Nothing can make you feel quite as sluggish, irritable, or moody as a lack of sleep. How much of it you get is directly related to how productive, cheerful, and pleasant your day is going to be.
And while one night of poor sleep is often manageable, several of them in a row won’t be fun at all. The less you sleep, the more challenging it might be to relax in the evening too, and this unpleasant circle might appear to be never ending.
If you are looking for a sleep remedy that can help you drift off faster, have you considered melatonin? It’s a popular and widely-used solution that may be able to help.
But before you decide to take melatonin, here are five key things you need to know.
1. Melatonin is a natural hormone
Your body is already producing melatonin. The pineal gland, nestled next to your brain, is in charge of this important process.
The gland is inactive during the day, which is why you tend to feel more awake while the sun is up. But as darkness falls, it springs into action, and you slowly start to feel sleepier. Or at least that’s what should be happening.
Melatonin levels in your blood stay elevated as you sleep, and then they drop again when it’s time to get up.
For one reason or another, you may be producing insufficient or excessive amounts of the hormone, which can be the cause of your poor sleep.
2. It won’t keep you asleep
A melatonin supplement can help you fall asleep, but it won’t help you stay asleep, which means it’s not a cure for insomnia. It can help you with jet lag or if you work night shifts, and it can help with other mild sleep disorders as well.
However, if your brain decides to wake you up in the middle of the night, melatonin won’t be able to prevent it.
3. It can mess with your sleep
If you respond well to your melatonin supplement and suffer no side effects, you should be able to keep taking it for prolonged periods of time.
Unfortunately, this might have a negative side effect of its own, as you may start to rely on it too heavily. Your melatonin receptors may get used to these higher levels of the hormone. As a result, they won’t be able to respond as well to the lower doses your body produces on its own. This will prompt you to keep taking it, and you may need to increase your dosage over time too.
Your best option might be to take melatonin only occasionally and to focus on improving your sleep hygiene. Choose a mattress that will help you sleep better, reduce your screen time prior to bed, and only reach for the melatonin when you need that extra help to fall asleep.
4. There is no right dose
Since melatonin is an over-the-counter drug, there is no prescribed dose you should be taking, and even your physician might have a bit of an issue with getting the dosage right.
This might mean you end up experimenting a bit, which can further mess with your sleep because you may inadvertently be taking too much or too little.
However, you are not likely to overdose either, so if you do decide to take a melatonin supplement, make sure it’s from a reputable brand, and ask your pharmacist and GP for the recommended dose.
Start with a low one and see how you feel, and increase it only if you find you are not getting the desired effect, preferably still in consultation with your GP.
5. There are some side effects
The short-term side effects of taking melatonin are usually mild or even completely non-existent. They include drowsiness, headaches, or dizziness, but they usually affect only a small percentage of those taking melatonin.
As for the long-term side effects of melatonin, the jury is still out – the subject has not yet been studied enough.
There’s also the chance that your melatonin supplement might cause an allergic reaction, interact with some of the other medications you are taking, or worsen a condition you already have.
To stay on the safe side, consult your doctor before deciding to take a supplement, even if it’s something as apparently mild as melatonin.
Melatonin is your body’s natural way of putting itself to sleep, and adding some to your day can help you have a more peaceful night.
Be mindful that you don’t use too much of it, though, and that you get your dosage right. Start with a mild one and increase if necessary. Most importantly, make sure to consult your GP before supplementing your sleep with melatonin.