While an occasional sleepless night can strike us all at any point in time, consistent lack of sleep can be deadly. It’s linked to obesity, heart disease and some types of cancer. It can also make us drowsy during the day, which isn’t a good idea if you need to drive or operate machinery.
Insomnia, the inability to get adequate sleep, happens, something needs to be done about it, but what should you try? Most people don’t really want a sleeping pill. They can be too strong, making too much sleep a probability.
One of the alternative remedies frequently mentioned is a hormone called melatonin. The body produces this as part of the circadian rhythm, or natural twenty-four hour clock. As darkness falls, more is produced so that sleep can occur.
There are many things that can disrupt the natural cycle and reduce the amount of the hormone secreted. Age is on factor; children have the most and people over sixty-five tend to have much less. Shift workers and people with jet lag are also likely to have a disruption and less melatonin produced naturally.
What about taking the supplements? In some people, it could be a very good thing. Studies indicate it could be very helpful in getting over jet lag, especially if you’ve gone through five or more time zones. They also suggest that those over fifty-five with insomnia may have the most benefit.
Those trying to come off of medications such as valium and xanax may benefit from the hormone. While more studies are needed, those who have stopped the addicting medications report better sleep quality when the time released version is taken.
There could also be a big benefit for those dealing with breast cancer. It may slow cancer growth and increase the benefits of some chemotherapy drugs. One such drug, tamoxifen, showed tumors shrinking by twenty-eight percent.
Melatonin has it’s down side, too. Like many supplements that affect sleeping, it can cause drowsiness the next day. While it isn’t a common problem, it could happen, especially if it’s mixed with other supplements or medications that cause drowsiness.
Some of the side effects include stomach cramps, dizziness, headache, irritability, decreased libido and sperm count as well as the possibility of male breast enlargement. People with depression may find that illness is made worse by the supplement.
There are also some drug interactions with it. Antidepressants, anti-psychotic medications, some blood pressure medications (calcium channel blockers), blood thinners and medications that affect the immune system can have negative interactions. Beta blockers, tamoxifen and interleukin-2 may have positive interactions.
It is very important that you speak with your doctor and pharmacist before taking melatonin or any other supplement. They know your medical history and the medications that you take and can help prevent negative interactions and dangerous side effects.
Mary Bodel has been a master herbalist since 2004 although my training began long before I reached that level. I believe that health encompasses more than taking care of our bodies. It involves everything from what we eat to what we read. It involves our spirit as well as our body