Melatonin is naturally produced within the body by the pineal gland which is a small pea sized gland in the center of the brain. At night, melatonin is produced to help our bodies regulate our sleep and wake cycles. As we get older, the amount of melatonin produced by our body reduces which has led scientists to believe that this may be the reason why younger people have less of a problem sleeping than older people do. Although the body creates its own supply of melatonin, it is also possible to buy it in the form of a supplement.
Melatonin for Sleep
Melatonin supplements are herbal in nature and as such do not have any of the side effects that prescription and over the counter sleeping pills have. Research suggests that melatonin supplements make it easier to sleep and also ease the effects of jet lag.
Although research into Melatonin is still ongoing, it has been reported to make people feel better as well as strengthening the immune system and also reducing free radicals within the body.
Studies are also being carried out to determine the effect of melatonin as an antioxidant. However, there is still much to be learned about melatonin and its effects on the human body.
Melatonin and Children
For children that have been diagnosed with hyperactivity or autism, some parents have reported that melatonin has had calming and relaxing effects on their children. However, while this may be true for some children, it is certainly not the answer for everyone.
Check with your pediatrician before starting any supplement programs with your child.
Melatonin is said to be a powerful antioxidant that can easily cross cell membranes and the blood brain barrier.
Unlike other antioxidants, melatonin does not undergo redox cycling which is the ability of a molecule to undergo reduction and oxidation repeatedly. Redox cycling may allow other antioxidants, such as vitamin C, to act as pro-oxidants, counter intuitively promoting free radical formation. However, once oxidized, melatonin cannot be reduced to its former state because it forms several stable end products upon reacting with free radicals. Consequently, melatonin is sometimes referred to as a terminal or suicidal antioxidant.
At the end of the day, the only real way to test the effects of a melatonin supplement, is to try it. To that end, you can buy melatonin at most health food stores and just about any store that sells vitamin supplements.
However, before purchasing any supplements, you will want to look into exactly why you feel the need for this particular supplement.
- Is your lack of sleep just temporary
- Has this been going on for a period of time
It is best to speak to your doctor about your sleep disorder in order to rule out any serious underlying health problems before considering a melatonin supplement as a cure all.
As with most things, there are two sides to any argument and those on the other side of the fence say that if you are taking, or thinking of taking a melatonin supplement, you should first talk with your doctor.
Having your levels of natural melatonin measured will not really tell you anything as levels vary from person to person.
Chronic use of melatonin supplements may suppress the body’s own production of the hormone, and nobody really knows for sure what might happen if you have higher natural levels and take a supplement on top of that.
Since melatonin can interact with other hormones in the body it is advisable that both pregnant women and children should not take the supplement.
It is known that drugs such as aspirin, beta blockers, and tranquilizers can affect melatonin levels but what is not known is the best dosages to take.
Like most herbal remedies, melotonin is not regulated, so the only real way to know if it works for you is to try it. For some people, it may work whilst for others it may not.
At the end of the day, no two people are the same so no one supplement will work for everybody.
Discussing your sleep disorder with a doctor and experimenting with different ideas is the best way to get a great night’s sleep.
You may have to try several different things before you get it right, but between you and your doctor you should be able to discover what works best for you as an individual.