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Melatonin – An Overview and FAQ’s Melatonin is a hormone manufactured by the pineal gland, a small gland located in the brain. Melatonin works by regulating sleep and wake cycles. Very minimal amounts of it are contained in foods like grains, meats, and fruits and vegetables. It can also be bought as a supplement. How does natural melatonin work exactly in the body? Your body possesses its own internal clock which regulates your natural sleeping and waking hours. Your body clock dictates in part the amount of melatonin your pineal gland makes. Typically, melatonin levels rise in the middle to late part of the evening, stay high during most of the night, and then dip in the early morning hours of the next morning.
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Light influences how much melatonin your body will make. During winter when days are shorter, your body usually makes melatonin either later or earlier in the day than typical. This can bring about winter depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) symptoms. A person’s natural melatonin levels drop gradually as a person grows older. In some older adults, production can be very limited or totally nonexistent. Why melatonin as a dietary supplement? Sometimes, melatonin supplements are used to treat insomnia or jet lag. Scientists are as well researching other good uses for melatonin, like: > treatment of SAD (seasonal affective disorder); > regulation of sleep patterns for individuals who work at night; > reduction or prevention of issues with post-surgery confusion and sleep; and > management of persistent cluster headaches. Are melatonin dietary supplements safe to take? Low doses of melatonin supplements are generally safe short or long-term use. However, you have to talk to your doctor and ensure your safety before taking any. Kids and pregnant or nursing women,in particular, should not take melatonin – at least, without consulting a physician first. Does melatonin use have side effects? Melatonin does cause some side effects, like morning grogginess, lower body temperature and vivid dreams. However, all of these are minor and disappear when treatment is discontinued. Do not drive or operate machinery when you are taking melatonin. If you’re about to take a health exam, inform your doctor that you are taking melatonin. And if you’re struggling with insomnia, tell your doctor too because it might be linked to a medical problem. How much melatonin should be taken? Depending on the reason for taking melatonin, adults may take between 0.2 mg to 20.0 mg of melatonin. Of course, the exact correct dose is different from person to person. Discuss with your doctor the dosage that is right for you.