Melatonin supplements are often the first go-to products when someone cannot sleep. It is well known as the sleeping aid to get you back on track when experiencing time travel or shift work. What makes melatonin work so efficiently for some sleeping problems? Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the pineal gland (located in the brain). Your body produces melatonin based on the pattern of your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is a natural internal process that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. The entire process is stimulated by the time of day and darkness. Once melatonin is released, it moves through the brain, spinal cord and bloodstream, sending signals that it is nighttime and time to slow down its activities for rest as the darkness of the night moves into daylight. The signal to turn off melatonin production is set into motion. The levels of melatonin released vary with age. It is higher during puberty and lowers with advancing age.
Levels also increase during winter months when days are shorter and nights longer. Melatonin production can decrease when exposed to dim light at night, causing eyes to remain dilated. Decreases in melatonin production have also been reported to occur in diseases and disorders such as type 2 diabetes, chronic pain, migraines, and some forms of cancer. Melatonin does not just help with sleep; it also helps your body produce powerful antioxidant enzymes, increasing antioxidants like the powerhouse glutathione. Increased glutathione levels reduce oxidative stress (free radical damage). A few studies support melatonin as an immune stimulant and anti-inflammatory.
The correlation may be due to the healing action of the body during sleep. Research also supports the use of melatonin in early Alzheimer's, Dementia and Parkinson's disease. There are a few studies that support the use of melatonin supplementation to reduce age-related macular degeneration, tinnitus and some stomach disorders such as ulcers and heartburn.
How to use melatonin
A melatonin supplement is suggested to help your body reset its internal sleep-wake clock. If you are travelling across time zones, to see the best results, you should begin taking a melatonin supplement on the first day of travel at your desired bedtime and every day until you return to your regular sleeping patterns. Melatonin is often taken to help with insomnia or shift work to achieve this effect; take your melatonin about one hour before your desired sleep time. Melatonin may help you get to sleep quicker. It does not function to keep you sleeping. If you wake up in the middle of the night, taking another melatonin may not correct your sleeping concerns. When sourcing melatonin supplements, there are many options and milligram doses.
Start with a lower dosage of melatonin, a 3 mg dosage. If this melatonin dosage is insufficient to help you reset, consider doubling your dosage to 6mg. Melatonin may cause vivid dreams or daytime drowsiness in some people. Due to the immune-stimulating effects of melatonin, it should be avoided if you have an autoimmune disorder. Do not give young children melatonin without consulting your healthcare provider. Pregnant and nursing women and women trying to conceive should avoid using melatonin.
Do not take melatonin if you are having a bleeding disorder or are on medication for blood thinners. Melatonin should also not be used if you have liver disease or failure.