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Melatonin: Nature's Sleep Aid

By Expert HERWriter
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information on the natural sleep aid melatonin Hemera/Thinkstock

I am often asked about supplements to help people get better sleep. Anyone that has worked with me knows how much I value sleep as an integral part of my treatment plans with patients.

There are many different reasons why people are not sleeping well and it is always best to treat the underlying cause of the problem. Today I want to answer the question of when to use melatonin as a supplement.

It can be taken in supplement form, however it is actually produced in the body.

Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in our bodies to help us sleep. It is actually responsible for our sleep and wake cycles in the body, sometimes referred to as circadian rhythms.

Melatonin is produced in the brain in the absence of light. Because melatonin is produced when it is dark, having a dark bedroom makes it easier to produce it and create better sleep.

Melatonin begins to get secreted in the brain in the late evenings. It continues to circulate at high levels during the night and then the levels drop in the morning.

Even though melatonin is naturally produced in the body, it is still a hormone and will create side effects when there is too much in the body.

It can produce daytime sleepiness or grogginess, vivid dreams or nightmares, small changes in blood pressure or lower body temperatures or abdominal pain.

Neurological symptoms include irritability, headaches, mild anxiety, and short-term feelings of depression or confusion. The symptoms will stop as you stop taking melatonin as a supplement.

Since it is produced in the body when is it optimal to take it in the supplement form?

Generally start with .5 milligrams for these disorders. For jet lag or time zone changes the dosage may be increased to anywhere from three to five milligrams.

It has been shown to help people with specific circadian rhythm disorders and jet lag. Circadian rhythm disorders can occur because of shift working, pregnancy, or changes in routine. Melatonin generally should not be taken more than two months at a time.

Before you decide to take melatonin as a supplement, be aware that it can interact with certain medications.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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