Just about every person I know is having some sort of sleeping problem or another. That would include me. Now, there are a lot of melatonin sleeping aids out there claiming to be an effective sleep inducer without the side effects that regular sleeping tablets have. Is this true? I mean, I cannot just plunge myself into something without trying to know first what I’m getting into.
Melatonin is known for being an immune booster, for its antioxidant effects that protects cells from damage, and as a sleep inducer. But despite all the advertisements promising no side effects and no risks of dependence, a lot of people are still skeptical about the effectiveness of melatonin sleep aids.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, a small endocrine gland located in the brain. One of melatonin’s key roles is the regulation of our body’s circadian rhythm, our sleep/wake cycles. Production of this hormone, also known as “the hormone of darkness”, is stimulated by darkness and inhibited by light. The increase in production of this hormone, which happens when the environment is dark, induces sleep and diminished motor activity, and allows our body to repair itself.
In our modern world where there is abundant artificial lighting, production of melatonin is diminished leading to inability to sleep. So, an idea was formulated. Why not make melatonin diet supplements and melatonin sleep aids out of synthetic melatonin that would function just the way a natural melatonin hormone would? That way, even when there is light, taking melatonin sleep aids would increase melatonin levels in the blood and bring about that ever elusive sleep. Pretty brilliant, huh?
But according to a study conducted at the Massachusetts’s Institute of Technology, melatonin sleep aids are really effective when taken in small doses: at approximately 0.3 milligrams. Commercially prepared melatonin sleep aid doses, unfortunately, have about 10 times the effective amount which could be considered an overdose of melatonin. Now, when there is too much melatonin in the brain, the body becomes immune to its effects and, after a few days of taking these high amounts of melatonin, these sleep aids eventually become ineffective. It just goes to show that no matter how effective a substance is, misuse makes it useless.