Melatonin: The All-Natural Nightcap.

What is Melatonin and does it have any adverse side effects like regular sleeping pills? Find out more about this little known, naturally occurring, supplement and how it can help you.

When I began taking weight training seriously, there were days when I felt that I needed an extra boost of energy for my workouts. As the saying goes, "What goes up must come down", and it was melatonin that helped me relax and enjoy a great night's sleep.

According to Newsweek® magazine Nov, 6th. 1995,

    "Melatonin is the all-natural nightcap. It's secreted by the pineal gland, a pea-size structure at the center of the brain, as our eyes register the fall of darkness."

    "At night melatonin is produced to help our bodies regulate our sleep-wake cycles. The amount of it produced by our body seems to lessen as we get older. Scientists believe this may be why young people have less problem sleeping than older people."

    "Studies suggest that... supplements can hasten sleep and ease jet lag, without the hazards or side effects of prescription sleeping pills."

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Melatonin has many other uses such as:

  • Making people feel better.
  • Strengthening the immune system.
  • Reducing free radicals in the body.
  • Acting as an anti-oxidant.
  • Immno-modulator in cancer.
  • Delaying sleep-phase disorders.
  • Combating jet lag.

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Tests are still under way so there is still much to be learned about it and its effects on the human body.

According to the article, a typical comment from discussion groups on the Internet is,

"Folks, I've tried it and it's great.
It has ...restored my sleep cycle, [and] given me lots of energy."


Why Melatonin?

What would lead someone to need melatonin in the first place? In my case, the energy supplements that I take when I am preparing for shows may often leave me with the feeling that I am not able to sleep. For other individuals the situation may be for an entirely different reason.

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Many drugs have been implicated as causing insomnia. At times, it is difficult to know whether insomnia is due to a medication prescribed for an illness or to the underlying illness itself.

Drugs That May Cause Insomnia.
Alcohol
Antihypertensives
Antineoplastics
Beta Blockers
Caffeine
Corticosteroids
Levodopa
Nicotine
Oral Contraceptives
Phenytoin (Dilantin)
Protriptyline (Vivactil)
Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Stimulants
Theophylline
Thyroid Hormone

The hormone melatonin is known as the all-natural nightcap, and is one of dozens sleep aids. As our eyes register the fall of darkness, N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine (or melatonin), is created naturally by the body within the pineal gland of the brain. At night melatonin is produced to help our bodies regulate our sleep-wake cycles.

At dawn, the production of melatonin stops. It is heavily regulated by both day-night cycles and seasonal changes. The amount of melatonin produced by our body seems to decrease as we get older. Scientists believe this may be why young people have less problem sleeping than those that are older.


Recommended Dosage

The appropriate dose can vary enormously from person to person. There are 1.5 mg and 3.0 mg tablets available. You will want to start off with a 1.5 mg tablet each night about 30 minutes before bed-time, and work your way to larger doses if needed.

Personally I have found that 3.0 mg works fine for me but there are nights when I know that I have to be up in six hours and will take 1/2 of a 3.0 mg tablet.

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There is nothing worse the getting breakfast ready feeling like lethargic zombie when you know you slept solidly the night before. With melatonin you should normally wake up well refreshed and full of energy. If you wake up feeling a little tired you should reduce your dosage until you wake up feeling well refreshed.

You will not have the hangover effect you may experience with over the counter or prescription sleeping pills.


Possible Side Effects

According to one report featured in Newsweek® magazine,

    "10 percent of the users said the hormone did nothing for them, and another 10 percent complained of side effects such as nightmares, headaches, morning grogginess, mild depression, and low sex drive.

    In past studies, researchers have given people up to 600 to 3,000 times the usual doses - without causing any toxicity."

As an occasional user of melatonin over the past 8 years, I must say that it's the intense dreams that you want to be aware of. I know that not every ones dreams are affected but if you want my take, melatonin can enhance your dreams to where you would never know you are dreaming. This can be very frightening.

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Who Should Avoid It?

So, who shouldn't take melatonin?
  • women who are pregnant or nursing (since no one knows how excessive exposure to the hormone might affect a fetus or infant)

  • people with severe allergies or autoimmune diseases (melatonin could exacerbate such conditions by stimulating the immune system)

  • people with immune-system cancers such as lymphoma or leukemia (for the same reason)

  • healthy children (who already produce it in abundance)

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Women trying to conceive should also think twice about taking melatonin, since high doses can act as a contraceptive. As with any substance introduced into your body, if you have a medical condition you should always consult your physician first before taking melatonin.


Melatonin:
Your Sex Life & Lifespan.

There is no evidence to support melatonin will improve your sex life. However, a 1995 rodent study suggests that taking small amounts of melatonin on a regular basis may prevent the age-related decline in testosterone levels, allowing men to be more active sexually in their later years.

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As for your lifespan, in tests on both rats and mice melatonin caused a significant 20% increase in their lifespan. If melatonin does allow you to live longer and healthier it could do so because melatonin may:

  • reduce free radical damage
  • stimulate an aging immune system
  • protect the cardiovascular system
  • preserve a youthful circadian rhythm
  • stimulate the production of growth hormone


Melatonin & Bodybuilders

Bodybuilders and fitness enthusiast may find themselves in a state of being over-trained. The common side affect of over training is the inability to sleep well at night.

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Bodybuilders use melatonin to help them get their full eight hours sleep. Their precious sleep time is when they are recovering from their workouts and growing.

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Personally...

I can count the number of times on my fingers, that I have tried a few different types of sleeping pills; Melatonin is one that I feel safe in taking. Waking up feeling well-rested is never an issue, granted that I take only what I need.

In the Go-Go society that we live in, we may overlook what we are doing to our mind and body.


Click To Enlarge.
We May Overlook What We Are Doing
To Our Minds And Bodies.

Having to ingest a sleep aid each and every night for weeks on end is something you will want to make sure you actually need. Be aware of your lifestyle. What is causing you to not sleep at night?

If the answer is not clear, and you feel that you need help, contact a doctor or naturopath.