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Does Melatonin Help You Sleep? Tips From a Pharmacist

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If you are one of the million Americans who have insomnia each night, your doctor might recommend melatonin. Melatonin is the most common over-the-counter sleep aid because it is a natural hormone that your body already produces every night. Melatonin can be taken each night and is non-habit forming and non-sedating. Children, age 3 and older, can also take melatonin with a pediatrician's recommendation. Before picking up a bottle at your local store, you might be wondering what is melatonin and how it can help you sleep at night?

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body to regulate our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock that regulates your sleep and awake cycles. In the evening, beginning between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., melatonin is produced by the brain's pineal gland in response to darkness. It signals to the body that it is time for the sleep cycle by causing sleepiness and drowsiness. Both children and adults produce melatonin naturally before sleep but it usually declines with age. When this starts to happen, a nightly supplement may be beneficial to aid in sleep.

What dose should I take?

When choosing a melatonin product, you may notice that there are a variety of doses available. Doses range from 1 mg to 10 mg. To start, you should take a low dose between 1 mg to 3 mg before increasing to higher doses. Taking the lowest effective dose is important to prevent morning grogginess or daytime grogginess from occurring. Besides, taking the lowest effective dose is important to minimize side effects, which may include headaches, nausea, dizziness, and irritability.

What form of melatonin should I take?

There are many options available when choosing a melatonin supplement. The available forms are tablets, quick dissolvable tablets, capsules, gummies and liquids. Quick dissolvable tablets and liquids are absorbed faster than traditional tablets and capsules. There are also extended-release formulations available that may help if you have trouble staying asleep. The extended-release formula is slowly released, which allows your body to maintain a higher level of melatonin during the night. For the best effectiveness, take melatonin 30 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime.

What are some healthy sleep habits?

It is also important to ensure that you practice healthy sleep habits, including simple behaviors before bedtime. For example, turn off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime and limit light exposure in the evening. Powering down will stimulate the natural melatonin production in your body. The blue light from electronic devices decreases your body's natural ability to produce melatonin and promotes wakefulness. You can also create a calming bedtime ritual to signal sleep to your body, such as taking a bath, reading a book and keeping the bedroom quiet and at a cool temperature.

What are the added benefits of melatonin?

In addition to gaining the benefits of a good night of sleep, melatonin also offers other health benefits. Melatonin is a natural antioxidant, has anti-inflammatory properties, boost the immune system, and protects the cardiovascular system.

Before beginning a melatonin supplement, remember to talk to your doctor or pharmacist to ensure it is safe for you to do so.

Are you having trouble getting sleep? Ochsner Pharmacy and Wellness can help.

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