Edited and published by Wellness Monster Mark
What is Melatonin?
According to Dictionary.Com – Melatonin (mel-uh–toh-nin)
Noun – Physiology.
1. A hormone secreted by the pineal gland in inverse proportion to the amount of light received by the retina, important in the regulation of biorhythms. In amphibians, it causes a lightening of the skin.
Our bodies are freakishly amazing! We have our own special built-in clocks to assist us in regulating all of our bodily functions from our waking moment each day to eating and sleeping. Our eyes reflect the lighting that surrounds us and sends signals to the brain to start releasing melatonin and just like that….BAM….we get tired and eventually fall fast asleep! Well, that is what is supposed to happen, but real life doesn’t always follow protocols! Sometimes our clocks get off track and we find ourselves fighting to get to sleep, and one of the ways we can combat insomnia is melatonin supplements.
Melatonin is a relatively new supplement having been patented in 1995, by Richard Wurtman at MIT, to be used as a low dose sleep aid. Melatonin was not even discovered until the early 1900’s and was initially thought it may help with skin diseases. Melatonin also exists in plants to help regulate growth as well as being an environmental stress protector and can be produced synthetically as well as obtained from animals, mostly cows.
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced in the pineal gland (small gland located deep in the middle of the brain) of humans and animals. When darkness comes, the pineal gland goes to work making melatonin to help facilitate sleep. As a way to regulate sleep, our bodies have a built-in clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, which knows when to start producing melatonin. As morning arrives the body decreases melatonin production and starts to produce cortisone to help the body wake back up and start a new day. When our bodies do not make enough of this hormone on its own, we find ourselves tossing and turning.
What Research Says….
The Federal Drug Administration has deemed melatonin generally safe to use for the occasional sleepless night. Research and studies have shown that melatonin does help with sleep, but that is as far as goes. People who are experiencing occasional difficulty falling, or staying, asleep can benefit from melatonin with short-term use. Melatonin should not be used to treat chronic insomnia
Doctors have recommended melatonin for patients who experience occasional insomnia, jetlag, or for the person working odd hours (graveyard or swing shifts). It is important, especially if you are healing or managing illness, that you check with a physician before taking melatonin, or any sleep aids. To avoid drug interactions, check with your physician before taking it. The last thing you want to do is create more medical problems!
Along with helping you get some z’s, be on the lookout for other fun side effects that can creep up when taking melatonin. Feeling unusually groggy in the morning, anxiety, crankiness, a “heavy head” feeling, dizziness, headaches, depression and daytime sleepiness are just some of the possible side effects. Studies have shown that even psychotic symptoms can be produced by the supplement. It is also stated that if you do seek out melatonin, go for the synthetic type and steer away from the natural form since it can be infected with a virus. More studies are being conducted to investigate if melatonin can help with several different diseases/illness such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism, and high blood pressure.
Does Melatonin Really Make You Sleep?
Bottom line – No. Melatonin does not “make” you sleep but it can help you feel sleepy and tired. Everyone is different and melatonin will not have the same effect for every person who takes it. It will help some people dose off into a deep sleep while others may require more to have the same effect. Studies show that melatonin helps us to fall asleep a few minutes (up to 7 minutes) faster and stay asleep a few minutes longer than without taking it. There is no research that shows melatonin makes a dramatic change in sleep patterns.
Millions of Americans take melatonin but are not taking time to check in with a doctor to be sure if melatonin is the answer to their sleepless nights, or if there may be underlying medical issues that are responsible for insomnia. This can lead to over medicating and can cause even more medical problems. Parents sometimes give melatonin to their children, but there have not been enough studies done with melatonin and children to know how safe it is. If a child starts to experience ongoing insomnia, it’s time to see the pediatrician.
There are several reasons why people find it difficult to get good, restful sleep. With a world of busyness, stress, excitement and physical demands, us humans can really screw up our organic bodies and its natural biological rhythms. Sleep is important for people to be able to function at a high level and insomnia can more than frustrating. Analyzing the reasons for insomnia and trying other natural remedies should be tried before taking on supplements or medications. Some ways to combat insomnia range from soaking in a warm bath to drinking a glass of warm milk before bed. Having a routine is vital in maintaining good sleep rhythms. Sometimes it is not our lifestyles that can cause sleep issues, but illnesses can be the culprit to a sleepless night. It is key to be aware of our bodily functions so we can address any issues early.
A great night of sleep can be the start of a great day and a terrible night of sleep can be the beginning a challenging day. There is no substitute for a good night’s sleep! Sometimes individuals tend to not pay attention until pain or discomfort pay us a visit. The trick is to be aware of how our bodies work and what makes them feel good and not good. We need to look for patterns and signs that our bodies give to let us know something may be off.
Fortunately, with our quick, ever evolving technology, and the amazing discoveries that are being made everyday, there could be several more natural remedies that could be discovered to help with sleep. In the mean time, we need to all pay better attention to our bodies and take good care of them so we keep our natural rhythms in sync!
WebMD.com, What is Melatonin
LiveScience.com, What is Melatonin
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