Thinking Melatonin Makes You Sleepy
This is the most common misconception about melatonin, Grandner says. Unlike many prescription sleeping pills, melatonin isnt a sedative. It works by signaling to your body that its nighttime and encouraging your bodys natural sleep-wake cycles to help you power down for the night.
That is why it can help shift your sleep patterns if youre struggling with things like jet lag or an irregular sleep schedule because of shift work and it is also why its not going to do as much good for insomnia caused by other things.
Is It Safe To Take Melatonin
For melatonin supplements, particularly at doses higher than what the body normally produces, thereâs not enough information yet about possible side effects to have a clear picture of overall safety. Short-term use of melatonin supplements appears to be safe for most people, but information on the long-term safety of supplementing with melatonin is lacking.
Also keep in mind:
Interactions with medicines
- As with all dietary supplements, people who are taking medicine should consult their health care providers before using melatonin. In particular, people with epilepsy and those taking blood thinner medications need to be under medical supervision when taking melatonin supplements.
Possible allergic reaction risk
Safety concerns for pregnant and breastfeeding women
Safety concerns for older people
Melatonin is regulated as a dietary supplement
Products may not contain whatâs listed on the label
How To Get The Best Results
Light is the switch that controls when your brain makes melatonin. When you take a supplement, take care that you donât disrupt its effects with artificial light:
- Avoid your phone and other tech devices that shine brightly in the hours before bed.
- Turn off overhead lights in the evening.
- Bright light in the morning can signal itâs time to wake up.
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The Best Melatonin Alternatives
What can you use to nod off besides melatonin?
There are loads of natural products on the market, but keep in mind that natural doesnt always mean safer or healthier. Plus, the Food and Drug Administration does not approve the safety or efficacy of supplements as drugs, including potential side effects. So its important to check with your health care provider before making any additions to your pre-bedtime routine.
That said, here are 7 melatonin alternatives that some experts say may help you wind down at night so you fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer.
Make Sure Your Mattress Is Comfortable
The type of mattress that you use can impact the quality of your sleep. 16,17 If you shift positions often, wake up several times, and/or wake up with shoulder or back pain, your mattress may be to blame. If your mattress sagsmeaning that you can see a compression in some part of the mattress, it will almost always create sleep discomfort and can worsen back problems.
A mattress with ergonomic standards and the right level of firmness may help promote better sleep, typically by providing an even surface and reducing body aches and pains.16,17 A medium-firm mattress may provide adequate body support to enhance your sleep quality.17
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May Alleviate Migraine Attacks
A migraine attack is a recurring type of headache that causes severe, throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, often on the side of your head.
Several prescription drugs help treat migraine, but melatonin may also offer relief due to its ability to inhibit pain sensations .
In a review of 11 studies, taking melatonin significantly reduced migraine severity and frequency compared with a placebo in both children and adults, but with varying effectiveness .
A different review of 25 studies found similar results, suggesting that taking 3 mg of melatonin at bedtime reduced migraine frequency in adults .
Melatonin may support eye health, ease tinnitus symptoms, treat acid reflux and GERD, and alleviate migraine attacks, but stronger evidence is needed for these uses.
What Happens When You Take Melatonin Every Night
Experts typically recommend taking melatonin for short stretches when you’re having trouble sleeping. “It appears to be safe to take melatonin for four to eight weeks,” Dr. Kumar says. But long-term use hasn’t been well-studied, so it’s hard to say for sure what might happen if you take it for extended periods.
That said, here are some likely possibilities:
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Techniques For Relieving Insomnia Without Medication
Meds can be good for some things. And certainly some natural or herbal sleep products may help you get some rest. But prescription pills for sleeping arent always the best solution.
Unfortunately, some sleep medications can actually make the problem worse. Sleep aids frequently disrupt sleep cycles, causing less restorative sleep. Even if they help you sleep through the night, the sleep is not necessarily deep or restful. People can become dependent on these meds, requiring them to sleep, and many develop a tolerance to sleep meds over time, requiring more medication to get the same effect. These meds can also cause rebound insomnia, meaning it becomes even harder to fall asleep without the medication. So before you pop that pill for your sleep problems, try these methods instead:
1. Sleep Hygiene 2. Brief Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Intervention for Insomnia , which will be covered in part two of this series on insomnia.
Make Exercise A Priority For Better Sleep
If youve ever spent the day doing absolutely nothing in front of the TV, you know that by late afternoon, you usually end up feeling even more sluggish than you did when you first plopped down on the couch. And yet, its usually pretty difficult to fall asleep at night.
Experts have long known that active people tend to sleep better than their sedentary counterparts. In aMental Health and Physical Activity studyVerified SourceScienceDirectOne of the largest hubs for research studies and has published over 12 million different trusted resources.Mental Health and Physical Activity study” class=”src-popup-link”> View sourceof more than 2,600 men and women ages 18 to 85, getting 150 minutes of exercise per week meant feeling much less sleepy compared to those who worked out less or not at all.
Of course, theres an obvious reason for this: Moving around wears you out more than sitting still does. According to behavioral sleep medicine expert Dr. Jade Wu, Ph.D. of Duke University, being active during the day helps to build up homeostatic sleep drive, which is essential for getting good sleep at night.
The homeostatic sleep drive is like a balloonit starts out empty in the morning and builds throughout the day, Dr. Wu says. The bigger your balloon is at bedtime, the more likely you are to get solid, good quality sleep. Exercising helps to fill your balloonthe more, the better.
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Tolerance Dosage And Precautions
Melatonin is well tolerated in children. Although theres some concern that long-term use may delay puberty because a natural decline in evening melatonin levels is associated with the onset of puberty more studies are needed .
Melatonin supplements for children are often sold in the form of gummies.
Dosage varies by age, and more research is needed to determine the optimal dosage and effectiveness. Nonetheless, common recommendations are 1 mg for infants, 2.53 mg for older children, and 5 mg for young adults .
Additionally, because researchers dont yet understand the long-term effects of melatonin use in children, it may be best to help your kids implement good sleep practices if those are not already in place before you give them melatonin (
Older adults should be sure to talk with a pharmacist or doctor before taking melatonin.
Melatonin levels naturally decrease as you get older. Supplementing with low doses may help improve sleep quality in older adults.
May Support Eye Health
Healthy indole-derived melatonin levels may support eye health.
Thats because this hormone has powerful antioxidant effects that may lower your risk of eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration .
Indeed, a review concluded that melatonin supplements may reduce AMD by neutralizing free radicals and decreasing inflammation .
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Make A Game Plan Before Bed
Rather than waiting until bedtime to decide whether or not youll take the supplement, make a plan ahead of time. Otherwise, you may agonize over the decision, effectively winding yourself up when youre supposed to be relaxing, Dr. Gehrman said. There should be no guesswork involved, he added.
He suggested that people forgoing their nightly melatonin make a backup plan. You can tell yourself that if you still cant sleep by 11 p.m., for example, youll take it.
Sometimes even knowing that its there will help, said Dr. Margarita Rohr, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health.
Are Sleep Aids Safe During Pregnancy
Sleep can be difficult during pregnancy and expecting parents may be tempted to reach for natural remedies, like 5-HTP, or melatonin, that helped them sleep prior to becoming pregnant. However, theres not enough evidence to claim that natural sleep aids are safe during pregnancy, and some could even pose risks. Very few human trials regarding the safety of using sleep aids during pregnancy exist.
If you are pregnant and suffering from poor sleep, speak with your doctor to discuss options that may be available to help.
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Only Use Your Bed For Sleep
The National Sleep Foundation advises against watching TV, listening to music, or reading in bed. Sure, its comfortable, but you want to create a mind-body connection with your bed and sleepnot a Netflix marathon. Keep your extracurricular activities to other spaces in your home or apartment. The one exception? Sex.
Read The Labels On Your Meds
If youre all stuffed up, proceed with caution before popping a pill to ease the sniffles. Decongestants have a potent stimulating effect, so they should be avoided for up to 12 hours before bed, says Buchfuhrer.
Participants who drank four cups of coffee a day actually slept 26 minutes less than those who imbibed less often.
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Strategize Your Cat Naps
Sure, there are some major benefits to taking a 20-minute snooze mid-day, but napping isnt for everyone, according to the Mayo Clinic. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 10- to 30-minute naps for short-term alertness and improved performance any longer and you up your odds of experiencing sleep inertia, which is characterized by short-term grogginess and disorientation. Whats more, napping at the wrong time of day can affect your sleep quality, making it difficult to fall asleep or sleep soundly through the night. For example, if you take a nap late in the evening, it can throw off your natural sleep patterns. But a quick nap on your commute in to work in the morning, or a midday power nap in your office can be beneficial to restoring alertness.
How To Get Better Sleepwithout Taking Melatonin
While melatonin can feel like an easy bandaid, there are alternative, perhaps more sustainable ways to get a proper nights rest. The number one cause of behavioral sleep problems is stress and anxiety, Roban explains. To address those, she recommends trying to calm the body as well as the mind.
We all need tools for lower anxiety and I always say the tools I teach for sleep can also be used whenever you feel anxious, she says. Things like journaling and meditation are great ways to calm the mind before bed.
Just as important is what you dont do before trying to fall asleep. Watching an exciting or intense show, exercising, and staring at your phone or computer all make the list of what not to do before bed.
If, for some reason, you have to be on your phone or staring at a screen before bed, wearing blue light glasses may help offset some of the anti-melatonin stimulating effects of that light, Roban adds.
Zeitzer says some of the marketing around blue light glasses has overstated their capabilities: When youre binging a thriller on Nextflix, the blue light isnt the only thing keeping you up, its the whole stimulating scenario. But, he says, some blue light glasses do block that particular kind of light and putting them on can be a reminder to yourself that its close to bedtime and time to wind down.
Calming routines can also be a signal to your brain that its time to wind down and help relax your body.
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What Are The Potential Risks Or Complications Of Sleeping Pills
When you take sleeping medicines night after night, your body may start to depend on them. When you stop the medicine, your insomnia may come back worse than before. This effect is called rebound insomnia.
If youve used sleep aids for a long time, talk to your healthcare provider about how to stop safely. It may take months to stop taking the pills.
You also shouldnt mix sleep aids with other sedatives or alcohol. Theres a possibility of overdosing.
How To Sleep Better Without Taking Melatonin
Fact: Sleep matters way more than we may care to admit when it comes to our health. Anyone who has ever pulled an all-nighter knows that sleep deprivation can take a toll on your emotions, your motivation, your concentration, your hunger cues… the list goes on.
But you may not realize how much recovery your brain and body are doing during those eight hours you’re asleep. Your muscles repair and grow stronger your mind processes your emotions, cataloging them into memories. In fact, thats one of sleeps most profound powers it has a tremendous impact on cognition and mood, says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., a Charlottesville, VA-based sleep doctor and author of The Sleep Solution.
Translation: It’s nearly impossible to tackle any other goal you may have without first getting your sleep in check.
Here, experts share how to sleep better at night naturally, so you can better navigate everything the next day throws at you.
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Are Natural Sleep Aids And Remedies Safe
Like all drugs, natural sleep remedies can have side effects and risks. Pre-market evaluation and approval by the FDA are not required for OTC aids, dietary supplements, or herbal products. The particular brand you buy may have inappropriate dosing. You may get less or more of the herb than intended, which could make it dangerous to use in treatments, especially for children or the elderly,
It’s important that you understand all about the natural sleep remedies you take. Know what you’re putting into your body and how to discern which natural remedies will enhance your health and which ones might increase your chance of illness. In addition, talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of natural sleep remedies.
What Is A Natural Sleep Aid
Natural sleep aids are products that can potentially address mild to moderate insomnia and sleep issues, according to Biomolecules and Therapeutics. These products include over-the-counter plant, vitamin or mineral supplements, as well as substances already found within the body with potential sleep-promoting benefits, such as melatonin.
Unlike pharmaceutical drugs typically prescribed for insomnia, such as barbiturates which can cause habitual use or addiction, natural sleep aids have minimal unwanted side effects. People who suffer from chronic sleep issues or mild insomnia may gravitate toward natural sleep aids due to their lack of side effects and risks. However, ongoing research into the mechanism of various natural sleep aids, their efficacy and side effects is essential.
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Who Can And Cannot Take Melatonin
Melatonin is mainly prescribed for adults aged 55 or over, to help for short-term sleep problems.
It can sometimes be used by adults under the age of 55 and by children, if a doctor recommends it.
It’s not suitable for some people. To make sure melatonin is safe for you, tell your doctor if you:
- have had an allergic reaction to melatonin or any other medicines in the past
- have liver or kidney problems
- have rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or lupus, or any other autoimmune condition
Light Therapy For Insomnia
Melatonin regulates our circadian rhythms, which in turn affect our sleep cycles. Insomnia often occurs when our circadian rhythms dont align with our environment. Carefully manipulating melatonin levels during certain times of the day can rebalance those circadian rhythms so that we fall into a normal sleeping pattern.
Melatonin supplementation isnt the ideal option, but light therapy is the safer and more effective way to manipulate melatonin levels.
How does light affect melatonin production? The pineal gland produces and secretes melatonin, according to a rhythm determined by the circadian clockportion of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei. The suprachiasmatic nuclei is controlled by light input from the eyes. Light tells the nuclei to inhibit melatonin production .
The most convenient and effective form of light therapy that Ive found is Re-Timer, which are glasses that have a melatonin-suppressing green-blue light. Interestingly, green-blue light has been shown to have the most melatonin-suppressing effects .
Not only does Re-Timer holistically address insomnia, it is quite the fashion statement
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Swap The Supplement For A Different Ritual
People might find melatonin effective because taking it provides a routine, signaling to your brain that youre ready to sleep and functioning as a comforting ritual, Dr. Rohr said.
You can swap melatonin for something else a nightly cup of chamomile tea, for instance, or a warm bath before bed. Try something you can repeat night after night, making it part of your sleep hygiene practice.