You’ve seen it in the store aisle, touted as a natural way to help you get some shut-eye. But what is this stuff really, and does it work? Let’s investigate the science of melatonin, so you can make an informed decision next time you’re tossing and turning at 3 am in the morning.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that your body produces naturally. In small amounts, it helps to regulate your sleep cycle. You might have heard of people using it for jetlag, or if they have difficulty sleeping.
What are the benefits?
There are a few potential benefits associated with taking melatonin supplements. Some research suggests that it may help with:
• falling asleep faster
• staying asleep longer
• reducing the effects of jet lag
Other studies show that taking melatonin supplements may improve sleep quality for people who have trouble sleeping due to conditions such as:
• shift work disorder
• delayed sleep phase syndrome
It should be noted that most research on the subject has been conducted on adults, so the jury’s still out on whether or not it’s also effective for children.
Are there any risks associated with taking melatonin?
Like anything else, there can be some risks associated with taking melatonin – but these seem to be fairly rare and mild. Some people report experiencing:
• nausea or vomiting
• daytime grogginess
Or my personal favorite which is vivid dreams/nightmares! The exact opposite effect that you are looking for. But, yes, it is fairly rare, so most people don't need to worry about any of these things happening.
If you do experience any negative side effects from taking melatonin, stop taking it immediately and consult with a physician. And as always, talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen – especially if you have any underlying medical conditions or take medication regularly. They will be able to advise you on whether or not melatonin is right for you, as well as what dosage to take.
Speaking of dosage…
How much should I take?
The recommended dose of melatonin is 0.3 mg – 5 mg per day. It’s best to start with the lowest possible dose and increase gradually if needed.
It’s also important to note that melatonin is only meant for short-term use – generally no more than 2-3 weeks at a time. Taking it for longer periods could result in your body becoming dependent on it, which could make insomnia worse in the long run. As always, when in doubt consult your doctor!
Who shouldn’t take it?
There are some groups of people who should avoid taking melatonin altogether.
This includes pregnant women, children under 3 years old, and anyone who suffers from autoimmune disease or depression. Melatonin can also interact with certain medications such as blood thinners and blood pressure medication – so again, check with your doctor first!
So there you have it – everything you need to know about melatonin! This natural hormone can be a helpful tool if used correctly, but always remember to do your research and consult with a physician before starting any new supplement regimen. Sweet dreams and keep reading!
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