In our high tech busy world, insomnia is a very common condition. It’s often induced by stress, bad eating habits, lack of exercise, and caffeinated drinks. Melatonin is often used as a supplement to fight insomnia and avoid taking prescription drugs with their harming side effects. But does it work and is it safe?
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone released by our brain to induce sleep. It regulates our sleep patterns and generally, our melatonin level rises when night falls. Light affects how much melatonin your body produces. That’s why, for a better sleep, your bedroom should be as dark as possible during the night.
Is Melatonin Safe?
Melatonin is sold over-the-counter and is not regulated by the FDA. So, some melatonin products may contain unsafe high doses or unwanted additives. Read the label carefully when you choose your dietary supplements. In Europe, melatonin is regulated and can only be prescribed by a doctor.
The right dose of melatonin should mimic our physiological levels, 0.1 to 0.5 mg one hour before bedtime. Very often, over-the-counter melatonin supplements contain up to 10 mg.
According to a study from MIT, high doses of melatonin become ineffective after a few days. When the brain’s melatonin receptors are exposed to too much of the hormone, they become unresponsive. So, taking too much melatonin is not helpful in the long run.
Too large doses of melatonin can also cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, mood swings, daytime sleepiness, and increased blood sugar.
Melatonin has been shown to work the best for people suffering from jet lag or for shift workers.
So, melatonin is not a harmless supplement and should be used with caution. Using it for a limited time or occasionally is fine. But for persistent insomnia, more natural methods should be preferred.
Alternative Solutions To Sleep better
Adopt a routine schedule
Try to maintain a regular sleeping schedule. Going to sleep and waking up every day at the same time will help your body regulate its internal clock and the release of melatonin.
Let your body get tired during the day to facilitate sleep onset.
Avoid caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine is a brain stimulant that interferes with sleep. Stop drinking coffee or tea past noon. Alcohol induces bad quality sleep and causes nighttime or early morning awakenings.
Avoid High Carb Snack at Night
Sugar or carbohydrates before bedtime may cause heartburns which could keep you awake.
Include physical activity in your daily routine
It will boost your heart rate and blood flow and physically tires your body instead of your brain.
It acts also as a powerful stress release. BUT avoid exercising within 2 hours before bed.
Use Your Bedroom As A Sleep Sanctuary
Avoid eating, watching TV, working or surfing the internet in your bedroom. Your brain needs to associate your bed with sleep and intimacy.
Try some natural sleep remedies
A cup of hops with valerian, Chamomille tea or a glass of cherry juice have been proven to aid sleep. Valerian Root is a natural sedative and chamomile is a muscle and nerves relaxant. Cherry juice contains tryptophan, a sleep-enhancing amino acid. You can also try a cup of milk with raw honey. Milk contains calcium which helps to trigger melatonin and honey helps raise insulin levels to allow tryptophan to enter the brain.