The benefits of taking melatonin are well known to millions who use it as an anti-depressant and insomnia treatment. But what you may not know about this natural substance is that its origins can be traced back thousands of years ago when people used plants and herbs to treat depression and sleeplessness.
Melatonin was discovered by scientists at Harvard University while they were studying frogs in 1958. And since then, it has been found to have numerous uses including regulating our circadian rhythms (our biological clocks) which keep us on time with how much we eat and rest throughout the day. This means that without it, humans would live like nocturnal animals such as cats or owls because their bodies wouldn’t synchronize properly.
So if melatonin plays such a crucial role in keeping us healthy, why do so many people choose synthetic alternatives over nature’s wonder supplement?
Well, there are several reasons. For one thing, it is more convenient to take a pill than to go out and pick up some wild yew berries from your local health food store. Also, most doctors don’t recommend herbal remedies unless necessary due to possible interactions between other medications or herbs. In addition, consumers are often wary of buying products that haven’t undergone stringent tests and regulations.
But whether you decide to buy organic or mass-produced forms, here are some important facts to consider before using melatonin.
What is melatonin?
The chemical name for melatonin is N-Acetyl-5-methoxy tryptamine but also referred to as MT (for short). Melatonin is naturally produced by the pineal gland located inside the brain stem. When light signals arrive through the eyes, cells called photoreceptors trigger nerve impulses that travel through two different pathways – rods and cones. These stimulate the retina to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter primarily responsible for vision.
Dopamine travels towards the retinas where it binds itself to specific receptors. One type of receptor is sensitive to serotonin, another to noradrenaline and adrenaline, and yet others respond to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), glutamate, and acetylcholine. Serotonin stimulates wakefulness while noradrenaline induces drowsiness. Adrenaline causes alertness.
However, these chemicals only work effectively during daylight hours. At nighttime, melatonin takes over as the dominant player controlling both physiological processes and behavioral states. Once released into the bloodstream, melatonin acts as a signal molecule that tells the endocrine system to slow down the production of hormones that promote wakefulness (like cortisol) while simultaneously stimulating those responsible for inducing sleep (such as prolactin.) By doing so, melatonin helps regulate your internal clock or circadian rhythm. As mentioned earlier, without this hormonal cue, humans’ body functions and behaviors would become erratic and irregular.
Since melatonin controls the timing of sleep and wakefulness, it affects everything from moods to memory retention to fertility. And because it doesn’t affect cognitive abilities, melatonin users report feeling less stressed and anxious compared to non-users.
There are a couple of ways to get melatonin. You could either swallow capsules or tablets containing pure active ingredients or opt for drops or sprays. However, melatonin pills will likely provide better results overall. They contain higher concentrations of the compound which makes them safer for long-term use. On top of that, they’re easier to mix with drinks and foods. So if you want to experiment with other delivery methods, feel free to try out any of the following options first.
Spray bottles: Spray melatonin directly onto your tongue to experience faster absorption.
Drops/Lozenges: Take 1 milligram per 10 pounds of weight daily.
Gumdrops: Peel off 2 gumballs every hour to achieve steady blood levels of melatonin.
Capsules: Follow label instructions on dose size.
If you’re still having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about trying prescription medication approved by the FDA. Some examples include Lunesta (eszopiclone), Ambien CR, Rozerem, or Halcion. If you’d rather steer away from drugs altogether, you might consider experimenting with herbal remedies instead. Here are just a few popular ones recommended by experts.
Melatonin Side Effects
Although melatonin seems like a miracle drug, it isn’t completely risk-free. There are certain conditions under which it should never be taken. Those include kidney disease, severe liver damage, bleeding disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, allergies, low blood sugar, alcohol consumption, smoking marijuana, eating too much protein right after consuming large meals, drinking caffeine, being pregnant, or nursing a baby, etc.
Because melatonin works as a sedative, it can cause vivid dreams and nightmares, especially in teenagers. Aside from that, common side effects associated with melatonin usage include dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, anxiety, tiredness or fatigue, weakness, irritability, frequent urination, constipation, diarrhea, increased appetite, headaches, skin rashes, blurred vision, changes in libido and mood swings among others. Since allergic reactions tend to occur within 30 minutes of ingesting melatonin, it’s best to avoid popping multiple doses at once. Instead, slowly increase intake over time until you reach maximum tolerance level.
Is melatonin Safe for Kids?
Yes! Although adults need more melatonin than children, kids shouldn’t shy away from getting their fair share of this amazing nutrient. Children aged 3 months and older require half the amount of melatonin their adult counterparts consume daily, while teens require twice as much. Just remember to monitor symptoms closely to ensure safety.
Most importantly, parents should always consult their child’s pediatrician before giving anything new to their kid. According to studies conducted in Japan, children younger than 6 years old experienced adverse symptoms from oral administration of melatonin. Therefore, it is highly advised that melatonin remains strictly avoided for infants and young children. Other things to note are that melatonin is considered unsafe for breastfeeding mothers, premature babies, and individuals diagnosed with glaucoma.
Is melatonin safe for pregnancy?
For pregnant women, however, the American Pregnancy Association recommends starting prenatal supplementation with 0.25 mg of melatonin four weeks ahead of the expected date of birth to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS.)
How Long Does Melatonin Last?
You’ll probably notice that melatonin starts working immediately after ingestion. That said, it typically lasts anywhere from 4 to 8 hours depending on your metabolism. In general, you won’t experience dramatic fluctuations in performance even though it may seem like that to you. While effective, it is advisable to gradually build up the dosage over time.
Aside from pills, you can enjoy the convenience of melatonin delivered straight to your mouth via delicious chocolate candy. Recently launched by Canadian company Organo Gold Inc., melatonin gummies come in three flavors – original, minty green tea, and spicy cinnamon. Available in single-serving sizes, each pack contains 100% organic ingredients consisting of real fruit juice, vanilla flavor extract, sweetened condensed skimmed milk powder, rice maltodextrin, cocoa butter, citric acid, sea salt, orange peel oil, stevia leaf syrup, pectin, emulsifiers, and stabilizers.
Each package offers approximately 60 servings. After opening, simply place melatonin gummies into refrigerator storage containers and stash them behind bars or cupboards to preserve freshness longer.
Available online or in retail stores nationwide, melatonin gummies are priced at around $7.99 per box.
With that said, let me ask you,
- Do YOU already take melatonin?
- What kind(s) did you prefer?
- Is there something else I didn’t mention here?
Please leave all thoughts and comments below!