Melatonin: Your Body’s Natural Sleep Remedy
Everyone has an internal clock. For most people, this clock tells our bodies when to wake and when to shut down or sleep. The biologic rhythm of the sleep-wake cycle is aided by a powerful hormone called melatonin.
Melatonin is a natural hormone secreted in the brain that can induce a sense of sleepiness, and slightly reduce the overall temperature of the body. Even though the body produces melatonin all day long, the amount of melatonin rises at night. The body's internal "sleep" schedule is triggered, making it possible to easily fall asleep.
As sleep disorders reach epidemic proportion, many travelers, night-shift workers, and busy parents are taking synthetic melatonin— a dietary supplement sold at most health food stores— to help correct their sleep problems. In fact, several studies support that melatonin, when taken two hours before bed, can help make users fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night.
So how does the body's melatonin compare to that which is sold in stores? Healthy adults under the age of 50 naturally produce about 5 to 25 micrograms of melatonin daily. This is about 80 times less than the 2 milligram synthetic dietary supplements for sleep sold over the counter.
Melatonin supplements are more likely to help those with jet lag, delayed sleep disorder, or sleep disorders affecting circadian rhythm, a common problem amongst blind individuals.
Before you run out to your nearest health food store, here are a few words of caution: The FDA does not monitor or regulate the production of this dietary supplement as they would a typical drug. More importantly, melatonin is a hormone, a powerful regulating chemical that controls how your body functions. Since this hormone isn't considered a medication, there are few, if any, studies on the long-term effects of melatonin usage, particularly in child and the elderly. You may be better off to first try a product 100% natural cure for insomnia, like SleepPhones, to see if you get a better night's sleep by blocking out noise that may keep you up at night.
As always, since sleep disorders may indicate an underlying medical or psychiatric disorder, please check with your family doctor before self-prescribing melatonin.