Sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle.
It plays a big role in our mental and physical health. Without good sleep, we cannot work productively and do daily activities well.
Lack of sleep and sleep disorders are risk factors for many chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and more.
To improve sleep at night, many people take melatonin supplements. They believe the supplements can improve sleep quality or duration.
Melatonin is a hormone made by the body to help regulate our sleep-wake cycles.
As it gets darker at night, the brain’s pineal gland gradually releases melatonin. That’s why we will feel sleepy as bedtime approaches.
As the sun rises in the morning, the melatonin levels gradually decrease and we wake up.
One problem is that our brains can only make melatonin in dim light. Because many people use bright light at night, their body produces less melatonin. A melatonin supplement may be helpful.
Leslie Swanson, Ph.D., A Michigan Medicine sleep expert, explains what scientists know and don’t know about the hormone supplement.
She suggests that while these supplements are generally safe and could be helpful, they aren’t magical.
When taking melatonin supplements, the most important thing is using the correct dose in the appropriate time.
If used correctly, melatonin supplements are great for jet lag and helping people sleep early.
But when a small dose doesn’t work well, people tend to increase the dose.
For example, when people take a larger dose of 3 milligrams, their melatonin levels may rise to be 10 times higher than normal.
Scientists don’t know how much melatonin is too much.
Another issue is that supplements may not work well for people with sleep disorders.
For instance, studies have found minimal improvement in sleep for people with insomnia when they took melatonin supplements.
The researcher also suggests that the long-term safety of melatonin supplements is unknown.
Research shows that melatonin supplements are safe for adults to use in the short term, but so far there is no study examining the long-term effects of the supplements.
Even used for a short time, melatonin supplements can bring some side effects, including extreme drowsiness, dizziness, headache, and nausea.
The researcher suggests that for people older than 55, 0.5 to 2 milligrams melatonin supplement is enough. People should take it about an hour before bed.
For night owls or those traveling across time zones, it is good to take a small dose of 0.5 milligrams of melatonin about five hours before bedtime.
The supplements aren’t recommended for children and pregnant or breastfeeding women if other options can be tried.
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