After a doggy-dog day at work, we just want to lay our heads on our fluffy pillows tuck in under the covers and catch some Zs. However, there are those of us who have difficulty sleeping that not even counting sheep can help. Hence the discovery of drugs and medications that can help us get that much-needed rest at a time when we actually need to especially now that we live in a very fast-paced caffeine driven generation. Our gadgets, partying, overtime at work, night shifts, insomnia, and other stressors keep us awake but nothing seems to make us fall, fall asleep that is on our own. Now we need to go and seek help from sleeping aids such as melatonin supplements. But what is melatonin and what are melatonin supplements exactly? And are there side effects of melatonin?
Melatonin, as it turns out, is a hormone produced by our body, particularly by the pineal gland found in the brain. It is secreted by the pineal gland to help control what experts call our daily sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin also has a specific role in regulating your blood pressure, cortisol levels and body temperature and helps the body as part of your antioxidant defense.
Your circadian rhythm or your internal body clock, as well as your exposure to natural light, somehow affects the amount of melatonin your body secretes. For example, during regular seasons the pineal gland secretes more melatonin during mid to late nights or when the sun has already set. They stay elevated the entire night but then gradually go down when the sun starts to rise again which then eventually leads to you waking up. It sounds quite cool, a hormone that is responsible for making us fall asleep and waking us up. But due to the fact that melatonin is affected by natural light, we may experience trouble when periods of shorter days and longer nights come as it may trigger the pineal gland to produce more melatonin since there are longer nights. As an equal consequent too is if there are longer days than nights because the opposite could be said, that less melatonin is produced since there is more sunlight present than usual. This is of course following the principle of the pineal gland being affected by the amount of natural light present.
Another trouble may present itself for those individuals who have to work until late at night or those who have the night shift since the pineal gland is affected by two factors; exposure to natural light and a person’s sleep cycle their melatonin production may also be greatly affected. Why? Simply because they are awake when they are supposed to be asleep so their sleep cycle is pretty much messed up. But the good news is there is available help because apart from the pineal gland, there are external sources of melatonin that can help those who have difficulty in sleeping.
External Sources of Melatonin
It’s true that melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain but there are also external sources of melatonin that you can use especially if you have difficulty sleeping. There are two external sources out there, one would be the natural sources and the other would be supplements pharmaceutically manufactured.
On the part of natural sources, you need not go far. Because melatonin can also be found in, cherries, strawberries, walnuts, rice, olives, tomatoes, barley, and good old fresh cow’s milk. No wonder our mothers before would make a nice cup of warm milk before bedtime as it turns out there is truth to this old wives tale that milk can put you to sleep at night. Well in some cases I guess, we can’t speak for everyone but at least for some.
Towards the other end of the table, we have the pharmaceutically manufactured melatonin supplements that are readily available in drugstores. They are often referred to as “sleeping aids”. They come with a promise of helping you sleep better, prolong the duration of your sleep and give you good quality of slumber. However, unlike melatonin that comes from natural sources, these melatonin supplements may have some side effects that you might want to consider before taking them.
Possible Side Effects of Melatonin Supplements
The goal is to get a good quality of sleep and for many, they turn to these melatonin supplements that seem to be the answer to their plights but some medical practitioners have concerns regarding the use of these supplements.
Though the very little study has been done about melatonin supplements there are still concerns about the prolonged use of these supplements both on children and adults as they may have side effects.
Effects on children
In some European countries, melatonin supplements are prescription medicines meaning no one can just buy them easily unlike in the US. But for both countries, they are still wary as to giving children these sleeping aids since there is still a little known effect on children. And that it might disturb other hormones in their bodies since they are still considered to be developing.
Effects on adults
The desired effect of melatonin supplements would be sleeping, however, there are some side effects when taken as an oral supplement such as:
Some more adverse effects would be bleeding disorders since melatonin might aggravate bleeding disorders already present in some individuals. Melatonin supplements can also increase blood pressure and blood sugar provided that these individuals already have signs and symptoms of elevated blood pressures and blood sugars. Using these sleep aids may not be advisable for those who have seizures. It may also not be so wise to use melatonin for patients who have just undergone transplants since melatonin might increase the function of the immune system. This can affect the immunosuppressants being taken by transplant patients so as for their bodies to not reject their newly transplanted organs.
There is definitely a cause for alarm when it comes to using sleeping aids such as these melatonin supplements since there is a very little conclusive study out there to prove its effectivity and disprove its adverse effects on patients. Again as we say always consult the experts on matters like these before jumping on the bandwagon and trying things for yourself or you could try and go natural instead. Eat healthily, do a lot of exercises, stay away from stressors and you just might catch those precious Z’s.