#1. What exactly is Melatonin and what is it used for? Natural Melatonin is a hormone the body produces from serotonin in response to darkness and helps aid in sleep. Therefor, melatonin production in theory should increase during the evening hours and then reduce in the morning. However, light during the night blocks melatonin production and can disrupt sleep. (1) Melatonin has been linked to helping treat certain sleep disorders like insomnia and jet lag. (2)
#2. How effective is Melatonin? There was a study done in 2014 suggested a "weak recommendation" for the use of melatonin in healthy individuals who are trying to improve their time it takes to fall asleep or stay asleep. However, melatonin has been linked to helping treat certain sleep disorders like insomnia and jet lag (2). According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, melatonin appears to be safe when used for a short period of time when trying to improve sleeping patterns (1). Professor Richard Wurtman, director of MIT's Clinical Research Center, discovered that some commercial melatonin contain up to 10 times the amount of needed melatonin to produce an effect. This is due to melatonin receptors in the brain being overexposed to the hormone and eventually becoming unresponsive too it. Professor Wurtman suggests that only a dose ~0.3 mg is needed for an effective result.
#3. Is Melatonin use safe? There have been reports of side effects in the use of melatonin. However uncommon, some of them include headache, drowsiness, dizziness, and nausea. It is important to keep in mind that supplements are not regulated by the FDA. There could be inactive ingredients in the commercially available products that produce side effects that natural melatonin wouldn't. It is also important to note that most over the counter dietary supplements are not tested in pregnant or nursing women and children. It is vital that you talk to your doctor and pharmacist before starting on any dietary supplement.
#4. What at the effects of long-term use of Melatonin? A study done in 2013 found that after taking melatonin for 12 months resulted in no difference in the sleep parameters compared to a placebo group. (4). Another study done in 2016 found that When taken for along period of time the positive effects of melatonin disappeared in the 6-12 month range (5) due to the same unresponsiveness of the receptors in the brain.
I have personally taken Melatonin because I heard of it's sleeping magic. I can confirm that it did help me fall asleep and stay asleep, but I have only used it maybe a total of 4 times in my life. I hope this information was helpful to you! As always if you have any questions/comments or your personal experiences with melatonin, please feel free to send them to me through the email portal in the contact page!
Resources: 1. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin 2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4273450 3. http://news.mit.edu/2001/melatonin-1017 4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23432361 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3853526/