Sometimes when sleep eludes us we want to find something to help us get there! Many people take melatonin. For me I find that I can’t tolerate but just a little tiny piece of a melatonin tablet cut up in small crumbs. Otherwise I wake up groggy and often times a headache comes along with it. I found liquid melatonin is easier to dose and works well. Melatonin can be compounded by prescription at any compounding pharmacy. Just like the bioidentical hormones are compounded. This makes dosing adjustable.
If you don’t know what melatonin is well it is a hormone that our bodies make naturally, which creates the urge to fall asleep. Dr. Sanjeev Kothare, director of the pediatric sleep program at NYU Langone Medical Center says, “We call it ‘the hormone of the dark’ because it starts rising as it gets late and the light intensity from the day goes down.”
Andrew Westwood, M.D., a board-certified sleep physician and assistant professor at Columbia University says “Melatonin is key in regulating your body’s internal clock, also known as your circadian rhythm. It can de-sensitize your receptors so they’re no longer responsive to lower doses of melatonin.”
Melatonin is made in the brain’s pineal gland. It is made from amino acids you get in your diet, which are generated from proteins. But Dr. Westwood said “You shouldn’t turn to food when you can’t sleep, it takes a while for your digestion to turn food into melatonin.”
Melatonin can be useful for helping blind people establish a day and night cycle. Some people use melatonin for Alzheimer’s disease or memory loss (dementia). Bipolar disorder, a lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), insomnia caused by beta-blocker drugs, endometriosis, ringing in the ears, depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), mild mental impairment, nonalcoholic liver disease, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome and inflammatory disease called sarcoidosis, schizophrenia, migraine and other headaches, age-related vision loss (mostly macular degeneration), benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and so many other conditions. An immunologist (Dr. Farez) wants to see more research on its immunologic potential, as his most recent studies suggest melatonin could play a role in managing multiple sclerosis. It is also widely used to fight certain types of cancer, as it combats tumor cells.
Side effects do occur. Most over-the-counter melatonin supplements also contain higher dosages than many doctors would recommend. “Melatonin supplements generally range from 3 to 10 milligrams,” says Dr. Westwood. “The body usually works with around half a milligram.” Although you can’t overdose on melatonin, doctors aren’t sure whether relying on it can affect you negatively. Dr. Westwood says there’s a chance it might. “It can de-sensitize your receptors so they’re no longer responsive to lower doses of melatonin.” he says. “Then if you come off (the supplement), you might have difficulty sleeping, and require more and more melatonin to fall asleep.” On the other hand, Dr. Kothare says if you respond well to melatonin supplements, you can keep taking them long-term without any major negative side effects. Personally, I’d say break away from them and try another supplement for relaxation. Some reports say that long term useage can alter natural hormone levels, and even sabotage sleep. Given to children, its potential side effects are even more concerning. Check with your pediatrician before giving melatonin to children.
Other side effects include sleepiness, lower body temperature, vivid dreams, morning grogginess, small changes in blood pressure, and dizziness. If you do feel drowsy do not drive or operate machinery when you are taking it. Other less common melatonin side effects might include abdominal discomfort, mild anxiety, irritability, confusion and short-lasting feelings of depression.
In addition, melatonin supplements can interact with various medications, including blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants), medications that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants), diabetes medications, birth control pills.
When you see your doctor tell him or her that you are taking melatonin supplementation. Tell your doctor that you are having problems sleeping. Your doctor may have you do a sleep study to determine how you do sleep (without melatonin). Other problems might exist.