Is It Safe To Take Melatonin Pills To Help You Fall Asleep?
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There are few pleasures in life greater than a deep, restful sleep. Seriously, if we could go back in time and tell our 5-year-old selves not to complain about nap time, we would. But there are lots of things that can throw you off your nighttime game.
If you have regular trouble catching z’s, you’ve probably looked into taking melatonin supplements. After all, there are countless bottles stocking drugstore shelves. How much do you really know about them, though?
What Is Melatonin?
For starters, melatonin is a hormone released by the brain that helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm (aka your internal clock), explains David Lee, MD, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program. “It’s secreted by the pineal gland, which is at the base of the brain, and regulated by light,” he says. “It’s a natural hormone that makes us sleep, and the moment the light goes away, like in the evening, that’s when our peak melatonin [is produced].”
Are Melatonin Pills Really Safe?
Since they aren’t regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration, it might be hard to tell if there are preservatives and additives in the pills you’re taking, says Sanjeev Kothare, MD, a professor in the department of neurology and director of the pediatric sleep program at NYU Langone Medical Center.
WAIT…what?! It will be hard to tell if something is real or not? If something isn’t a preservative or additives since it’s not regulated by the FDA? So, I wouldn’t be able to do the one thing that will help me decipher between what’s good for my body and what’s not by RESEARCHING, and READING and THINKING about what I put in my body? Because “the FDA haven’t spanked my hand yet to say ‘no! Bad pill, bad plant…you be a good boy and wait for us to tell you what’s a preservative”?
But we’re not mad at you doc, you’re doing your job. Besides, word on the street is saying doctors don’t study or even learn about nutrition and plant chemistry at all—we dunno if that’s true or not so we’ll give you a pass.
And we’re still waiting for “class action lawsuits” and severe “adverse” side-affects from the use of melatonin supplements and pills—-we’ve been waiting for the past 20 years and got inpatient.
“Some [users] have experienced a little bit of allergic reactions, not from the melatonin, but from the preservatives or additives,” he says. (Lee emphasizes that it’s important to always buy the supplement from a reputable company, avoiding herbal remedy peddlers.)
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Oh! Well there you go! The side affects are allergic reactions. Whew thank goodness we got that EpiPen (yeah we know, pharma) ready to go! And he’s right, avoid “herbal remedy peddlers” that do use certain artificial ingredients in their products. It’s not like the pharmaceuticals do the same thing–don’t we wish those pesky “natural remedies” could be as ethical as those honest pharmas?
Kothare says animal studies have linked melatonin to depression, reproductive issues, and immunological problems. While these results haven’t been replicated in humans, there also haven’t been any good studies showing the long-term safety of melatonin pills, says Kothare.
Well, I’d have to ask the animals about that. I mean, we’re not thrilled to be compared to animals just to let them know…
Still, Lee adds that no serious side effects have been reported. Though he does note that if you take too much of the supplement, you may feel drowsy, get a headache, or experience some short-term memory loss. “Those are the common but pretty mild side effects,” he says. The important thing, Lee points out, is to take the correct amount.
“The biggest myth out there, especially for insomnia, is that more is better,” says Lee. In fact, when it comes to melatonin, less is actually more because your body already makes it. He suggests taking 0.5 milligrams if you do decide to try it. If that dosage amount is difficult to track down, buy 1 milligram pills and cut them in half.
The bottom line: Unfortunately, there’s not enough solid research out there on whether melatonin supplements are truly an effective and safe way to get to sleep. If you’re still struggling to reach dreamland, Kothare has several other suggestions: Try to maintain a similar sleep schedule during the week and on weekends, limit the use of electronics that emit blue light for 1 to 2 hours before bedtime, and purchase a bright light source for use in the mornings to help regulate your body’s internal clock. Your dream journal will be filled in no time.
Source: Prevention & Women’s Health Magazine
Toxic Hungr’s Take:
…or here’s more suggestions: workout. And if you live in the country, boonies, backwoods, or “rural areas” however you wanna call it, I doubt you’re having trouble falling asleep. From our personal research, working out (rather by choice or survival) has eliminated any distractions relating to stress which is usually the culprit of not getting enough sleep. We’re not sure how many Americans started to adapt heavy technology in their daily physical activities in the past fifty years, however we’ve noticed that the less physical activities and the least pleasurable the person found the activity the higher the stress which means less sleep.
Another suggestion is RESEARCH…RESEARCH…RESEARCH! Here’s a quick cheat sheet to give you a little head start in order to see what type of melatonin options are right for you.
Melatonin or not, something about some good old-fashioned hard work (or workout) that make even the strongest of the bunch catch plenty of Z’s and sleep like a baby.
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