Wonder drug or not?
The fact is melatonin is produced in our body and in most situations works perfectly fine at getting you to sleep. The problem is that your sleep habits are out of whack and unlike good sleepers that get enough sleep at night and wake refreshed, your lifestyle, habits and sleep rhythm might need some adjustment.
WHERE DOES MELATONIN COME FROM?
Melatonin is produced in the Pineal Gland in the brain and is secreted in the evening when the sun sets and light becomes dimmer, which makes melatonin production light sensitive. Bright light won’t halt melatonin secretion but it will slow it down and mean you are more awake than you should be which can delay you falling asleep.
It is tuned into our 24 hour body clock and gradually rises, peaks at midnight and declines to minimal amounts as the sun rises and daylight ensues.
For some people in particular those with autism/ADHD melatonin production can be a problem.
Is all Melatonin the same?
No is the definitive answer. Depending on where you live ie; In the USA, melatonin is classified as a nutritional supplement and can be bought from pharmacies and supermarkets. Also purchases over the internet require vigilance to make sure you are getting what you pay for. Even homeopathic sources can be imprecise and ineffective.
Alternatively other countries require a prescription where the compound is made up according to the script from a pharmacy and guarantees you get the right dose in each pill.
Short acting vs long acting – Which is better?
Adults, particularly older people, may be prescribed Melatonin in the form of long acting, slow release, continued release form, developed to help those with sleep maintenance insomnia (difficulty staying asleep). This type of pill has a coating that slows absorption, ie Circadin. Slow release means that when your body should be reducing melatonin naturally, the long acting pill keeps on giving which can lead to daytime drowsiness, or lethargy and then delayed sleep onset.
When we look at how Melatonin works naturally, it peaks in the early evening with production halted by around midnight. Taking synthetic forms of the long acting types causes Melatonin release to fall around 6-7 am meaning in the morning, your body is still under the influence of sleep hormones when in fact it should be wide awake.
If you have purchased long acting pills a simple and effective method of making long term Melatonin short acting is to crush the tablet and thus breaking the tough outer coating that prevents fast absorption.
What is known clinically is that more benefits occur across a wider age group and for more sleep disorders when short acting forms of Melatonin are taken.
When should I take Melatonin?
This depends on what sleep condition you have and it should never be assumed that you always take it according to the instructions on the bottle. Your sleep practitioner can effectively diagnose your sleep problem and if Melatonin is suggested in conjunction with cognitive behavioural therapy the timing of Melatonin could be in the early morning, varied in the evening or taken 30 minutes before bedtime.
Melatonin has other benefits too!
Your doctor or specialist might suggest Melatonin for other conditions like Tinnitus, certain cancers and chemotherapy, skin ageing, gut disorders, neonatal sepsis to name a few.
Melatonin can help with some sleep disorders and works best when used as part of a sleep therapy plan delivered by a sleep specialist. When other therapies are used along with Melatonin, longer-lasting results occur, meaning new sleep behaviours are sustainable and can replace the need for pills.
If your sleep problems persist you would benefit from sleep professional intervention. Our therapies can turn your sleep around in under 7 days because what we teach you is based on solid clinical evidence using the latest and newest sleep techniques. Not sure if you have insomnia? We can diagnose your sleep problem to ensure you get the right treatment and the best result.
From Deb Herdman