Melatonin for sleep and insomnia

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally present in the human body and controls the body’s day-night rhythm (circadian rhythm).

This substance is produced in the pineal gland (epiphysis), a part of the diencephalon.
It can be taken as a synthetically produced laboratory, but there are also many foods that contain a small amount of this substance.

Dietary supplements containing melatonin are available at the pharmacy in the form of sublingual pills, tablets or drops.
Sublingual (buccale) pills are absorbed much faster.
Melatonin serves to regulate the body’s internal clock.
It is used for jet lag (discomfort caused by time zone changes in people who travel a lot abroad), to control the sleep-wake cycle in people who do certain jobs (shift work) or to help blind people control the day-night cycle.

Melatonin supplements are also used for difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep (insomnia), such as:

– delayed sleep phase syndrome;
– insomnia associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder;
– insomnia caused by some medications used to regulate blood pressure, called beta-blockers;
– Sleep problems in children with developmental disorders including autism, cerebral palsy and mental retardation.

Melatonin supplements are used after stopping sedative medications such as benzodiazepines, as well as to reduce side effects when you quit smoking.
Some people use melatonin for Alzheimer’s disease, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraines and other forms of headache, irritable bowel syndrome, osteoporosis, epilepsy, menopause and as a remedy for the aging process.
Melatonin is also used as a remedy for some side effects in cancer treatment (chemotherapy), including weight loss, neuropathic pain, weakness and thrombocytopenia (platelet deficiency).
It is also used to calm a person before anesthesia for surgery.
Sometimes applying a melatonin-containing product to the skin is useful to protect against sunburn.


What are the indications and benefits of melatonin supplements?

Melatonin supplements are used to treat sleep problems (insomnia). Scientific studies provide information on other uses of melatonin, such as:

– Treatment of winter depression (SAD).
– Regulation of sleep in people who work at night or in shifts.
– Treatment of sleep problems after surgery.
– Treatment of chronic headaches.
– Slowing the spread of cancer (Di Bella treatment involves conjugated melatonin).
– Increasing immune protection.
– Slowing down aging processes.
Final research results are still missing for the last applications.

Melatonin decreases symptoms in people who quit smoking. A single oral dose of 0.3 mg melatonin taken 3-5 hours after quitting appears to decrease anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and depression during the following 10 hours.

There are studies that show that taking melatonin in the evening before bedtime can prevent a migraine or shorten its duration.
Some research suggests that the production of melatonin may be altered in people who suffer from headaches.

How does melatonin work?

The main function of melatonin in the body is to regulate the day-night cycle or sleep-wake cycle. Lack of light stimulates to produce more melatonin, which signals the body sheep readiness.
Light, on the other hand, reduces production and stimulates the body to be awake. Some people who have difficulty sleeping have low melatonin levels and it is believed that supplementation can help them sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is melatonin a sleep hormone?
Most people think that melatonin is a powerful natural sleep aid. In fact, it does not lead to sleep and is usually effective only with short-term use.
It is much more correct to assume that melatonin helps our organism sleep during the night hours and appropriately in the transition of the seasons from summer to winter, when the days are shorter.

Is it possible to take melatonin during the day?
When melatonin is used at daytime, it can have adverse effects. It could lead to problems falling asleep in the evening, because in this case taking exogenous melatonin would contradict our biological clock.

Melatonin is a natural supplement. Can it have undesirable effects?
Melatonin taken in the wrong dose and at the wrong time of day can pose serious health risks.
If it is taken during the day, it can also lead to depression.
During pregnancy, the intake of melatonin is prohibited, because it can cross the placental barrier and enter the child’s bloodstream.
It must also not be used during breastfeeding, as it would be transmitted to the child through breast milk.

Do I need melatonin to sleep?
In most cases of insomnia, there is no shortage of melatonin. Taking melatonin supplements can mask the real causes of a problem.

Do I need to continue taking melatonin?
Experts advise not to take melatonin for more than two consecutive weeks.

Is the dose important?
Tablets with 3 or 5 mg of pure melatonin or in drop form are usually found on the market. Recent studies show that adult men need only 150 micrograms, while women need 100 micrograms (one microgram is 1/1000 of a milligram). Thus, the supplements contain on average 20 to 50 times more melatonin than the actual need requires.
People taking melatonin tablets can divide them into four parts, but only if they are not released in a controlled or delayed manner.
There are extended-release drugs that release melatonin slowly within a few hours, such as Circadin.

Is melatonin important?
Melatonin is an essential hormone: it controls the heart and vital organs during the night. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant; while sleeping, it cleanses of toxins and free radicals in the cells.
A lifestyle that reduces the production of melatonin can be very damaging because it increases the risk of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Studies show that women who work night shifts have a 50% higher risk of breast cancer and male patients have an equally high risk of colorectal cancer.

How should I take melatonin supplements?
First of all, you need to know about melatonin that its half-life is very short. It is only active in the system for about 20 minutes.
Therefore, it is important to use melatonin in the most appropriate form for the nature of the problem: If you have trouble falling asleep, you could take melatonin with immediate release.
In the case of sleep disorders, a prolonged-release tablet is more suitable.

Side effects, contraindications, interactions and warnings:

The most common side effects of melatonin include:
– Drowsiness during the day
– Dizziness
– Headache

Less common side effects of melatonin include: abdominal pain, mild anxiety, irritability, confusion, and depression.

Also, melatonin can interfere with various medicines, including:
– Anticoagulants – Medicines that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressors)
– Medicines for diabetes

– Birth control pill

The correct dose depends on the intended use. For example, sleep disorders are often treated with 0.5 mg of melatonin per day, while doses of 3 and 5 milligrams per day could be used to treat jet lag complaints.
Those who take melatonin as a supplement should prefer synthetic products, because those of animal origin could contain harmful substances.

Persons suffering from lactose intolerance should check whether there are lactose-containing substances among the excipients.
Activities that require attention – such as driving or operating heavy machinery – must be discouraged for four to five hours after taking melatonin.

What is the dose recommended by doctors?

For insomnia:

– 0.3-5 mg is the recommended dose before bedtime.
– 5 mg at 18:00 in children with insomnia
– 5 mg at 20:00 in children with developmental disorders (including cerebral palsy, autism and intellectual disability).
– 0.5-5 mg at bedtime in case of jet lag from the day of arrival at the destination, continue for another 2-5 days.
– 2 mg for sustained-release melatonin tablets, taken at bedtime for 6 weeks when benzodiazepines tape in elderly people with insomnia.
– 0.3 mg orally 3-5 hours after the last cigarette to reduce the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

Melatonin in food

Eating foods that contain melatonin allows sleep improvement without the side effects of a drug or synthetic substitute.
The foods have a low concentration of this substance, but can contribute to better sleep.
Foods that contain the most melatonin include:

  • Rice
  • Oats
  • Corn
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Bananas.

In the diet, foods containing tryptophan should not be missing, which is a precursor of serotonin and melanin, because from tryptophan the body can synthesize melatonin.

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