Melatonin, sometimes called the sleep hormone, is a critical feature of the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Its production increases in the body with evening darkness which in turn promotes healthy sleep and regulation of our circadian rhythm.
Recent studies have found that melatonin is related to mental health such as anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, phobias and autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, melatonin is generally not used as a direct treatment for these psychiatric disorders but can help simply because it improves sleep in many people. The following are some of it applications and associations.
Melatonin and Insomnia
Even sound sleepers have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep once in a while. People often try melatonin for sleep after having difficulty with sleep for more than a night or two” Research shows it can help some people with insomnia fall asleep slightly faster and may have bigger benefits for those with delayed sleep phase syndrome—falling asleep very late and waking up late the next day.
People also take melatonin to ease jet lag by taking it two hours before the bedtime at their destination, starting a few days before their trip. You can also adjust your sleep-wake schedule to be in sync with your new time zone by staying awake after you reach your destination and delaying sleep until your usual bedtime in the new time zone. In addition, get outside for natural light exposure.
Melatonin and Anxiety
Melatonin can help people who have anxiety in that in can help them sleep better. According to a number of studies, higher doses of melatonin can actually increase anxiety although the effect of melatonin induces relaxation and maintains quiet wakefulness. Another study found that melatonin with can enhance the effect of some antianxiety drugs in the treatment of anxiety.
Melatonin and Depression
Researchers have found that depression is closely related to melatonin. Melatonin biosynthesis and secretion are mainly regulated by norepinephrine; the level of Melatonin reflects the norepinephrine activity in brain. Melatonin secretion is an index of norepinephrine activity in depressed patients.
Higher serum melatonin levels were found in patients suffering from major depressive disorder which decreased after pharmacological treatment. Other studies have noted that in both men and women who were diagnosed as having major depressive disorder, nocturnal melatonin secretion increased significantly above the average seen in normal subjects.
ADHD and Melatonin
The natural hormone melatonin might also help children with the disorder who take certain ADHD medications. Researchers say it improved sleep problems in these children. But melatonin doesn’t seem to improve ADHD symptoms. Natural supplements like GABA and inositol aren’t proven to help against symptoms either. Evidence suggested that the use of melatonin in people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and sleep onset insomnia, a delay in dim-light melatonin onset has been reported.
Dementia and Melatonin
Melatonin supplements are generally safe and are used to treat insomnia. They may modestly improve sleep, which could theoretically lead to long-term protection against Alzheimer’s. However, other insomnia treatments may be more effective and experts do not recommend melatonin for elderly people with dementia. In one study, scientists have found that melatonin directly inhibited memory formation at night.
Melatonin Side Effects
Taking melatonin could also lead to some uncomfortable symptoms. They’re usually mild, but you may experience:
- Sleepiness (when you should be alert)
For these reasons, it’s important to not drive or operate machinery for five hours after taking melatonin.
Melatonin could also interfere with other important medications, including blood thinners, diabetes drugs, immune system-suppressing drugs, anti-seizure drugs and some contraceptives. If you’re taking any type of medication, it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking melatonin or any other dietary supplements.
While studies have found that melatonin can improve sleep in certain cases, it isn’t for everyone. It is important to be aware of and carefully consider melatonin’s potential benefits and downsides. Also, people who use melatonin supplement should also be aware of issues related to dosage and the quality of supplements.
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