Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sleep and Melatonin

Every once in a while I suffer from bouts of insomnia and for those times I take melatonin. What’s the connection between sleep and melatonin? Melatonin occurs naturally in the pineal gland causing drowsiness and a decrease in core temperature. Levels of melatonin rise during the evening and peak in the middle of the night, if your bedroom is dark enough. 100 lux of light in your room can suppress melatonin production, that’s why sleep specialist recommend for those that suffer from insomnia, no light of any kind, not even from your alarm clock. Research proposes that melatonin will help you to fall asleep easy while maintaining your internal sleep/wake cycle. But that is not all research has found. Even though its main use is a supplement for insomnia, melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant that has shown to fight certain cancers and an immunity booster to aid in weight loss. See: You are Fat and Cannot Sleep.

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Did you know that night shift workers have a higher rate of cancer? Working night after night suppressing their melatonin by being exposed to light, a body of evidence has reported a trend among the blind, flight attendants and those that live in the Arctic have a higher rate of breast, prostate and colon cancers. Scientists believe that melatonin helps a person get more restorative sleep which in turn allows the body to better recognize and kill "bad" cells that would eventually become cancerous. Another theory suggests that when melatonin production is disrupting and levels drop enough that allow cancer cells to grow more easily.

Studies find that a dose raging from .03 mg to 80 mg shows little to no result in the increase melatonin production. This may be due to no FDA standards as melatonin is considered a dietary supplement in the States and you cannot rely on the dose/strength on the bottle. Many brands sold in the U.S. are manufactured in Western Europe. Germany regulates melatonin because they consider it a prescription medication.

Other uses for melatonin are; ease withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepine drugs, improve sleep for those suffering from another medical condition such as; Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and diabetes. It has become a popular natural sleep aid for those experiencing jet lag, delayed sleep phase syndrome and children with sleep problems due to Neuro-Psychiatric Disorders.

Jet lag is caused by a disruption in the person circadian rhythm when traveling across time zones. Melatonin can decrease jet lag symptoms especially for those that are traveling eastward or crossing more than five zones. It helps to lessen the time it takes to fall asleep, reduces daytime sleepiness while boosting alertness. Remember that melatonin will not work for everyone as evidence implies it only helps half of the people who take it. Why? One reason is that certain medications such as beta blockers and anti-depressants can suppress melatonin levels. Second, the timing of the dosing of melatonin can depend greatly upon your own 24 hour internal clock.

Many people have to experiment with the dose as some start taking it 30 minutes before bedtime and if they don’t feel drowsy they will take it 60 then 90 minutes until they find what works for them. Melatonin might work better for those that have a naturally lower level, as those who work the night shift or with older adults. Shift worker produce less melatonin because they are subject to light during the night and we naturally produce less as we age. Melatonin is also useful if you have trouble falling asleep at night and have trouble awaking in the morning as it will regulate their sleep/wake cycle. This condition is known as delayed sleep phase syndrome. This circadian rhythm sleep disorder usually develops in early childhood or adolescence. An adolescent version disappears in adolescence or early adulthood; otherwise DSPS is a lifelong condition. If your child has a neuro-psychiatric disorder that results in sleep difficulties such as; autism, visual impairments or epilepsy melatonin can shorten the time they fall asleep and lengthens sleep duration. Note: Melatonin should not be used in most children. Because of its effects on other hormones, it might interfere with development during adolescence. Make sure your child is under a physicians care before taking any supplement.

Melatonin can be taken orally as in Natrol Melatonin TR 5mg-100 Tablets, as a sublingual (under the tongue) or as a transdermal (skin) patch. The method of delivery for maximum effectiveness remains to be tested. You can also get melatonin in the new Lazy Cakes Relaxation Brownies pack of 12. Try one of these with a warm glass of milk right before you go to bed. (Not for children)

Melatonin is naturally found in some fruits and vegetables including mustard, Goji berries, almonds, sunflower seeds, cardamom, fennel, coriander and cherries. The study authors concluded "administration of melatonin and intake of food containing melatonin might be a useful tool to fight obesity and the risks associated to it." Some additional natural food sources are; Oats, sweet corn, rice, ginger, barley, tomatoes, bananas, radishes, pineapples, apples, oranges, strawberries, kiwifruits, peppers and spinach.

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Melatonin is safe for most adults and can have some side effects including headache, feelings of depression, daytime sleepiness, dizziness, stomach cramps and irritability. You should avoid heavy machinery at least 4-5 hours after taking melatonin.

Do not take melatonin if you are pregnant or breast feeding, have high blood pressure, had a seizure, have diabetes, have cancer or have depression. You should not need to take melatonin for a long-term basis as it should only take a few weeks to correct your biological clock. Since melatonin is not regulated it is important that you purchase it from a trustworthy manufacturer. The USP symbol can tell you if the supplement has been tested and contains the correct ingredients. Most melatonin products are synthetic although a few are made from the pineal glands of sheep or cows. The synthetic forms are safer as the animal forms are likely to contain contaminants. If you are on other medications or have health problems it is recommended to talk to your physician before taking melatonin. More information see: Melatonin can cause Easy Sleeping.

The content provided in Sleep and Melatonin is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

When purchasing a supplement on line it is recommended that you do not solely rely on the information presented. The information and statements regarding their products have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or health condition. Therefore, they (the online distributor) and assumes no liability for inaccuracies or misstatements made about the products.

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