Melatonin Information and Side Effects

Melatonin Information and Side Effects

Melatonin is a hormone manufactured by the pineal gland, a small gland located in the center of the brain. Melatonin synthesis is stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light. Increases in the level of melatonin causes the body to feel less alert.

Basically what that means is… melatonin plays an important role in inducing sleep.

Two factors are needed for the pineal gland to produce melatonin. It must be the right time (basically, around 9 pm to 9 am), and it must be dark. Even at night, indoor lighting can be bright enough to inhibit production of melatonin by the pineal gland.

Melatonin is available as an over-the-counter supplement in health food stores and some pharmacies. Because is found naturally in some foods, it can be purchased without a prescription. As a naturally-occurring substance, the Food and Drug Administration allows melatonin to be sold under the U.S. Dietary and Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.

There are two types of melatonin supplements available: natural and synthetic (man made). The natural form is derived from animals and can be contaminated with viruses. Therefore, it may be safer to use synthetic melatonin supplements instead.

Melatonin is most commonly used as a sleep aid. Many also recommend taking it to reduce the effects of jet lag and/or shift work—when normal sleep/wake cycles are disrupted. For normal healthy people with insomnia, supplemental melatonin appears to be more effective in those >55 years of age. This makes sense, as melatonin secretion typically declines with aging.

Supplemental melatonin may have other uses as well.

It may improve the growth hormone response to exercise (at least in men) and reduce the amount of harmful free radicals in the body.

It appears to have the ability to strengthen the immune system and may (ultimately) play a role in cancer treatment/prevention, although the evidence is not conclusive.

Since it is not regulated as a drug, melatonin is often manufactured without strict controls. For this reason, the doses listed on a bottle of melatonin may not be accurate. Even when taken in accurately measured doses (typically 1 to 3 mg), it is important to realize that melatonin supplements increase levels of the hormone to up to 20 times the amount normally produced in the body. Studies indicate that only small amounts of melatonin are needed to produce results and that large doses of melatonin may not be as effective as small ones.

Melatonin Side Effects

Side effects from melatonin are not common, even at doses that are significantly greater than the recommended amount. When side effects from melatonin do occur, they may include nausea, headache, dizziness and drowsiness. Children, pregnant/nursing women and people with a history of heart problems, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes or seizure disorders should not use melatonin.

Bottom line?

I’ve used Melatonin for occasional bouts of insomnia, and recommend it to friends who either have problem sleeping or work shifts. It’s been a great help to everyone who has used it. I have no problem recommending it to you.

Melatonin is a great supplement, and it’s available online from one of our recommended online retailers, BodyBuilding.com. Another product worth investigating is Xtend-Life’s Neuro-Natural Sleep.

Although it does not contain melatonin, it’s designed specifically to promote deep sleep and improved sleep patterns—learn more about Xtend-Life’s Neuro-Natural Sleep here!

Author: elissa

Elissa is a former research associate with the University of California at Davis, and the author/co-author of over a dozen articles published in scientific journals. Currently a freelance writer and researcher, Elissa brings her multidisciplinary education and training to her writing on nutrition and supplements.

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