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Falling Asleep With Melatonin

Can’t sleep but the prospect of taking sleeping pills doesn’t thrill you? You may want to try melatonin.

Truth-be-told, there is nothing worse than being unable to fall asleep, tossing-and-turning all night long, waking frequently throughout the night, and awakening feeling as if you’ve been hit by a bus. When you don’t get enough sleep at night, it is impossible for you to be your “best self.”

In fact, you probably end-up spending most of your day feeling sleepy, foggy, irritable, and just plain tired. You can’t be productive under these circumstances, which is why it is imperative that you get at least 7or 8 hours of sleep each night. But what if you have tried everything and nothing has worked? Then what? Perhaps, it is time for you to try a different approach. Maybe, the thing you’re missing is melatonin.

Keep in mind that although studies have suggested that melatonin can improve sleep, it may not work for everyone. Thus, it is important that you research this supplement and weigh the pros and cons of using it for your particular sleep issue.

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What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a naturally-occurring “sleep hormone.” It plays an integral role in your circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycles). When evening or nighttime hits, your body “ramps-up” its production of melatonin, causing you to feel sleepy, tired, and relaxed. Ultimately, it prepares you for bed.

Your body produces melatonin; however, sometimes it doesn’t produce enough to trigger sleepiness. And, sometimes, a “glitch” prevents your body from producing any melatonin at all. If your body doesn’t produce enough melatonin to trigger sleepiness, you may need to take additional melatonin to get the zzz needed to function properly the next day.

Can Melatonin Really Help Me Get Some Sleep?

Possibly.

Numerous studies indicate that melatonin does play an integral role in one’s ability to fall and stay asleep throughout the night. Although, researchers have found that melatonin can improve your sleep, they also recognize that melatonin supplements may not work for every person or every case of insomnia. Thus, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of taking melatonin with your doctor before running to your local vitamin shop to pick it up.

Studies indicate suggest that melatonin is most beneficial for people, who are experiencing “sleeplessness” due to jet lag, a late-night shift work, or delayed sleep phase disorder. Delayed sleep phase disorder is a circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle) disorder that occurs when your circadian rhythm is disrupted, causing you to feel tired and sleepy later than the normal.

As a result, researchers have concluded that melatonin works best for people with delayed sleep-wake phase disorder or jet lag, who take lower doses of melatonin (1mg or 2mg) 30-45 minutes before bed. In this case, melatonin helps regulate their circadian rhythms so they become drowsy at a more appropriate time.

Conversely, results have been inconclusive when it comes to melatonin and late-night shift workers; however, some 3rd shift workers have reported improvements in their sleep quality after taking melatonin.

Similarly, results have been mixed as to if melatonin helps healthy people, who have a hard time getting quality zzz at night. Some sleep experts believe that melatonin can be beneficial for almost everyone, regardless of the issue. While other experts, like the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) question the validity and reliability of melatonin for various sleep issues.

Still, most adults can take melatonin supplements for sleep and not suffer many, if any side-effects. So, there is little risk from trying it out – with your doctor’s approval, of course.

What About My Child? Will It Help My Child’s Sleep Problems?

Most experts agree that melatonin is not only safe, but also effective for children, who have a hard time falling and staying asleep at night. However, these experts also recognize that more research is needed on pediatric insomnia and the role melatonin plays in the bodies of children and teens. Still, current studies suggest that melatonin may help children, suffering from insomnia fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep all night long.

Melatonin may help these children sleep longer and more soundly. And, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it may also help children develop and maintain a healthier sleep habits and more consistent sleep schedules. However, it should only be used as a temporary sleep tool.

Limited research also indicates that melatonin may be beneficial for pediatric insomniacs, struggling with epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, its effectiveness has not been completely established. Thus, more research is needed before determining its full effectiveness with these conditions.

Note: If your child suffers from epilepsy or autism, consult your child’s pediatrician before giving me or her melatonin.

What Forms of Melatonin are Available?

Melatonin is available in liquid, capsules, and even gummies. It is labeled in the US as a dietary supplement and can be found in the “vitamin section” at your local store of pharmacy. A 2012 survey found that melatonin is one of the most common natural sleep aids, amongst children and adults.

How Does Melatonin Work?

Melatonin is a natural sleep aid used to improve sleep quality in both children and adults. This hormone is produced in your pineal gland and released into your bloodstream once darkness approaches. Researchers suggest that your body stops producing melatonin once it starts to get light outside.

Thus, melatonin controls and balances your circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycles). More specifically, it alerts your body when it’s time to go to sleep and when it’s time to wake-up. Melatonin helps your body get the rest it needs to repair itself and refresh from the previous day’s wear-and-tear.

When melatonin is produced outside of your pineal gland, it is referred to as “endogenous melatonin.” Exogenous melatonin is produced externally, normally in a lab, and sold as a dietary supplement (pill, capsule, gummy, or liquid).

Note: Your pineal gland typically begins secreting melatonin between 9pm and 2-4 am (the peak). The amount of melatonin released largely depends on the season.

How Much Melatonin Should I Take for Insomnia?

Truth-be-told, it is important to take the least amount of melatonin as possible. In fact, experts recommend that you only take 1-3mgs about 30-45 minutes before bed. If you are taking melatonin for insomnia-related jet lag, take the supplement about 1.5 or 2 hours before you go to sleep in your new location. You also should begin taking melatonin 4-5 days before your trip to “test it out” and allow your body to become acclimated to it.

Staying awake once you arrive at your destination can help your body adjust to the new time zone. Do not go to bed until it is nighttime in your current location. Although a short nap (no more than an hour) may help energize you until it is time for bed. Just don’t nap too close to bedtime in your current location.

Note: Getting some fresh air and sunlight can help you stay awake until it is time to go to bed.

How Can I Tell if Melatonin is Not Working for My Sleep Issues?

If you don’t notice any improvement in sleep (falling asleep more quickly, staying asleep most, if not all, of the night, sleeping soundly, and waking up feeling rested) after a couple of weeks, then it probably isn’t working for your sleep issues. However, if you notice an improvement, even a slight one, after taking melatonin for a couple of weeks, then it’s probably beneficial to keep taking it for a month or two.

After a couple of months of taking melatonin, take a pause and see how your sleep quality is then. If your sleep issues return, contact your doctor for guidance. For best results, try to keep your room cool, dark, comfortable, and distraction-free at bedtime.

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Is There Anything I Should Consider before Taking Melatonin for Sleep?

Yes, there are a few things you should consider before taking melatonin.

Avoid melatonin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, avoid this supplement if you have an autoimmune disorder, such as lupus, Grave’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, a seizure disorder, or depression. If you tend to have high blood pressure or diabetes, talk to your doctor before taking melatonin because it may elevate your blood glucose (blood sugar) counts and increase your blood pressure, especially in people, who take blood pressure medications.

What Are the Pros of Taking Melatonin for “Sleeplessness?”

There are several pros associated with taking melatonin for insomnia, such as:

  • You can easily purchase melatonin at your local drugstore, vitamin shop, or grocery store. No prescription required.
  • It can be used to reduce jet lag, improve sleep quality, and treat “sleeplessness” or insomnia, especially in late-shit (3rd shift) workers.
  • Because melatonin is an antioxidant, there is some evidence that it may strengthen your immune system and/or alleviate pesky headaches and migraines.
  • Studies suggest that melatonin may help children with autism or Asperger syndrome experience better sleep.
  • It can be used for a variety of “off-label” conditions, such as fibromyalgia, ADHD, concentration and focus, anxiety, and hyperactivity.
  • Researchers have concluded that melatonin is safe for short-term use in both children and adults.
  • One of the major benefits of melatonin is it is not habit-forming.
  • Melatonin typically does not have a diminished effect over time or with repeated use.
  • Melatonin will not cause you to feel “hungover” the next day.
What Are the Cons of Using Melatonin for “Sleeplessness?”

Although rare, there are also few cons you should be aware of before taking melatonin for insomnia:

  • Melatonin can cause lightheadedness, sleepiness, bed-wetting, headache/migraines, nausea and vomiting, and daytime drowsiness so severe that it affects your ability to drive or operate machinery all day.
  • Melatonin has not received approval from the FDA.
  • People with epilepsy or an autoimmune disease and/or those taking a blood-thinning medication like Warfarin should avoid melatonin.
  • Caffeine, fluvoxamine, nifedipine may interact with melatonin, impacting its effectiveness.
  • Some melatonin supplements contain pineal tissue from animals, which increases your risk of contracting animal-linked viruses or diseases.

Are There Any Side-Effects Associated with Melatonin?

Yes, some people may experience side-effects with melatonin.

Keep in mind that melatonin has been deemed generally safe for temporary use. When side-effects occur, they are typically mild in nature.

The most common melatonin side-effects include:

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Lightheadedness
  • Mild nausea
  • Sleepiness or drowsiness

In severe cases, melatonin can also trigger depression, anxiety, tremors, gastrointestinal distress (diarrhea, constipation, and/or upset stomach), agitation, carelessness, confusion, and/or low blood pressure (hypotension).

Can I Combine Melatonin with Other Sleep Resources?

Yes!

Listed below are sleep resources that can be combined with melatonin for maximum impact:

  • A consistent bedtime routine and sleep schedule. In other words, get ready for bed at the same time each night and set your alarm to awaken at the same time each morning. This also applies to weekends, summer vacations, and holidays.
  • Make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep each night by going to bed earlier or sleeping later in the morning.
  • Do not go to bed unless you are tired and sleepy. If you force yourself to go to bed, you’ll have a hard time falling and staying asleep. So, if you aren’t sleep in 15-30 minutes, get up and read, take a warm bath, listen to music, or watch some non-stimulating television.
  • Designate your bed as a place for sex and sleep only.
  • Make sure your room is cool, quiet, and relaxing.
  • Limit how much bright light you are exposed to a few hours before bed.
  • Turn-off your electronic devices (tablet, smartphone, computer, and television) 30-45 minutes before bed.
  • Refrain from eating a hearty meal shortly before bed. If you become hungry, try to snack on a light, healthy meal, such as yogurt, peanut butter crackers, grapes, apple slices, etc.
  • Add regular exercise into your daily routine and try to consume healthier foods.
  • Stay away from caffeine and alcohol after dinner because they can stimulate you and prevent you from falling asleep.
  • Try to limit the amount of liquids you consume shortly before bed.
  • Invest in an online sleep program. Online sleep programs, like Somnus Therapy, can help you get the zzz you need to be your “best self.”

Summary

If you are having a hard time getting quality sleep, you may want to invest in melatonin. One of the benefits of melatonin is that it is not habit-forming, so the risk of becoming dependent on it is zilch. You also don’t have to worry about waking-up the next morning feeling like you’ve been hit by a semi-truck. In fact, there is a good chance you’ll awaken feeling rested, refreshed, and revitalized. Keep in mind, however, that melatonin may not work for everyone. So, it is important that you discuss taking melatonin for sleep with your doctor before trying it.

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