The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep. Problems like insomnia are common among the general population. Poor sleep or the inability to sleep can make doing simple things difficult. It makes your life harder than it should be. Besides that, it can cause serious health issues, and shorten your lifespan.
Some vitamins and supplements can help you get better sleep. Melatonin is one such supplement that has been recommended to help improve sleep. But, before you start taking melatonin supplements as a sleep aid, you should understand how it works first.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone response to darkness. It helps to regulate your sleep patterns, along with your circadian rhythms. While melatonin doesn’t make you sleep, it does help put you in a restful state of mind, which in turn helps you sleep. Whenever you’re exposed to light at night, it interrupts your melatonin production, which in turn can disturb your sleep schedules.
According to research, melatonin also plays various other roles in your body, but this isn’t fully understood yet and more research on the topic is needed.
Do Melatonin Supplements Improve Sleep?
Since natural melatonin plays such an important role in sleep, you’ll assume that melatonin supplements will do the same. The research that has been done on these kinds of supplements and how they affect our sleep revealed the following.
Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder
People who suffer from Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder have a sleep schedule that’s shifted to a later time than normal. It’s often delayed by a matter of hours. If you have obligations during the day, this disorder can interfere with your life. Melatonin supplements have shown to help people adjust their sleep cycles to more normal times.
If you travel long distances at fast speeds, there’s a good chance that you’ll be jet-lagged at your destination. Various studies have indicated that melatonin supplements are effective in reducing the effects of jet lag.
Many people who work shifts, especially night shifts, often struggle with broken sleep patterns. This is due to circadian rhythms being interrupted. Many people report that melatonin has helped them to get better quality sleep, but scientific studies remain inconclusive.
There are reports that melatonin supplements can help people with insomnia to get some sleep, although current studies are inconclusive on these results.
Anxiety About Surgery
Almost 80% of patients have anxiety before or after surgeries. Using melatonin supplements are helpful in reducing your anxiety prior to surgeries. It’s unclear if it can help reduce anxiety after surgeries.
Melatonin Supplements for Children
Most doctors and scientists agree that more studies are needed before being able to state with confidence whether or not supplements are beneficial for children. Some people have indicated that melatonin supplements are effective in helping children with sleep, especially children with conditions like ADHD, Autism, atopic dermatitis, and asthma.
Children who have some of these conditions are more prone to have sleep problems, which can interfere with their daily functioning. The few studies that have been done on melatonin supplement use in children have shown that they fall asleep faster and sleep longer on average than children who’ve never received the supplement.
Since there haven’t been many studies done on melatonin use in children, there aren’t any straightforward guidelines as to the dosage or timing of these supplements. Very little is known about the long-term effects of using melatonin supplements in children. If you’re considering using a supplement to improve the sleep of your child, you should do so with the utmost caution and under the supervision of your primary healthcare physician or pediatric doctor.
Is It Safe to Use Melatonin Supplements?
Melatonin supplements have not been studied in depth. Consequently, not much is known about the possible side effects of using supplements. This is especially true in the case of supplements that contain more melatonin than what the body would naturally produce.
According to the research that has been done, it appears to be completely safe to use melatonin supplements in the short run, but there is no information about long-term effects.
You should keep in mind that there may be contra-indications if you use any dietary supplement with prescribed medications. Consult with your doctor before taking melatonin supplements, especially if you have epilepsy, or are taking blood thinners. There may also be a risk of having an allergic reaction to using melatonin supplements.
There are also safety concerns for pregnant, breastfeeding women, and older people. The CDC advises against using melatonin supplements for people with dementia.
It’s also important to note that melatonin supplements are seen as dietary supplements in the US, and therefore not closely regulated by the FDA. Therefore, the supplement may not contain everything that’s listed on the label.
There is plenty of evidence that indicates melatonin supplements are useful in certain circumstances. There is still more research needed before anyone can say that it’s safe for children or long-term use.
If you’re struggling to get good quality sleep, you may want to consider taking small doses of melatonin supplements over a short period of time to see if they help.