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Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone which regulates our circadian rhythm and makes us drowsy. If your circadian rhythm is disrupted, or you can't sleep, taking melatonin may be an option. Here are our best melatonin tips, as well as tips to help you sleep better.
Melatonin is naturally present in the body, and is produced in the pineal gland, or epiphysis cerebri, found in the brain. It's the hormone which helps regulate our circadian rhythm and makes us drowsy. The secretion of melatonin is regulated by light and darkness and that's why it's affected by the changes that occur during summer and winter. When it's light outside, the production of melatonin stops, and when darkness falls it increases again, making us feel drowsy. This drowsiness helps the body recognise that it is time to go to sleep . That's why people who live in northern Europe are particularly sensitive to melatonin, since the changing seasons bring a huge variation in light and darkness levels.
If the body produces too little melatonin, or if there is an imbalance in the level of this hormone, it can be hard to fall asleep. Also, as we get older the body's production of melatonin naturally decreases. This is partly why many older people don't sleep well. Any melatonin you take to help you sleep is synthetically produced.
Melatonin has been linked to weight loss, even though it is not a slimming product. This is because it's scientifically proven that difficulty sleeping can lead to weight gain. So if taking melatonin improves sleep, it might make it easier to lose weight in combination with a healthy diet and exercise. A good night's sleep can help you relax, reset your brain and encourage cell-repair.
Opinions differ as to how easily available melatonin should be.
In Sweden, for example, it is classified as a drug available on prescription, whereas in the US it is considered a dietary supplement for insomnia. Nowadays, small amounts can be purchased in Sweden without a prescription, to alleviate jetlag. It's also used by shift workers when they need help to reset between day and night shifts. Just one pill makes it easier to fall asleep at night.
Melatonin is a drug which is increasing in popularity, despite the lack of knowledge about possible side-effects. The number of melatonin prescriptions in the U.K. increased tenfold in the years between 1998 and 2018..
Melatonin is even prescribed to children and young adults even though it is not included in current recommendations for doctors. Many American studies have shown that melatonin can help children and young adults with sleeping problems, not only to help them fall asleep in the evening, but also to help them sleep longer at night..
This therapy has led to noticeable developments in the treatment of young people with ADHD and neuropsychiatric disorders,as they often suffer from sleep problems. It's also during adolescence that ”Delayed sleep phase syndrome” (DSPS) can cause problems, as it results in a shift of the circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep at night. When the alarm clock goes off in the morning and it's time to go to school, teenagers suffering from this syndrome are completely exhausted. Melatonin can alleviate this problem by helping them fall asleep earlier.
In some countries melatonin has been used as sleep medication for a long time. So far no long-term side-effects have been found, and there have been no indications of addiction. It has already been widely used for over ten years in the USA by children and adults.
However, melatonin doesn't work for everyone, and sometimes it can be hard to determine how much of an effect it actually has. According to certain studies, the time it takes to fall asleep decreased only slightly. The drug seemed to be better at alleviating jet lag. Other studies suggested that it was the placebo effect that changed sleep patterns. Despite the need for further, and more detailed, studies, especially into the possible long-term effects, millions of people around the world continue to take melatonin every day.
There have also been discussions about whether melatonin could affect sexual development and reproduction.
According to healthcare providers, you should take the lowest recommended dose of melatonin for no longer than four weeks at a time. The effect of sleeping medication decreases noticeably over time. Therefore, melatonin works better if you don't take it every night or for a prolonged period of time. Melatonin is primarily intended to help with sleep problems caused by jet lag and shift work.
The blue light that comes from our mobile phones and tablets is bad for our sleep. It tricks our inbuilt biological clocks into thinking it's lighter outside than it actually is, disrupting our circadian rhythm. The light from screens seems to slow down the secretion of melatonin, as the brain is confused by the light. That's why if we lie in bed looking at our phones in the evening we may end up falling asleep later than usual.
The more melatonin is secreted, the easier it is to fall asleep in the evening. Production of melatonin can decrease from as early as your 50s. That's why it might be a good idea to follow these few simple tips to increase melatonin naturally occurring in your body.
https://www.sleepfoundation.org/melatonin https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/mental-health/insomnia#treatments https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00787-020-01598-1 https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/02/rise-in-melatonin-use-to-help-children-sleep-leads-to-safety-warning https://sciencenorway.no/children-and-adolescents-forskningno-medicine/children-taking-unapproved-sleep-meds-for-several-years/1418016
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