If you are having trouble sleeping, you will want to know about melatonin, a natural hormone present in the body made from the amino acid tryptophan, but available to take as a supplement. Melatonin is a natural regulator of the sleep cycle, and taking exogenous melatonin may help those with insomnia. Certain plants contain melatonin, making this hormone available as a supplement from natural sources.
Melatonin and Sleep
The use of melatonin in treating multiple types of sleep disturbances has been tested in many different studies. The Mayo Clinic reports that melatonin has been used to treat insomnia in the elderly, children, and adults who were healthy other than having insomnia. This hormone has also been used to treat jet lag in order to help establish new sleeping patterns after traveling to a new time zone. The amount of melatonin that most people naturally produce is about 0.3 mg per day, and this level peaks between 2 and 4 a.m.
The general recommended dosage for insomnia is between 1 and 3 mg taken about 1 hour before bedtime, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. However, some people may find a dose as low as 0.1 mg will induce sleep in those experiencing insomnia. Because melatonin can have different effects in different people, consulting a medical professional for recommendations that would be right for you would be a good idea. The ideal dose of melatonin allows you to fall sleep within an adequate period of time, but will not make you sleepy or irritable the next day.
Dr. Amnon Brzezinski and colleagues at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem conducted a study, the results of which were published in the journal "Sleep Medicine Reviews" in February 2005. In this study, Dr. Brzezinski conducted a meta-analysis in which he grouped together the results of 15 studies involving people with insomnia, but no other health problems. The results were that melatonin did indeed significantly reduced time to sleep and increased time to wake. The results of this meta-analysis indicate that melatonin does significantly help treat those with insomnia.
Possible Side Effects
Melatonin may cause side effects in some people, and thus the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends only taking this supplement under the advice of a medical professional. These side effects include: especially vivid dreams; headache and irritability; reduced sex drive; stomach cramps; and, in men, gynecomastia, which is the abnormal growth of breast tissue, and reduced sperm count.