According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 3 adults aren’t getting enough sleep. Well, that’s no surprise –we are ever so attached to our electronic devices, have hectic work schedules, and worry a lot about many mundane things. Of course, there are a lot of valid reasons why people don’t sleep as well as they should. But sleep deprivation is no small matter—it can make you cranky, mess with your metabolism, and give you a host of illnesses (and even those annoying under-eye bags). Now, considering that a lack of sleep can takes its toll on our mental and physical health, it is pertinent to find a solution that really works.
We’ve heard and read all the classic sleep advice and remedies a lot of times. They range from minimizing the use of technology, dimming the lights in a room, keeping your phone away an hour before bedtime, or reducing your caffeine intake, but how many people actually keep to these? Some people swear by exercises, yoga and meditation, but one habit that has proven to help insomniacs—and you should try it out–is taking melatonin supplements at night to help you relax.
How does Melatonin Work?
To tackle sleep deprivation, melatonin supplements are growing in popularity and usage. In fact a survey by the CDC shows that in 2012, about 3 million Americans were using them to induce sleep. Okay, we’ve established that melatonin can help you sleep better, but it’s smart to understand exactly how it works.
According to a John Hopkins sleep expert, Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.SM, the human body actually produces melatonin without help. However, melatonin on its own does not make you sleep, but as its levels increases in the evening, it puts the body in a state of quiet wakefulness that helps promote sleep.
So you see, our bodies produce enough melatonin for sleep without help. But that in itself is not enough–there are things to do to induce the natural production of melatonin and also, supplements to take if you’re suffering from insomnia.
How to Harness the Body’s Melatonin’s Sleep-inducing Effects
- Create the Right Conditions for Melatonin’s Sleep-inducing Signals
Did you know that your body’s melatonin levels rise about two hours before bedtime? Now that you know, you’d need to create an environment that encourages it to do its job. First, keep the lights out or low before bed. Ditch your computer, phone or tablet—at least for the night because the blue and green light from these devices are capable of neutralizing melatonin’s sleep-inducing effects. And if you must watch television, ensure that you’re at least six feet away from the screen.
Also, to condition your body to produce melatonin for sleep, get enough exposure to daylight during the morning and afternoon. You can simply take a walk outside or sit beside a sunny window. Easy, right?
- Consider Melatonin Supplements for Occasional Insomnia and Jet Lag
Many people, at some point in their lives, have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep for a long time. For such people, melatonin supplements may prove very helpful. In fact, research suggests that melatonin supplements can help insomniacs fall asleep a little faster. It also helps people who experience delayed sleep phase syndrome—a situation where one sleeps very late and wakes up late the next day.
Evidently, taking melatonin supplements before bedtime can help you get good sleep. In one analysis, studies were conducted on 19 people experiencing sleep disorders, and results indicated that the supplement helped reduce the time it took to fall asleep by an average of 7 minutes. Several other studies have also reported that people sleep better after taking melatonin supplements.
Furthermore, melatonin supplements can help with relieving jet lag. Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that occurs when your body’s internal clock disagrees with the current time zone. It is mostly experienced by shift workers since they work during a time usually set aside for sleep.
How to Use Melatonin Sleep Supplements
With melatonin supplements, less is more. Ingesting 1 to 3 milligrams two hours before bedtime is ideal. In the case of jet lag, it is better to take melatonin two hours before your bedtime at your destination, a few days before embarking on your trip.
You can also adjust your sleep schedule by simply staying awake when you reach your destination. When you delay sleep until the sleep time you’re used to, you’re able to adjust in the new time zone. Also, try getting some exposure to natural light outdoors.
Know When to Stop Taking Melatonin Supplements
If there are no noticeable improvements in the quality of sleep you get after a week or two of taking melatonin supplements, stop using them. At this point, you may need to see a qualified health care provider to discuss your sleep problems. However, if the supplement does seem to help, it’s safe to take it nightly for one to two months only. After that, it is advisable to stop and see how well you sleep without it.
Now, for pregnant or breastfeeding women, melatonin supplements are highly unsafe. Same goes for people suffering from depression or autoimmune and seizure disorders. If you are diabetic or experience high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before considering this supplement as a sleep aid. This is because melatonin supplements can increase blood-sugar levels and blood pressure levels if taken with some hypertension medications.
The Side Effects
Melatonin supplements may be gaining popularity, but they are a relatively a new addition to the sleep-inducing supplements market. This means that research has only just begun on the potential positive and negative effects of melatonin.
Notwithstanding, when compared to conventional sleeping pills, melatonin is usually considered a ‘natural’ product. But this does not mean there are no side effects associated with taking the supplement. For the time being, the reported side effects of melatonin include headaches and dizziness and headaches. However, like mentioned earlier, the effects of a long-term use of melatonin for sleep-inducement is still being investigated.
To get the best of melatonin supplements, it is smart to take the right melatonin dosage and at the appropriate time. Ingesting them at the “wrong” time of day is capable of resetting your biological clock in an undesirable direction.
The Bottom Line
Falling asleep should come naturally to everyone, right? Well, it’s somehow managed to become one of the biggest problems some people deal with on a daily basis. Imagine lying in bed staring at the ceiling for so long until you either drift off into fitful sleep or get no sleep at all. Not cool.
It’s no secret that in these modern times, more people struggle with getting quality sleep. Anyway, the good news is that something can actually be done to make getting a good night’s sleep just a little bit easier for you. Melatonin supplements for sleep may be relatively new, but hey, it’s worked for so many people.
There are some foods that naturally contain melatonin. Due to this, the U.S. Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 permits melatonin to be sold as a dietary supplement. Therefore, the supplement does not need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.