Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Melatonin for Sleep

Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland in the brain that controls the sleep/wake cycles.  Our body has an internal clock that dependent on the time of day will control how much melatonin is produced.  As insomnia can be a common symptom among patients, one of the recommended treatments for the often requested “natural” alternative is the dietary supplement melatonin.

Studies suggest that melatonin supplements may help people with disrupted circadian rhythms (such as people with jet lag or those who work the night shift) and those with low melatonin levels (such as some seniors and people with schizophrenia) to sleep better.  Melatonin supplement doses can range from 0.3 mg to 80mg.
Melatonin is a dietary supplement and therefore it is not federally regulated.  Thus the dose listed on the bottle may not be congruent to the dose contained inside.  The timing of the dose can also be tricky as some sources recommend taking Melatonin up to 30 minutes before sleep while others suggest increasing the time by 30 minutes to as much as 6 hours to have an optimal effect on shifting the internal biological clock.

Melatonin has been found to be more effective on people that have already natural low levels of melatonin such as the elderly.  Thus it is recommended that it be taken in the day time when low internal levels of melatonin already exist.  It has also been found that the best method for delivery of melatonin is sub-lingual (under the tongue) or trans-dermal (through skin usually creams or patch) for better absorption.

All in all, the effectiveness of melatonin in treating insomnia is questionable and very individual.  It is good to be aware that beta blockers and anti-depressants can suppress or reduce melatonin levels and thus may impact the effectiveness of the supplement as well.  If insomnia becomes a chronic issue, it is recommended that you see your primary care provider for evaluation and treatment.


Dr. Frank Marinkovich owns and operates Eastside Family Health Center in Kirkland, WA. Serving Kirkland and the Eastside, Seattle, Bellevue, Renton and the surrounding local communities. Specializing in Primary Care, Automobile Accidents and FAA physicals. Visit them online at Eastside Family Health Center or call them at (425) 899-2525.
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