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This Month In Life
  • When You Just Want to Sleep
    As with any supplement, it’s smart to know what you’re putting in your body. Will the supplement really do what it claims and is it safe to take? While more research is needed, here’s what’s currently known about the pros and cons of melatonin.  Read >>
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Health and Fitness News

When You Just Want to Sleep

Melatonin: Risks and Benefits

How many nights do you lie awake dreaming of going to sleep? Maybe you suffer from insomnia and no matter how tired you feel, your body resists falling asleep and staying asleep. So you’ve decided to take action. You plan to take a melatonin supplement before bed, hoping it will improve your quality of sleep.

As with any supplement, it’s smart to know what you’re putting in your body. Will the supplement really do what it claims and is it safe to take? While more research is needed, here’s what’s currently known about the pros and cons of melatonin.

What Is It?

Melatonin is a hormone. Its purpose is to help regulate your circadian rhythm, also known as your sleep-wake cycle. When the sun goes down and the lights dim, your body naturally produces melatonin to help you sleep. Waking to the sunlight in the morning tells your body to stop producing melatonin so you can wake up. Low levels of melatonin can cause you to struggle with sleep. One promising remedy? Take melatonin to supplement what your body is lacking. Most melatonin supplements are made synthetically in a lab, but some are made from the pineal gland of animals.

What Are the Benefits?

While research is ongoing, studies are promising. Currently, researchers have found that a melatonin supplement is likely helpful for conditions related to sleep. Both adults and kids may fall asleep faster if they take melatonin by mouth before bed. It’s even helpful for the visually impaired. Since they can’t see light or darkness, melatonin seems effective for blind people who have non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder. Traveling? Pack the melatonin! It’s been shown helpful for relieving symptoms of jet lag.

Melatonin seems to affect more areas of the body than just sleep. It’s also helpful for relieving the following:
Anxiety before and after surgery
High blood pressure
Jaw pain from TMJ
Low platelet levels
Pain from endometriosis

On top of proven benefits, melatonin has a lot of potential perks. Though still being investigated, it may prevent sunburns. More exciting—melatonin may increase the survival rates of cancer patients. Could it be that a generally safe supplement could have such powerful effects? Researchers hope to find out!

What Are the Risks?

Taking a melatonin supplement by mouth is deemed safe for most adults. Especially if used in the short-term (two years or less). So far, it seems safe to use in the long-term as well. But it may come with complications.
Safe as it may be, talk with your doctor if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. It’s safest to avoid melatonin when breastfeeding. People with bleeding disorders, high blood pressure, dementia, depression, seizure disorders, or a recent transplant should not take melatonin.

Negative side effects include sleepiness, headache, nausea, and dizziness. Some people experience anxiety, irritability, confusion, mild tremor, abdominal cramps, or fleeting depression.

Short-term use in children is considered safe, but children should take no more than 3 milligrams a day and teens no more than 5 milligrams for a short period of time. Questions regarding melatonin’s safety for kids’ and teens’ development have been raised. Currently, long-term use is not recommended until further studies have proven it safe. A few weeks or months should be safe, but it’s best for kids to learn how to fall asleep on their own.

Drug interactions are possible, so always talk to your doctor before taking a new supplement.

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