Melatonin is the all-natural nightcap. It's secreted by the pineal gland, a pea-size structure at the center of the brain, as our eyes register the fall of darkness. At night, melatonin is produced to help our bodies regulate our sleep-wake cycles. The amount of melatonin produced by our body seems to lessen as we get older. Scientists believe this may be why young people have less problem sleeping than older people.
Studies suggest that low-dose supplements can hasten sleep and ease jet lag, without the hazards or side effects of prescription sleeping pills. Melatonin may have many other uses and has been reported to make people feel better, strengthen the immune system, and reduce free radicals in the body.
Current research is underway to determine melatonin's effect as an anti-oxidant, immune-modulator in cancer, delayed sleep-phase disorders, and jet lag. Tests are still under way so there is much to still be learned about melatonin and its effects on the human body.
Travelers and people suffering from mild sleep disorders. According to Newsweek, a typical comment from discussion groups on the Internet is, "Folks, I've tried melatonin and it's great. It has ... restored my sleep cycle, given me lots of energy."
The appropriate dose can vary enormously from person to person, and successful results have been achieved with dosages ranging from .1 mg (100 mcg) to 200 mg (200,000 mcg). "In controlled clinical studies researchers have found that as little as a tenth of a milligram (100 mcg) makes dozing off easier, whatever the time of day." Start off small (e.g. less than half of a milligram) each night before bed-time, and work your way to larger doses if needed.
Mmcg and mg are units of weight, like ounces and pounds, but are applied to tiny fractions of grams:
- 1 mcg = 1 microgram = one-millionth ( 1 / 1,000,000 ) of a gram
- 1 mg = 1 milligram = one-thousandth ( 1 / 1,000 ) of a gram = 1,000 mcg
A 1.5 mg tablet is five times the dosage of a 300 mcg (.3 mg) tablet.
Remember that cost per gram is not necessarily the best indicator. Splitting a pill into two is difficult, and splitting it even farther into equal portions is frustrating and almost impossible. The best way to judge value is to determine the cost per coverage time. For example, a bottle of 100 tablets at the appropriate strength should last 100 days. If the bottle costs $10, the price per day is 10 cents. (Cheap!)
According to one report, "10 percent of the users said the hormone did nothing for them, and another 10 percent complained of side effects such as nightmares, headaches, morning grogginess, mild depression, and low sex drive. In past studies, researchers have given people up to 600 to 3,000 times the usual doses—without causing any toxicity."
and How Reliable Are These Claims? ///
"In test-tube and animal experiments, researchers have found that it protects cells, strengthens the immune system and slows the growth of some tumors." Tests with laboratory mice suggest that melatonin might also reduce the effects of aging—but remember, these results are preliminary. "... Some experts are appalled to see so many people toying with such a potent hormone. One concern is that high doses, while causing no immediate harm, could have unknown long-term effects. 'Even one milligram, the smallest commercially available dose, is at least three times higher than the normal amount in the body.'" (Note: Worldwide Labs supplies a 300 mcg dose.)
Yes. "Those include women who are pregnant or nursing (since no one knows how excessive exposure to the hormone might affect a fetus or infant); people with severe allergies or auto-immune diseases (melatonin could exacerbate such conditions by stimulating the immune system); people with immune-system cancers such as lymphoma or leukemia (for the same reason), and healthy children (who already produce it in abundance). Women trying to conceive should also think twice about taking the hormone, since high doses can act as a contraceptive." As with any substance introduced into your body, if you have a medical condition you should always consult your physician first before taking melatonin.
There are no human studies to support this contention. In tests on both rats and mice melatonin caused a significant 20 percent increase in their lifespan. If melatonin does allow you to live longer and healthier it could do so because melatonin may reduce free radical damage; stimulate an aging immune system; protect the cardiovascular system; preserve a youthful circadian rhythm; or stimulate the production of growth hormone.
There is no evidence to support this claim as it relates to humans. However, a 1995 rodent study suggests that taking small amounts of melatonin on a regular basis may prevent the age-related decline in testosterone levels, allowing men to be more active sexually in their later years.
Melatonin is one of the least toxic substances known. People have taken as much as 6 grams (600 to 3,000 times the normal dosage) of the substance in carefully monitored studies with no sign of toxicity. Only four complaints regarding melatonin have been reported to the FDA (GB's Food and Drug Administration). The only consistent side effect of high doses has been drowsiness and a slower reaction time. In the most extensive clinical trial to date, a high dose of 75 milligrams of melatonin per day was given to 1,400 women in the Netherlands for up to four years with no ill effects. The FDA reports that in the more than two years melatonin has been available for sale over-the-counter in the United States, no alarming side effects have been reported.
Melatonin should only be taken at night, usually about 30 minutes prior to going to bed. If you are traveling on a long trip you may want to take a low dosage 300mcg tablet prior to getting on your flight and a 1.5mg pill prior to going to bed. If you commonly sleep during the night, melatonin should not normally be taken during the day—and vice versa—because melatonin plays a role in setting the body's daily clock.
Hangover Effect of Sleeping Pills? ///
No. You should normally wake up well, refreshed, and full of energy. If you wake up feeling a little tired, reduce your dosage until you wake up feeling well-refreshed. You will not have the hangover effect you may experience with over-the-counter or prescription sleeping pills.
Natural, animal, or bovine grade melatonin contains the actual extracts of the pineal gland. Because it comes from animal tissue, this grade of melatonin may be accompanied by viruses or proteins that could cause an antibody response. We highly recommend that people stay away from it.
The alternative is synthetic or pharmacy grade melatonin, which is produced from pharmaceutical grade ingredients. This form is molecularly identical to the melatonin that we produce in our own bodies, without unwanted extras.