Melatonin is a popular natural sleep aid and some say it can protect cells from free radical damage, prevent cancer and extend life. Sold primarily as an over-the-counter sleep aid, melatonin is legal in the United States and can easily be purchased in the herbal remedies section of your local drug store or supermarket. But, is it really effective as a sleep aid?
Your body naturally produces melatonin every night. Being that it is only produced in the evening, it is known by some as the “Dracula” hormone. Melatonin is created in the brain by the pineal gland and its release and synthesis are both triggered by darkness and suppressed by light. Your melatonin levels are highest right around bed time. Melatonin also helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms. These natural cycles play a critical role in determining when we fall asleep and wake up.
According to WebMD, there is strong scientific evidence to show that melatonin is helpful for people having problems with jet lag return to a normal sleeping schedule. Several studies have shown that melatonin is effective in about 50% of people who take it for jet lag to reduce the time it takes to establish a normal sleep pattern. Research also suggests that Melatonin production is known to decrease with age. That’s why scientists are lead to believe that melatonin can be quite effective in treating insomnia in the elderly. These treatments can help the elderly feel better in the morning when they wake up as well.
Although not enough study has been done to create a consensus in the medical community, there is enough evidence to suggest that melatonin can be quite effective in helping people fall asleep faster, sleep better, be more alert in the morning, and improve quality of life in people with primary insomnia. It is best to see a doctor if you are looking to start taking melatonin to determine the exact dosages, but it is generally recommended that one should take one to three milligrams of melatonin an hour before bed time as a sleep aid. Melatonin can have possible interactions with antidepressants, antipsychotics, benzodiapenes, beta-blockers and blood pressure medications.