Your body has a built-in time keeping system known as the circadian rhythm. Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone secreted by your pineal gland, regulates your bodies circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm plays an important part in regulating your sleep/wake cycles.
The release of melatonin is stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light. While your pineal gland produces melatonin your entire life, evidence suggests the production of melatonin slows as you age. Scientists believe this is the reason sleeping problems often increase with age.
Melatonin for Sleep
Synthetic melatonin is available as a dietary supplement. You should be aware that melatonin is a naturally occurring substance and does not need FDA approval to be produced. Because of this, no guarantees on effectiveness exist. Melatonin has been used successfully to help sleeping problems particularly sleep phase problems. It has also been useful in treating insomnia caused by jet lag.
Melatonin pills are commonly available in dosages from 1-3mg. It is recommended to begin with a small dose and increase the dosage if necessary. Since melatonin is most effective when taken within 30 minutes of going to sleep, it should only be taken at night.
Research shows long term use of Melatonin has many positive effects on the body and no negative side effects have been found. Melatonin helps to synchronize your bodies circadian rhythms and is also a powerful antioxidant. It also plays a role in the production of testosterone and estrogen.
Melatonin should only be used by adults. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should not take melatonin. You should consult a physician before taking melatonin if you have an auto-immune disease, a depressive disorder, diabetes, leukemia, epilepsy or a lymphoproliferative disorder, or are taking an MAO inhibitor.