Everybody has heard of melatonin for sleep. But what exactly is it, how does it work, and what form of it should I take?
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
The "Dracula" Hormone
As opposed to other classes of sleep-inducing medications, melatonin isn't a drug at all. It is produced naturally within the body. Created within the pineal gland, the "Dracula" hormone comes out at night to induce sleep.
The problem is that as we get older, melatonin production decreases. We do need less sleep as we age, of course, but we do need sufficient sleep to carry on the tasks of daily living, like working and raising families, in an alert fashion.
The "Change," and the Awful Changes Wrought
Women on the wrong side of menopause suffer a double whammy where melatonin is concerned. Not only is the amount of melatonin produced on the decrease, but estrogen goes sharply down as well.
As a result, women going through "the change" are prone to suffer the night sweats and hot flashes estrogen loss brings. On top of that, cruelly, we now tend to miss out on the restful sleep that adequate melatonin confers. Yet we still have bills to pay and mouths to feed. We need good sleep now more than ever!
Melatonin to the Rescue
It makes sense to supplement one's dwindling supply of natural melatonin, then, with its pharmaceutical replacement. Keep the garlic on hand for other stuff!
Please note that how much melatonin to take, when to take it and its effectiveness, if any, is only beginning to be understood.
Compared to other sleep medicines, here are some pros and cons to taking melatonin according to reviewers. I concur with them, especially about the vivid dreams. I don't have bad ones too often, but when I do I remember every unpleasant detail. Luckily I usually remember details of my good dreams as well!
- Not habit forming
- Natural hormone, not a medication
- No grogginess
- Can cause vivid dreams/nightmares
- Effect only lasts 3-4 hours
- Possible drug interactions
The Other, Incredible, Benefits of Melatonin
Research on melatonin is, unfortunately, scant. Like other prospective therapies derived from nature, melatonin can't be patented and thus, it is not a candidate for pharmaceutical companies to invest in.
What studies there are, however, note that the beneficial physiological effects of melatonin include
- detoxification of free radicals and antioxidant actions
- formation and protection of bones
- regulation of reproduction, immunity and body mass
- therapeutic effects with regard to brain or gastrointestinal protection, psychiatric disorders, cardiovascular diseases and oncostatic effects.
It is beyond the scope of this post to deep dive into studies of these therapeutic effects. However, I would point out that "regulation of ... body mass" means, in plain English, the potential for weight control!
Even more startling is the discovery that melatonin aids in keeping old age and its deleterious effects at bay.
According to Russel J. Reiter, PhD, from UT Health San Antonio, the fountain of youth that is melatonin has the potential to delay aging by as much as ten years! He elaborates on the sleep aid's endless wonders in his book, Melatonin: Breakthrough Discoveries That Can Help You Combat Aging, Boost Your Immune System, Reduce Your Risk of Cancer and Heart Disease, Get a Better Night's Sleep.
Statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition.
It Works for Me: MidNite Drug-Free Sleep Aid
I have taken MidNite pretty much every night for over ten years now. I was introduced to it when my son, who had been prescribed insomnia-inducing ADHD meds, needed help sleeping. If it was deemed safe and effective enough by his pediatrician, I figured, it was good enough for me as well. Check with your physician to see if it can benefit you as well.
Mylan, the manufacturer of MidNite, produces a large array of pharmaceutical grade medicinals, so it makes sense they would adhere to quality standards for their line of supplements as well.
I split each tablet in half and start taking the one half when I go to bed. I'll invariably fall asleep within 30 minutes. I usually wake up 4 hours later, at which time I'll take the other half. 4 hours after that, I wake up refreshed and ready for the day! I wish the tabs came pre-scored. Splitting them in half by hand is doable, but each "half" ends up not quite uniform in size.
The best price I have found is on Amazon, where the tabs end up costing about a quarter each. In stores I have paid over 33 cents each.
Recommendations and Final Thoughts
Let me finish by again requesting you check with your physician before taking this or any other supplement. If you do try it I would love to know what you think!
I would recommend starting by taking the smallest possible dose -I have found that half a milligram is no more or less effective than five milligrams.
If you find that the dosage recommended on the package is insufficient to get you snoozing, I would advise you add ASMR or a gentle relaxation app to your sleep arsenal.