If you are having problems getting to sleep or staying asleep, you are not alone. Sleep disorders are a significant problem in the United States, affecting more than 70 million Americans, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Whether you suffer from a chronic long-term sleep disorder or experience occasional sleep problems, lack of sleep can leave you feeling anxious, cranky and unable to function.
Types of Sleep Disorders
There are more than 80 different sleep disorders, with insomnia being one of the most common. Insomnia affects about 60 million Americans each year, according to the American Sleep Association. Most often, insomnia is caused by another condition or problem, such as certain illnesses, pain, anxiety or depression. Insomnia can also be a side effect of some medications or be the result of too much caffeine, tobacco or alcohol.
Melatonin for Insomnia
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced at night by your pineal gland that helps you to sleep. People with sleep problems often turn to over-the-counter melatonin supplements for help. In one study conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and published in the "Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism" in 2001, it was found that melatonin improved sleep in people with insomnia age 50 or older. However, in general, data regarding the effectiveness of these supplements for insomnia are inconclusive, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
With melatonin, it is important to take the right dosage for it to be effective. However, because melatonin is not a drug, it is manufactured in facilities that are not regulated by the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA). As a result, the dosages listed on the product packages may not be controlled or accurate, meaning that you may not be taking the dose of melatonin that you think you are taking.
Unlike melatonin, Lunesta is a prescription sleep medication approved by the FDA to help people fall asleep and stay asleep. Lunesta has been studied extensively in patients with chronic insomnia and is believed to work by interacting with brain receptors that respond to GABA, a chemical associated with sleep. Common side effects associated with Lunesta include: unpleasant taste in the mouth, dry mouth, morning drowsiness, dizziness, headache and common cold-like symptoms, according to the manufacturer.
While either of these medications may be appropriate, do not attempt to combine Lunesta with melatonin without first consulting with your doctor. Combining any medication or herbal supplements can have dangerous consequences, so be sure to tell your doctor about all the products that you are taking. Also, prior to starting Lunesta, you should inform your doctor of any problems with alcohol or drug dependency because, like other sleep medications, Lunesta does carry a risk for dependency.
- Hossain JL, Shapiro CM.The prevalence, cost implications, and management of sleep disorders: an overview.Sleep Breath. 2002 Jun;6(2):85-102.
- National Sleep Foundation: Melatonin and Sleep
- Lunesta: Taking Lunesta
- Zhdanova IV, Wurtman RJ, Regan MM, Taylor JA, Shi JP, Leclair OU. Melatonin treatment for age-related insomnia.J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Oct;86(10):4727-30.