Millions of people around the world struggle with insomnia. If you find yourself tossing and turning each night, watching the clock to count how many hours you can still get if you fall asleep right now, you're probably one of them.
Insomnia is frustrating, but it doesn't have to control you. There are natural supplements out there which can help put you to sleep, gently and easily, so you can wake up feeling refreshed and alert the next day.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body that is associated with sleep. Melatonin works by letting your body know that it is night time, so it can do the rest of the work to prepare your body for sleep. This makes it especially useful for situations such as jet lag, where your body's natural circadian rhythm has been upset, and your body may not actually know it is night time.
Melatonin supplements are naturally produced by your pineal gland, which is located in the brain. Supplements are either derived from animal or synthetic sources.
Melatonin and Sleep
The effectiveness of melatonin supplements for sleep have been well documented. On average, people who take melatonin fall asleep 7 minutes faster than without it, and report a more restful night's sleep. Melatonin should be taken two hours before the time you would like to go to bed, so that there is time for your body to begin preparing for sleep. Melatonin prepares the body for sleep, but doesn't initiate sleep, so taking it right before laying down will not help.
Melatonin is safe to take short term, and while it has not been well researched for long term use, people have taken it for up to 2 years at a time without ill effects.
It's also important to understand that it may not help if you are taking it for the wrong reasons. Melatonin is only useful for those who are not producing enough melatonin—those who are night owls and want to adjust their schedule, night time workers, and those experiencing jet lag. It won't help for those who are producing enough melatonin, but aren't sleeping for other reasons. Melatonin does not cause sleep, it only prepares the body for it.
Melatonin Beyond Sleep
Melatonin may have some surprising benefits beyond its use in promoting sleep. Melatonin may also help in the fight against a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease and brain diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. In one study, those with Alzheimer's disease showed lower levels of melatonin in the brain compared to healthy subjects. Scientists think melatonin may work to slow down the progession of the disease by slowing or stopping amyloid plaque in the brain.
The research for melatonin and its role in these diseases is still ongoing. What we do know that melatonin is a useful hormone for our bodies, and may be beneficial to those who are missing out on a quality night's sleep.