Veterinarian Reviewed on June 6, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized
If you suffer from Insomnia the problem may be that your melatonin levels are too low. Melatonin is manufactured by your brain and released by the pineal gland and is what makes you feel sleepy and allows you to fall asleep at night. The amount of melatonin you produce is in part regulated by the amount of light that your body receives. During the day when the sun is bright your brain produces very little melatonin but, once darkness falls your brain begins producing melatonin and your pineal gland releases it into your body to encourage you to sleep. It is also found in small quantities in some foods and can also be reproduced synthetically and has been used to treat a number of insomnia related conditions.
People who frequently travel through different time zones, those who work night shifts and the blind often experience problems with their melatonin production levels due to the disruption in the brains ability to produce enough melatonin to make sleep possible. When your melatonin levels are reduced this results in less sleep and increases your body’s inability to actually stay asleep once you do go to sleep which, in turn, causes a number of sleep deprivation problems and disorders.
Modern Uses of Melatonin
In recent years scientists have studied and used synthetic melatonin to treat a number of sleep problems including various kinds of insomnia and jet lag. They are also studying the possibility of using melatonin to treat Season Affect Disorder, helping the blind to regulate sleep patterns and for a number of other uses as well including using it to slow the spread of some cancers.
Side Effects of Melatonin
While melatonin can be purchased without a prescription and is generally considered to be safe for use in small quantities it does cause a variety of side effects including;
• Lower body temperature
• Stomach problems
Overdosing on Melatonin may also cause severe mood changes and hallucinations. In addition one should not take melatonin without consulting a medical professional as using it may cause more serious problems if you are pregnant, nursing, taking warfin or other blood thinning medications or have other health problems or concerns.
Still A Lot To Learn About Melatonin
Unlike many supplements that have been used for generations by ancient societies, synthetic melatonin is a relatively new health supplement and scientist are still learning what this supplement may or may not be useful for. While it does have many potential benefits, it still needs to be studied further to determine just which sleeping and other disorders melatonin may successfully treat.
It does show promise in treating sleep disorders in children with autism and hyperactivity sleep problems as well as helping patients who suffer from sleep disturbances due to surgery and other medical conditions.
However, because melatonin has not been fully tested and is relatively new in synthetic form it is advised that if you are taking this supplement to help you relax and sleep you should tell your doctor before he prescribes any medications in case of an allergic reaction. In fact, it is recommended that you consult with a medical professional before taking melatonin at all and if you do take it that you are careful to follow the dosage amounts and don’t over dose on this supplement. As with any drug or supplement you should consider both the benefits and side effects before taking melatonin.
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan