From A to Zzzz… The Pros and Cons of Melatonin

By Cole Purvis
Woman sleeping

In today’s fast-paced world, many are turning to melatonin as a natural sleep aid to combat the effects of stress, irregular sleep patterns and the constant glow of screens. It is often referred to as the “sleep hormone,” and is commonly available over the counter and can be a handy solution for those struggling with sleep issues. However, as with any supplement, it’s essential to understand the pros and cons of its use.

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Its primary function is to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin levels typically rise in the evening, promoting sleep, and drop in the morning to wake us up. The synthetic version of melatonin, available as a supplement, is used to help regulate sleep patterns and combat sleep disorders.

The Pros: Why Use Melatonin?

Melatonin is an effective supplement in improving sleep quality. It helps to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and minimize nighttime awakenings. This can be a particularly helpful remedy for sleep disruptors, like insomnia, jet lag, irregular work hours, etc.

Moreover, it is considered safe when used at appropriate dosages and is non-habit forming. So, it is an appealing choice for adults who want to avoid prescription sleep medications. When taken in the recommended dose, side effects are rare and typically mild. These may include dizziness, headache or daytime drowsiness.

The Cons: How Much is Too Much?

One of the primary concerns with melatonin use is the lack of regulation in dosage. Many supplements contain more melatonin than the body needs, which can lead to grogginess or disrupted sleep patterns.

Melatonin can also interact with certain medications and health conditions, so it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using it, especially if you have underlying health issues. According to the Mayo Clinic, individuals should consult a doctor before using melatonin if they take blood pressure drugs, diabetes medications and contraceptive drugs among several others.

Things to Consider Before Consuming Melatonin

1. START LOW AND GO SLOW: According to healthcare professionals at the Cleveland Clinic, individuals should start with around one milligram per dose and increase the amount gradually while never exceeding 10 milligrams. More is not always better when it comes to melatonin.

2. TIMING IS CRUCIAL: Take melatonin approximately 30 minutes before your desired bedtime to allow it to take effect. It is also essential to not operate a motor vehicle within five hours of taking melatonin, as it can impair your alertness and judgment on the road.

3. CONSIDER NATURAL ALTERNATIVES: Most doctors will suggest finding a more natural alternative solution before relying on supplements like melatonin. Consider lifestyle changes like maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, reducing screen time before bed, and creating a calming bedtime routine to improve sleep.

Melatonin can be a useful tool for adults dealing with sleep disturbances, but it’s crucial to use it responsibly and in consultation with a healthcare professional. Always remember that individual responses to melatonin can vary, and what works best for one person may not work for another.

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