Ever wonder about melatonin safety - especially if you take it every night? Or perhaps one pill wasn't doing the job after while so you upped it to two or three pills. Many of us are looking for a safe, all natural sleep aid and even though the marketing for melatonin, promotes this supplement as all natural, there are many "unnatural" things that go along with it.
This sleep supplement is readily available, inexpensive and can be bought over-the-counter at any grocery store, drug store or health food store - so people often assume, it can't be that bad for you.
While it is a naturally occurring compound found in plants, animals, and microbes - it is actually a hormone, not an herb.
It is used to help people with sleeping disorders, and is being researched for it’s possible uses in treating everything from Alzheimer's to bipolar disorder.
If you find yourself afflicted with a sleep related disorder or struggling with insomnia, and are considering using melatonin then it’s important to know some basic information about the safe usage of it.
There is no standard recommendation for what is considered a safe melatonin dosage. Rarely do people have a melatonin deficiency. However the amount of light at night does influence the body's response to secreting this hormone. You can naturally "help" your body get ready for sleep by stimulating melatonin secretions with reduced light.
Start preparing for sleep by reducing the amount of light you are exposed to. Three way lamps in your bedroom make it possible to adjust the amount of light you are exposed to. Use the lowest setting while getting ready for bed. Rather than turning on bright overhead bathroom lights, use a small night light or lamp as you brush your teeth and wash your face.
Melatonin levels peak around 2:00 AM. However, be sure your bedroom is dark. Use room darkening shades and close doors that allow any light into your room.
One of the first topics to consider is the proper dosage. During my struggles with insomnia I tried many over the counter sleep aids, including melatonin - different dosages, different brands and the time-released forms.
The average melatonin supplement uses more than the required amount for an average person. With dosages ranging from 1 mg to 5 mg, the amounts of this hormone are much more than what is naturally produced or needed by the body to "set" your sleep clock.
According to Dr. Michael Breus, known as the Sleep Doctor and author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health,
"The correct dosage of melatonin can be a problem. According to research conducted at M.I.T., the correct dosage of melatonin for it to be effective is 0.3-1.0 mg. Many commercially available forms of melatonin are in three to 10 times the amount your body would need."
Because this sleep hormone is not considered a medication, it is not regulated by the FDA. You may be surprised to find out that in other countries it cannot be bought over the counter, but can only be distributed through a prescription from a doctor.
Melatonin Side Effects
Melatonin side effects vary with each individual and are dependent on the amount of melatonin supplements one takes and how frequently it is taken. Some people may experience side effects after one dosage, others only after long term use while others state that they have not experienced any side effects at all.
While many people do not experience any effects others have reported:
Did you know that by taking this supplement every night you may be interfering with your own body's production of not only this hormone but cortisol as well? While taking any over the counter sleep medication may look like a simple solution, it does not address the "why" - why are you having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
Is there a danger of overdosing on this sleep supplement - especially if you take it every night and take the higher over the counter dosage?
People who have trouble sleeping are often tempted to increase the dosage or number of pills thinking that more is better, but it’s been shown that overdosing on melatonin can actually be counterproductive, and aggravate your condition more.
Melatonin and Children
Sleeping problems are becoming more common in children and parents often wonder if melatonin is a safe sleep aid to give to them.
However, childhood sleep disorders or insomnia are not due to melatonin deficiency - except for possibly autism. A decrease in melatonin production has been reported in studies of children in the autism spectrum.
There are other physiological or emotional triggers that are contributing to your child having problems falling asleep or staying asleep.
While giving a pill is much easier than making diet and lifestyle changes, this is a great opportunity to teach children how to live healthier lifestyles - a lesson that can help them the rest of their lives.
One of Dr. Breus's top cautions for taking melatonin is:
"It should never be used with children younger than 18."
Melatonin is being investigated in the treatment of a number of disorders, and there are numerous studies going on now to track it’s effect on several different conditions as well as sleep disorders.
If you find yourself looking for alternative treatments then it’s important before taking melatonin that you consult with your doctor, and make sure that it won’t interact negatively with any of your current medications.
Taking any type of sleep medication, natural or not, to get to sleep or stay asleep, prevents one from trying to figure out the root cause(s) of their insomnia.