By: Jenny Hensley
With finals just around the corner and stress at a high point for most students, many of us are probably having trouble sleeping. Insomnia is defined as having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep through the night. This may lead to decreased mental functioning during the day and insomnia sufferers may experience irritability, tension headaches, sleepiness during the day, and may be more prone to making mistakes.
You might be wondering if there are any alternative or integrative medicines that might help with this, and the answer is yes. Our body naturally makes a hormone called melatonin which helps regulate our sleep and wake cycles. There are melatonin supplements on the market that are widely used as a natural sleep aid. According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, using melatonin orally as a supplement is likely safe for short-term use and is possibly effective to aid with sleeplessness due to insomnia. When taken appropriately, it has been found to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, although only by about twelve minutes.
There is caution when using with children under twenty years old and it should be avoided by those pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant due to the lack of evidence on safety with this population. The recommended dose is 0.3-5 mg daily taken at bedtime. This supplement is generally tolerated well with the most common adverse effects being daytime drowsiness, headache, and dizziness. It is recommended to not drive or operate machinery for at least 4-5 hours after taking melatonin, although drowsiness may be a side effect that will make driving or operating machinery hazardous for longer periods of time.
Some important interactions to watch out for include patients simultaneously taking anticoagulants, anti-hypertensive medication, and people with diabetes should use melatonin cautiously, if at all. As with any supplement, it is important to let your health care provider or pharmacist know of all other medications and supplements you are taking before starting melatonin.
The use of a melatonin supplement may be an option for people who have trouble sleeping at night, however it is still being studied for long-term effectiveness. Some things you can do at home without using any medication to help with sleeping include: daily exercise, not consuming caffeine late in the day, limiting naps, only using the bed for sleeping, avoiding large meals before bedtime, hiding the bedroom clocks, and not trying too hard to fall asleep. Use relaxation techniques such as taking a bath before bed, massage, soft music, yoga, or breathing exercises.
If you would like to learn more about melatonin supplements or the sources of this information, please visit any of the sites listed below: