The guide to melatonin

Most people are familiar with melatonin. When we think of it, we probably think about a gummy or pill that helps you fall asleep. However, how much do we really know about melatonin? What exactly is melatonin? Is it safe to take? Read on for all the information you should know about melatonin before taking one.

While people typically think of melatonin as a supplement, your body actually creates it, too. Melatonin is a hormone in your body. The release and production of it is tied to time of day (1). Since melatonin aids our sleep, it makes sense that our brain releases more of it when it’s night time, and less during the day.

If our body produces melatonin by itself, why would there be a need to take it as a supplement? Well, there are some conditions that people choose to take it for, with the most common one being insomnia.There are two types of insomnia, being primary and secondary (2). Primary insomnia is when someone has trouble sleeping, or trouble staying asleep, and there isn’t a related health condition to explain it. On the other hand, secondary insomnia is when a person has trouble sleeping and it is due to a health condition. Possible health conditions that cause secondary insomnia are asthma, depression, heartburn, or even substance use. So, if you have trouble sleeping after going out for drinks, it could be due to secondary insomnia.

In addition to insomnia, people may also take melatonin as a supplement if they have jet lag or work night shifts. By taking melatonin when you have jet lag, you can make your body feel tired even though your body isn’t producing its own melatonin. Likewise, you can make your body fall asleep during the day, even though your body hasn’t produced melatonin since it is light outside.

So, is melatonin safe to take as a supplement? Yes and no. Before taking melatonin for the first time, you should consult your doctor. The properties of melatonin could have a harmful interaction with some medications, so you’ll want to make sure this isn’t the case for you before consumption. As long as your doctor approves melatonin as a supplement for you, you’re good to go. However, melatonin isn’t meant to be taken habitually. Melatonin is meant to be used in short-term situations. It’s perfect for getting back on schedule after a trip in a different time zone, or for an occasional restless night. You don’t want to use melatonin consistently, unless told to do so by a doctor, because your body may become reliant on it. Then, you may still have sleep issues even when you take melatonin, which is not what you want.

When you do take melatonin, you should consider your age and weight for the correct dosage. For an adult, you’ll want to take between 0.5 mg and 5 mg of melatonin an hour or two before you’d like to fall asleep (3). The less melatonin you can take to fall asleep, the better. For children, the typical dosage is between 0.05 mg and 5 mg. 

Some people experience grogginess the morning after having melatonin. After the deep sleep that melatonin helps provide, it makes sense that it’s hard to get out of bed the next morning. Besides drowsiness, you may experience nausea or headaches after having melatonin (4). Monitor how you react to a small dose of melatonin so you can note any symptoms you experience before trying a bigger dose.

In all, melatonin is a great supplement for occasional use. However, it’s best that you only utilize it for rare occasions.

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