Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the brain to regulate and induce sleep. It is produced in the pineal gland in the brain and also in the eye and gastro-intestinal tract from the amino acid tryptophan. Production and release of melatonin is stimulated by darkness. This is why people find it easier to doze off in darker surroundings than in bright ones.
This hormone has become widely available in the form of supplements that are used for a wide variety of sleeping difficulties due to jet lag, work shift, insomnia and delayed sleep phase syndrome, among many others. These supplements are available as over-the-counter drugs in the United States since 1994. You can even shop for it online. Instead of going to a drug store to buy your melatonin supplements, you can instead surf the Internet and buy from a reputable online supplements store. In other countries, this hormone supplement is illegal or requires a prescription.
Herbs and supplements do not undergo stringent regulation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration compared to other types of drugs. However, there is no guarantee on these supplements’ potency, purity or safety. Manufacturers and experts agree that melatonin is generally safe for short term use and in recommended doses of 5 milligrams per day for a maximum of two years. However, it is still important to consult your health care provider first before buying or taking in these supplements.
Warnings and Side Effects
One warning against melatonin is that it has an effect on immune function. It can affect people suffering from autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, lupus, type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. It can also worsen the condition of depression. People with liver disease should also stay away from these supplements.
When it comes to side effects, melatonin supplements can cause fatigue, headache, irritability, sleepiness, dizziness and mood swings. It has also been linked to other health problems like seizures, blood clots, low blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm and hyperglycemia.
Psychotic symptoms also became apparent in some people who had an overdose of these supplements. Hallucinations and paranoia are just two of the psychotic symptoms reported. As for allergies, there have been very few reports of allergic reactions after taking these supplements.
Melatonin is also prohibited in patients using warfarin and other blood-thinning medications. It may also interact with other drugs like:
- high blood pressure medication
- cyclosporine and other medications that suppress the immune system
- antidepressant medication
- anti-inflammatory medication like corticosteroids
- sedatives such as Valium
Melatonin supplements can help people with sleeping disorders. However, because of the side effects and warnings that come with these supplements, it is a must to consult your health care provider first before buying these. It is also a good idea to have your doctor closely monitor your health while you are taking in these supplements. Make sure that you take into account all the warnings and side effects mentioned before you consider taking melatonin.