Insomnia is a common sleep disorder in which you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
People who often have trouble getting the sleep they need experience symptoms such as fatigue, low energy, trouble concentrating, poor performance at school or work, and moodiness.
Many people turn to the supplement melatonin to help them with their sleep problems. Melatonin fans say these supplements help reset your internal clock so you can sleep better, especially if your sleep problems are related to jet lag or shift work.
But do melatonin supplements really work? Can they help with insomnia and other sleep problems?
Before you start taking melatonin, you should know the facts. Dr. Gandis G. Mažeika and his team of experts at Sound Sleep Health would like to provide you with the following information about this popular supplement.
A sleep-related hormone
Melatonin is a naturally occurring human hormone that plays an important role in sleep. It is manufactured by a gland in your brain called the pineal gland.
Your body produces melatonin throughout the day. Melatonin production rises in the evening and falls in the morning. Having higher levels of melatonin in the evening helps you to fall asleep.
Here’s the idea behind taking melatonin supplements: If natural melatonin produced by your body helps you fall asleep at night, then taking extra melatonin in the form of a supplement should help bring about sleep.
But research doesn’t necessarily prove that melatonin supplements dramatically help with sleep.
Benefits of melatonin
Melatonin does seem to help people with certain types of time-related sleep disorders, such as jet lag, sleep problems that are related to shift work, and a problem known as delayed sleep phase disorder. People with delayed sleep phase disorder often lie in bed for hours before falling asleep.
Melatonin appears to help reset your internal clock when you have one of these time-related sleep disorders.
For people with insomnia, however, findings are mixed. Overall, studies have found that melatonin may make it slightly easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get good-quality rest. But it doesn’t help everyone with insomnia.
Should you take melatonin?
It’s important to talk with Dr. Mažeika before taking melatonin. Your insomnia may have a medical cause that requires treatment, and taking melatonin or any other alternative or over-the-counter remedy could delay the diagnosis of a serious medical problem.
And, like any other supplement, melatonin could interact with medications you’re already taking.
Finally, if you are pregnant or expect to become pregnant soon, you should not take supplements or any other medication before checking with your doctor. Supplements are not required to be tested on pregnant women before being sold in stores.
The typical adult dosage of melatonin ranges from 0.3 mg to 5 mg at bedtime. Because lower doses often work as well as higher doses and because melatonin use can lead to side effects such as daytime drowsiness, headaches, and moodiness, it’s best to start with a small amount.
Melatonin supplements and safety
According to the National Institutes of Health, melatonin supplements do appear to be safe when used short-term. But less is known about the long-term safety of melatonin supplements. For this reason, we don’t recommend long-term use.
Get help with your sleep problems
Whether you’re experiencing insomnia, sleep apnea, or any other sleep disorder, the sleep experts at Sound Sleep Health can make it easier for you to get the rest you need. For diagnosis and treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders, book a consultation by phone or online at one of our three locations in Kirkland and Seattle, Washington.
Exclusively treating patients with sleep issues, our practice is led by Dr. Mažeika, a renowned board-certified sleep medicine specialist who trained at Harvard and Duke universities and is a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Dr. Mažeika is also an active member of the National Sleep Foundation.