Should I Take Melatonin?

“What are your thoughts on taking Melatonin.  I’ve met a few people who take it to help them sleep.  I don’t have problems sleeping but wanted to get your thoughts.”

What is melatonin?

We naturally produce melatonin, a hormone involved in the sleep-wake cycle (to learn more about the cycle, read this post about circadian rhythm).  As it gets darker, levels of melatonin increase; when it gets lighter, melatonin will drop.  Thus, this hormone (recall, which we naturally produce) can regulate sleep patterns.

Who should take melatonin?

For those who have a clinically-diagnosed sleep disturbance (a.k.a., not self-diagnosed), melatonin is a proposed treatment to help normalize sleep patterns.  According to Web MD, sleep disturbances include insomnia, delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) and mental anxiety (again: diagnosed by a doctor).  In short, I recommend melatonin only if a doctor has diagnosed the problem.  It should not be used to self-treat random sleep disturbance.

Side effects?

According to Web MD, melatonin can cause some side effects: headaches, acute depression, irritability, stomach cramps, sleepiness during the day and dizziness.   I find the “do not drive or use machinery” warning quite obvious (bordering on comical), but suppose that would be an important point to bring up, for the ambitious crowd.

Effectiveness of use

Numerous studies have suggested that melatonin is useful in treating chronic sleep issues.  Dosing will vary based on gender, age, size and condition (but it seems that 0.3-5 mg at bedtime is the typical dose).

Some reports (still equivocal) have shown effectiveness to treat jet-lag, reduce anxiety pre-surgery, and reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms.  Again, (just in case I haven’t fully driven this point home yet) to use melatonin for any circumstance it is best to consult your doctor first!

Safe supplements

If a doctor suggests melatonin and prescribes a dose, here are some of the safe and effective brands out on the market (this is according to consumerlabs.com, leader in independent test results for thousands of products).

  • Bios Life Melatonin (2.5 mg melatonin per tablet, once per day)
  • CVS Pharmacy Melatonin 3 mg (3 mg per tablet, once per day)
  • Origin Melatonin 5 mg (5 mg per tablet, once per day)
  • Puritan’s Pride Melatonin 3 mg (3 mg per tablet, once per day)
  • Solgar Melatonin 10 mg (10 mg per tablet, once per day)
  • Spring Valley (Walmart) Melatonin 3 mg (3 mg per tablet, once per day)
  • Vitamin World Melatonin 3 mg (3 mg per tablet, one to three per day)
  • Nature’s Bounty Triple Strength Melatonin 3 mg (3 mg per tablet, once per day)
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