If you toss and turn trying to fall asleep at night, you are not alone.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders.1
A good night’s sleep can help protect your mental and physical health and improve your quality of life. There are many approaches to improving the quality and quantity of your sleep, including different types of medications. If you’ve heard of the popular natural product melatonin, you may have wondered if it’s right for you.
Melatonin, commonly known as the natural sleep hormone, is one of the most popular over-the-counter supplements used for sleep issues. Although melatonin can improve sleep for some, it may not be the best sleep option for everyone. Like other dietary supplements, melatonin comes with benefits and precautions.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by our body in the brain, which helps regulate the circadian rhythm—also known as the sleep-wake cycle. Darkness triggers melatonin to be made, while light stops the production. As a result, melatonin affects when we wake up and go to bed. Melatonin production declines with age, which explains why some people tend to have a harder time falling asleep as they get older.
Melatonin supplements contain synthetic melatonin produced in a laboratory to mimic the natural hormone. They are available as capsules, liquid, chewables, and tablets to swallow. Dosing depends on your current health and age, and generally doses higher than 5mg aren’t needed.
Melatonin supplements may work better for people with certain kinds of sleep issues. For example, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) in which sleep is delayed more than two hours beyond what is considered acceptable. For people with DSPS, melatonin helps by reducing the amount of time needed to fall asleep.
Melatonin has also shown potential benefit to treat insomnia, jet lag, anxiety before and after surgery, and other conditions. While there is some divide among experts as to the effectiveness of melatonin to help healthy adults get more sleep, its popularity suggests that many people find it effective.
Melatonin is safe when used appropriately for both short- and long-term treatment, for up to two years. However, while melatonin is a natural hormone, it does not mean the synthetic supplement is completely harmless. Some common side effects may include headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and fragmented sleep. If you take other medications or are pregnant or breastfeeding, there are other factors you should consider. Talk to your primary care doctor or pharmacist to find out more.
Fortunately, you do not have to figure it out on your own. At MOBE, our Pharmacists can help you with your over-the-counter and dietary supplement questions and our MOBE Guides can help you achieve your personalized wellness goals.
1. “Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency,” National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency#:~:text=Sleep%20plays%20an%20important%20role,pressure%2C%20diabetes%2C%20and%20stroke. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0899.
2. “Melatonin and Sleep,” Eric Suni, Sleep Foundation, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/melatonin.