonin can interact with the following drugs:
Blood pressure drugs
Melatonin can worsen blood pressure if taken along with blood pressure drugs.
Neurologically disable children use anticonvulsants for their treatment. Melatonin can interact with anticonvulsants and inhibit their action. In this way, melatonin can worsen their condition.
Melatonin can interact with diabetes medicines and disturb the blood sugar level of the body.
Anticoagulants reduce blood clotting in the body. The use of these medicines with melatonin can cause bleeding.
This is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. The use of melatonin with fluvoxamine can cause unwanted excessive drowsiness.
Seizure threshold lowering drugs
Melatonin can interact with these drugs. It can cause an increase in the risk of seizures.