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Walking through the grocery store, you will surely pass the pharmaceutical section. Looking down the aisle, you will see a variety of pills with various names. Fellow shoppers are adding immunization pills, vitamin pills, B12 pills, etc to their carts. These over the counter – often ‘self-prescribed”– pills are bought in bulk by American shoppers. In today’s day and age, with all that is going around us, one’s health often takes a backseat. One of the first things to go is a good night’s sleep. Don’t worry, it seems like there is a solution to one’s restless nights: Melatonin pills.
From the years 2007 and 2012 the number of adults who use Melatonin has more than doubled and continues to increase each year. However, the use of this drug provokes the questions: What are the effects caused by the use of Melatonin pills? Do Melatonin pills create dependence? What led to the increasing use of Melatonin pills? How do Melatonin pills Work?
In order to understand Melatonin pills, one must first understand what Melatonin is. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland, located in the brain. The hormone Melatonin is known for regulating the body’s circadian rhythm- natural cycle. It also helps regulate sleep patterns. Melatonin production and release in the brain is dependent on two things: light exposure and time of the day. Natural Melatonin levels are highest during the night, and exposure to light suppresses its release and production.
Video Explaining Melatonin:
Brief explanation of how melatonin works, what it does in our bodies, studies on supplemental melatonin and why it works.
Melatonin pills act as supplements and increase Melatonin levels. However, Melatonin pills do not increase the production of natural Melatonin. In fact, the supplement pills are often synthetically created in a lab. These supplements solely raise the level of Melatonin in the blood. Unlike with other sleep medications, one is unlikely to become dependent on Melatonin, have a diminished response after repeated use or experience a hangover effect. This is one of the reasons Melatonin’s use has become popular. Many experiments have been done on Melatonin’s effects on an individual’s sleep cycles. Melatonin has been proven to help with conditions such as delayed sleep phase (a sleep disorder, in which one’s sleep cycle is set behind by two hours) by helping reduce the length of time needed to fall asleep. Melatonin also helps those with Insomnia by helping increase total sleep time, sleep quality, and decrease the time needed to fall asleep. Melatonin pills can also help improve jet lag symptoms such as, alertness if taken in advance to match the time zone in which one is landing. Because Melatonin production and release is inhibited by exposure to light, Melatonin pills are known to help those who work unconventional job hours fall asleep.
Severe side effects have not been attributed to Melatonin pills. Nonetheless, some general symptoms include dizziness, headache, nausea, agitation, or drowsiness. “Less common melatonin side effects might include short-lasting feelings of depression, mild tremor, mild anxiety, abdominal cramps, irritability, reduced alertness, confusion or disorientation and abnormally low blood pressure (hypotension)”. Melatonin pills are available over the counter in the United States, but in other European countries and Australia, Melatonin pills are only available by prescription. This is why it is highly recommended that you notify your health care provider if you begin taking Melatonin pills.
Melatonin pills are not the only way to counter difficulty falling asleep. It is highly suggested that one limits their exposure to blue and green light two hours prior to going to sleep by decreasing smartphone, tv, and computer usage. This can improve sleep quality and decrease restlessness. Exposing oneself to sunlight during the morning and afternoon can lead to increased natural Melatonin levels. Melatonin pills can help someone with occasional difficulty sleeping. It is highly advised that one reaches out to their physician if their difficulty falling asleep persists while using Melatonin pills. Melatonin pills have not been linked to damaging any internal organs or causing severe health issues, so it is perfectly safe to use Melatonin for short periods of time, although studies are still being conducted on the effects of long-term Melatonin pill usage. Don’t worry if you are a heavy supplement user! You can continue to use your Melatonin pills to help you fall asleep, but now you are more informed about how Melatonin pill’s affect your body.