Melatonin for sleep; is it right to use?

  If you can’t fall asleep at night many of us are searching for an aide that will give us the restful sleep we need.  More individuals  are looking for a more natural option especially with the addictive nature of prescription sleeping pills.  Melatonin is a common one to use but is it always the best and what are some of the things to be aware of when taking Melatonin. Personally I have had some of my patients tell me when they take Melatonin they can have symptoms such as looser stools, headaches or feel like they are more fatigued the following day. Although Melatonin can be beneficial there are some things to be aware of when using it as a sleep aide. 

First Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone.  It regulates our sleep wake cycle in response to light and dark.  Light decreases melatonin and dark increases it. 

Whenever dealing with sleep disturbances we need to start with the basics such as why are we not sleeping?  What are the underlying factors and incorporating lifestyle changes as a first measure. 

So what are Melatonin supplements used for” 
Melatonin levels fluctuate for a variety of reasons.  Fluctuations in light, changes in schedules, factors such as age, medical conditions and genetics. With those factors being said Melatonin is used for jet lag, shift work and generalized insomnia.

Should you take Melatonin requires a two part answer; first is it necessary for you to take at all and if so what is the correct dosage and timing of the melatonin. 

First Melatonin in the use of children and teens should be done at the lowest dosage and used short term.  Melatonin can affect other hormones in growing developing children so working with a qualified practitioner is important.  

Melatonin may be a natural sleep aide but it can be effected by other medications including anticonvulsants, Valium, blood pressure medications, birth control pills, Luvox, immunosuppressants and anticoagulants. 

Second knowing when to take melatonin is important.  If you take it too early prior to bed you may get sleepy too early in the evening and when taken too late can cause drowsiness during the daytime.  Smaller doses are better.  Start with two hours prior to bed taking 1 to 1 1/2 mg. If using liquid formulations start with the smaller dosage.  

Not all melatonin supplements are the same. So consulting with your care provider to find a pure supplement without added ingredients is best. 

In general with sleep disturbances finding the underlying cause and starting with lifestyle interventions first and then proceeding with supplements is best.

Lifestyle and sleep hygiene tips include: 
1. Avoid electronic use two hours prior to bedtime 
2. Avoid caffeine after noon 
3. Limit food consumption three hours prior to bedtime 
4. Make sure the bedroom is dark free of clutter and comfortable cooler temperature. 
5. White noise can be beneficial to help with sleep so soft music or sounds such as water or nature can help. 
6. Alcohol can cause us to feel sleepy initially but causes decreases in REM our restful sleep causing more fatigue in the morning. So avoiding alcohol consumption is best. 

May you all sleep well. 

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