Melatonin induces sleep and shortens the time to fall asleep. Melatonin induces a relaxing effect on muscles and nerves which in turn makes the sleep better. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, it has many functions. It affects the release of sex hormones, aids the immune system, is an anti-oxidant, blocks ostrogen from binding to receptor sites so that it why it is used in breast cancer. During times of stress, it helps balance the stress response by decreasing cortisol (the stress hormone), improving the sleep quality and mood.
When the sun does down, the brain’s pineal gland is stimulated to produce melatonin and then release it into the bloodstream , which causes you to feel drowsy. Patients with coronary artery disease often have low night-time melatonin and would benefit from its effects as it prevents oxidation induced damage in patients with cardiac ischemia and stroke.
Causes of low melatonin levels can be due to excessive alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and numerous medications like certain blood pressure medicines, aspirin, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, steroids or tranquilisers. Other factors like exposure to electromagnetic fields ( computer, TV, ), excessive exposure to light or exercising less than three hours before bedtime. Melatonin deficiency is often noticed during a period of jet-lag or commonly in shirt workers who struggle to adjust to time zone changes. Melatonin is also used long term in children with ADHD or Autism.
Most signs of deficiency appear at night with sleep disturbances. The best measurement of melatonin is via saliva. Here at custom made medicine we have saliva tests available to detect the level of melatonin and cortisol ( the stress hormone ), however, the underlying cause of deficiency should be established before treatment is started.
You may like to increase your natural melatonin naturally by eating foods such as bananas, cherries, corn, oats, rice and onions. These foods contain a small amount of melatonin, as do foods rich in B vitamins like whole grains, legumes, leafy vegetables, and tryptophan ( chicken, beef, dairy products and nuts.
Melatonin is available in several dosage forms including sublingual drops, capsules, lozenges or slow release capsules. Your practitioner will select the most appropriate and dose form for you.
No dangerous side effects are known to be caused by melatonin, but excess melatonin may cause daytime sleepiness, fatigue, depression, headaches, intense nightmares and suppression of seratonin which causes carbohydrate cravings. Some natural foods which contain melatonin are bananas, barley, cherries, ginger, oats, rice, sweet corn, tomatoes and walnuts. Likewise, some medications can cause melatonin levels to escalate. Some people should not take melatonin, particularly those with auto-immune diseases, as it can stimulate the immune system, lymphoma or leukemia, pregnant or breastfeeding women, patients on steroids and those that are depressed.
Dosing in women is generally lighter, sometimes, a 1mg at night is all that is needed. In short term use in a female the dose is between 2-3mg to reset the body clock. In men it is usually between 3-6mg.
If taking melatonin does not help with sleep, here at custom made medicine we have other treatment options which may help the pathway to melatonin production. Supplements such as 5-hydroxy triptophan, 5- adenosyl methionine, dl-phenylalanine, phosphatidyl serine and activated vitamin B6.