Melatonin is the all-natural nightcap. It’s secreted by the pineal gland, a pea-size structure at the center of the brain, as our eyes register the fall of darkness. At night melatonin is produced to help our bodies regulate our sleep-wake cycles (our “Circadian Rhythm”). The amount of melatonin produced by our body seems to lessen as we get older. Scientists believe this may be why young people have fewer sleeping problems than older people.
What are the Effects of Melatonin?
Studies suggest that melatonin supplements can hasten sleep and ease jet lag, without the hazards or side effects of prescription sleeping pills. Melatonin may have many other uses and has been reported to make people feel better, strengthen the immune system, and reduce free radicals in the body. Current research is underway to determine melatonin’s effect as an anti-oxidant, and immuno-modulator in cancer, delayed sleep-phase disorders, and jet lag. Tests are still underway so there is still much to be learned about melatonin and its effects on the human body.
What Melatonin dose is recommended?
The appropriate dose can vary enormously from person to person. Melatonin tablets are available in 1mg, 3mg and up to 10mg. Liquid melatonin is available in a 1mg per ml form which allows a user to pinpoint smaller doses accurately. There are even sublingual melatonin lozenges that dissolve under the tongue available in 2.5mg and 5mg dosages.
We recommend you start off with 1mg 30 minutes before bedtime and work your way to larger doses only if needed.
Are there any side effects?
According to one report, “10 percent of the users said the hormone did nothing for them, and another 10 percent complained of side effects such as nightmares, headaches, morning grogginess, mild depression, and low sex drive. In past studies, researchers have given people up to 600 to 3,000 times the usual doses – without causing any toxicity.”*
What additional benefits are there and how reliable are these claims?
In test-tube and animal experiments, researchers have found that melatonin protects cells, strengthens the immune system and slows the growth of some tumors.
Tests with laboratory mice suggest that melatonin might also reduce the effects of aging – but remember; these results are very preliminary.
Should certain people avoid it?
Yes. Those include women who are pregnant or nursing (since no one knows how excessive exposure to the hormone might affect a fetus or infant); people with severe allergies or autoimmune diseases (melatonin could exacerbate such conditions by stimulating the immune system); people with immune-system cancers such as lymphoma or leukemia (for the same reason), and healthy children (who already produce it in abundance). Women trying to conceive should also think twice about taking the hormone since high doses can act as a contraceptive. As with any substance introduced into your body, if you have a medical condition, you should always consult your physician first before taking melatonin.
Will melatonin extend my lifespan?
There are no human studies to support this contention. In tests on both rats and mice melatonin caused a significant 20% increase in their lifespan. If melatonin does allow you to live longer and healthier it could do so because melatonin may reduce free radical damage; stimulate an aging immune system; protect the cardiovascular system; preserve a youthful circadian rhythm; stimulate the production of growth hormone.
Will melatonin enhance my sex life?
There is no evidence to support this claim as it relates to humans. However, a 1995 rodent study suggests that taking small amounts of melatonin on a regular basis may prevent the age-related decline in testosterone levels, allowing men to be more active sexually in their later years.
Is melatonin safe?
Melatonin is one of the least toxic substances known. People have taken as much as 6 grams (600 to 3000 times the normal dosage) of the substance in carefully monitored studies with no sign of toxicity. Only four complaints regarding melatonin have been reported to the FDA (USA’s Food and Drug Administration). The only consistent side effect of high doses has been drowsiness and a slower reaction time. In the most extensive clinical trial to date, a high dose of 75 milligrams of melatonin per day was given to 1400 women in the Netherlands for up to four years with no ill effects. The FDA reports that since melatonin was made available for sale over the counter in the United States, no alarming side effects have been reported.
When should the dosage be administered?
Melatonin should only be taken at nighttime, usually about thirty minutes prior to going to bed. If you are traveling on a long trip you may want to take a dosage prior to getting on your flight and a higher dosage pill prior to going to bed. If you commonly sleep during the night, melatonin should not normally be taken during the day – and vice versa – because melatonin plays a role in setting the body’s daily clock.
Does melatonin have that morning-after hangover effect of sleeping pills?
No. You should normally wake up well-refreshed and full of energy. If you wake up feeling a little tired you should reduce your dosage until you wake up feeling well-refreshed. You will not have the hangover effect you may experience with over-the-counter or prescription sleeping pills.
What is the difference between ‘natural’ and ‘pharmaceutical’ grade melatonin?
Natural, animal or bovine-grade melatonin contains the actual extracts of the pineal gland. Because it comes from animal tissue, this grade of melatonin may be accompanied by viruses or proteins that could cause an antibody response. We highly recommend that people stay away from non-synthetic melatonin!
Synthetic melatonin is produced from pharmaceutical-grade ingredients. This form is molecularly identical to the melatonin that we produce in our own bodies, without unwanted extras.