What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain, that varies with the body’s sleep cycles. The brain makes this neurohormone from the amino acid tryptophan.
In humans and other diurnal animal species, melatonin secretion happens during normal sleep hours, in contrast to nocturnal animals which are at the peak of their activity while producing melatonin. Melatonin is sometimes called “the hormone of the night.” The melatonin cycle is roughly the opposite of the body temperature cycle. (More on thermoregulation.) At 4 am, the temperature is at its lowest and the melatonin level is at its highest.
Very small amounts of melatonin are found in foods such as meats, grains, and vegetables. How it actually causes sleepiness is unknown as are the details of its metabolism and excretion from the body.
Melatonin is sold in pill form (like vitamin supplements) in retail stores. As with viatimins, the manufacture and sales marketing of melatonin is not regulated by the US FDA or by the regulatory agencies of the various states. Melatonin itself has few side effects, but you don’t really know what else is in the pill. Further dosages may be different from what is printed on the label (a common problem with nutritional supplements) Most doctors do not prescribe or recommend melatonin supplements
The physiological roles of melatonin are still unclear despite almost 50 years of research. Elevated melatonin levels (either natural or from taking melatonin tablets) are associated in humans with effects including increased sleepiness, reduced core temperature, increased heat loss and other generally anabolic physiological changes. This suggests that melatonin pills can make people sleep better or longer. They are not as strong as prescription sleep aids, however, and the US Food and Drug Administration has never actually approved melatonin for circadian rhythm sleep disorders.
Studies Done on Melatonin
A 2005 meta-analysis (an analysis of other studies on melatonin) concludes that melatonin treatment reduces sleep onset latency, increased sleep efficiency, and increased total sleep duration. However, the average increase in sleep duration was only 13 minutes. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality conduced a meta-analysis and said there was a “substantial amount of heterogeneity across studies of melatonin.” Substantial amount of heterogeneity meaning there are no clear answers.
Another meta-analysis showed that only a small dose of melatonin (about 0.3 milligrams) is necessary for a restful effect. However, that commercially available melatonin pills contain 10 times the effective amount.
Melatonin has been used to adjust the circadian system in people with jetlag, shiftwork, delayed sleep phase syndrome, and some sleep problems of the elderly. No long-term safety data exist, and the optimum dose and formulation for any application remains to be clarified.
An American Academy of Sleep Medicine task force issued a guideline in 2007 for doctors treating blind patients with sleep disorders, and recommended consideration of timed melatonin administration for people with is indicated for shift-work disorder, jet lag, delayed sleep phase disorder, and free-running disorder. This is because blind people do not respond to the zeitgeibers of daylight that sighted people can see.
Interestingly, tasimelteon, a melatonin agonist, shows promise a treatment for insomnia. The drug is in the Phase III trial stage of development.
Some blind people use melatonin to help them sleep on the same cycle as sighted people (who have visual sunlight cues to adjust their cycles). It seems to work in about half of people who try it
"Recommended Melatonin Supplements"
After receiving several requests regarding what we recommend as the best natural sleep aid, we decided to list the top two products that seem to work for most people. The reason we picked these two supplements is because of the success rate that consumers have had with these products and because of the ingredients found in them.
AmbeSleep first caught our eye as a great supplement after seeing the well planned out formula found within. After this product came out to the public we noticed several of our visitors to our site recommending this product to others. AmbeSleep has consistently been our top recommended product over the last year. Official Website
SomaBien is our next top rated natural sleep aid. This product has received the second highest number of positive consumer remarks on our site. We have also seen SomaBien as the highest rated sleep aid among several sleep aid review sites. This product also received a 5 star rating which is difficult to do. Official Website