Many people, including myself, suffer from sleepless nights for one reason or another. Doctors refer to this condition as insomnia, which is characterized by poor sleep patterns. There are many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications to relieve insomnia, some that have unwanted side effects. Lately, I’ve read about the use of a substance that occurs naturally in the body called melatonin. I decided to give the OTC melatonin a shot to relieve my insomnia, instead of my usual prescription sleep medication that has some aggravating side effects. The melatonin did assist my ability to get a better night’s sleep; however, it did take some time to adjust the dosage. As always, check with your doctor first before using any OTC drug or prescription medication.
In 1958 it was discovered that melatonin is naturally produced by the pineal gland in the center of the brain. The melatonin secreted from this gland is in response to light hitting the eyes, which keeps us in sync with the time of the day, thereby letting us know when it’s bedtime. By 1993 melatonin was made available to consumers to help induce sleep. Melatonin is available in pill form, controlled-release form and dissolving tablets. I purchased Spring Valley melatonin from Wal-Mart and paid about $5.70 for 120 three milligram tablets. The list of ingredients on the Spring Valley melatonin bottle includes 3 milligrams melatonin, dibasic calcium phosphate, sodium starch glycolate and magnesium stearate. The suggested dosage for melatonin is one tablet 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
When I first tried the melatonin, I started feeling a bit loopy and very relaxed after about an hour. I thought to myself, this is going to be great. I didn’t feel any symptoms of my nightly restless leg syndrome coming on as with my usual prescription sleep aid. However, after sleeping for about two hours I was awake again. I did fall back asleep but awoke again two hours later and this time I was wide awake. I will tell you, though, that the melatonin has helped my headaches due to fibromyalgia! The second night, I decided to follow instructions that I found on the internet and increased the dosage of melatonin to two tablets, which did help me sleep a little better.
The side effects of melatonin can include sleepwalking, dizziness, headaches, nightmares or abdominal pain. Melatonin may interact with other medications, so be sure to check with your doctor before taking melatonin. Studies show that the long-term effects of using melatonin are unknown. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use melatonin. If you have an auto-condition, are depressed or have an endocrine disorder you should not use melatonin. So far, there have been no optimal doses set for melatonin. Dosages may need to be increased slowly if you have little or no results. Melatonin may or may not help you with insomnia, but has proven more helpful with jetlag.
There are added benefits to using melatonin. Studies have shown that melatonin may slow down the spread of cancerous tumors, assist in quitting smoking, prevent some types of headaches and protect against sunburn. If you would like to try a more natural approach to help get a better night’s rest, I would suggest you try melatonin.