Melatonin is a hormone which is present in the body naturally. Produced form the amino acid tryptophan, melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin can be stimulated by light and suppressed in the dark, suggesting the importance of the hormone in regulating sleep cycles and other important bodily function. Levels of melatonin are known to be at their highest in the blood right before bed time.
In order to use this hormone as a medicine it must be produced in a laboratory setting. Synthetically produced melatonin supplements can be used to treat disorders involving the sleep cycle. Furthermore, because of its antioxidant activity, melatonin has a number of therapeutic benefits too.
The Uses of Melatonin
Melatonin is known to be effective in correcting sleep related problems in children with mental retardation or autism. Melatonin can also shorten the time it takes for children with neurological problems to fall asleep. Furthermore, melatonin has also been found to be effective in treating sleep disorders in people who are impaired of eye sight.
Research has also shown for melatonin to be effective in correcting some symptoms of jet lag such as those of coordination problems and alertness along with tiredness and daytime sleepiness. However, melatonin is not effective when it comes to shortening the period of time it takes for a jet lagged person to fall asleep. Furthermore, a research conducted on the efficacy of melatonin showed that it can help decrease cluster headaches. However, a 10mg melatonin pill must be taken to rid the headaches and a melatonin pill as low as 2mg strong is not effective at all.
Side Effects of Melatonin
Melatonin can be subjected to a number of side effects, including the following:
Common Side Effects
According to clinical trials and studies, melatonin can be safely used for up to two years given it is consumed in recommended dosages of up to 5mg. However, there are certain side effects that are associated with melatonin. Of the common side effects of melatonin, irritability, sleepiness, drowsiness, fatigue, dizziness and headaches are a few. However, it has yet not been confirmed whether these side effects are the already existing side effects of lack of sleep or jet lag, the two main reasons for the administration of melatonin, or whether they are of the hormone itself. Disorientation, confusion, coordination difficulties, sleep walking, nightmares and vivid dreams have also been noted as possible side effects of melatonin, with these melatonin side effects wearing off after the cessation of the hormone administration.
Gastrointestinal Side Effects
Other side effects of melatonin include gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, abnormal feces, stomach pain, vomiting, nausea, cramping, increased appetite or altered tastes.
Research has shown that melatonin can lead to seizures especially in children suffering from neurological disorders severe in nature. However, other studies have concluded the exact opposite results, whereby the administration of regular suggested doses of melatonin decreased the risk of seizures. This particular possibility of melatonin side effect is still a controversy. However, it is safe to say the administration of melatonin in those with neurological disorders should be monitored closely by a professional.
Another potential side effect of melatonin can be mood changes, including sadness and giddiness. Overdose of the melatonin pill can lead to hallucinations and paranoia as well.
Bleeding is another possible side effect of melatonin. Those individuals who have disorders which may cause bleeding should be extremely careful along with those who are on pills which may have bleeding already as side effect, when taking this hormone pill.
Another side effect of melatonin that has been noted is the possibility of an increase in blood pressure. Hence, it is necessary that caution is practiced in those cases where cardiovascular disease runs high and high cholesterol levels are an issue. Furthermore, abnormal heart rates have also been associated with the use of melatonin.
Pregnancy Related Side Effects
Melatonin side effects may also involve those which can hinder the process of pregnancy. Melatonin may interfere with other hormones which can cause issues during pregnancy or cause hindrances when trying to get pregnant. Developmental problems in the fetus may be triggered in cases of high levels of melatonin existing in the body.