Can Melatonin Help You Sleep Better?

A number of studies have shown that taking melatonin ( a naturally occurring hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain which helps regulate the circadian rhythm also known as the sleep-wake cycle ) may help individuals who are not producing enough melatonin to improve their sleep pattern.  These individuals tend to be older because the production of melatonin decreases as we age (Am J Med.2000; 109(4):343-345.)  However, decrease levels of melatonin are also seen in autistic children, people with fibromyalgia, and children with ADHD.  The addition of melatonin has been shown to help people with fibromyalgia sleep better and have decreased symptoms (J Pineal Res 2011:50(3):267-71.)  Children with autism slept better but their behavioral issues did not improve (Dev Med Child Neurol.2011;53(9):783-92.)  

Alcohol, caffeine and bright lights before sleep all decrease the natural production of melatonin.  Therefore, these drinks should be avoided before bedtime and dimming of the home's light should occur prior to going to bed. 

Unfortunately, finding recommended dosages for melatonin can be difficult.  The best person to consult is your doctor because this supplement can interfere with medicines such as beta blockers and anti-depressants to name just a few.  The general consensus is to take as little as possible to get the desired effect.  The natural level of melatonin is .3 mg.  Adults often take from .3 mg to 6 mg of melatonin to improve their sleep pattern. The most common dosage is 3 mg taken an hour before bedtime.  Dosages for children will be different and should only be given to children under a doctor's supervision.

Dr Breus ( who is a sleep expert ) appeared on the Dr. Oz show on 9-25-2012.  Dr. Breus did not recommend more than 1 mg of melatonin before bed.  Dr Breus emphasized that melatonin is not a sleeping pill but a sleep regulator.  Overdose of melatonin will lead to daytime grogginess, irritability and vivid dreams which will decrease a person's sleep pattern rather than help it.

An interesting side note in regards to melatonin levels is that some researchers have discovered a link with low levels of melatonin with an increased risk in breast cancer (J Nat Cancer Inst 2005:97(14):1084-1087.).  Some researchers have found that adding melatonin can help increase the effectiveness of certain chemotherapy drugs and help the efficacy of tamoxifen.  

The information for this news article was taken from The University of Maryland's website  This website has a list of research articles beyond what was referenced above to consult if more information is desired.

ONCE AGAIN CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR. This news article was meant to inform you of the possible applications of melatonin and to start a conversation with your doctor as to how melatonin may help in your special case.