Sleep deprivation is a serious issue that thousands of people have difficulties with every day. Paired with other sleep disorders, getting enough sleep is an issue that plagues Americans. Melatonin is an excellent addition to a diet when you're having difficulties sleeping -- but how much melatonin can you take? It's got potential benefits for a vast number of conditions other than sleep-related issues. From jet lag to potentially aiding Alzheimer's patients, melatonin seems to be quite a powerhouse with some potential for good in the medical community.
I remember when I first started to use melatonin. I was taking two 5mg tablets a night, and I was waking up with less sleep than I had probably gotten without the melatonin. Dosage is important. Don't take too much, or you'll regret it the next day. Besides being a great medicine to help you fall asleep, what else can melatonin do?
With researchers looking into the potential that melatonin holds, we haven't started to scratch the surface of everything this chemical could do for human health. We know your body makes it, but many people don't know much else about it. Extensive studies are being done on a wide variety of topics, hoping to prove the benefits of melatonin. How does it work though? What is it best used for and is it safe? How much melatonin can you take safely? What exactly is melatonin anyway?
What Is Melatonin
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Melatonin is a chemical that your body naturally makes from the pineal gland when you're in a dark space. Your body releases it most often when you're going to bed since its the most common time you're in darkness. It provides a signal to your circadian cycle, or sleep cycle, which tells your body its time to sleep. Dubbed the "hormone of darkness" by the scientific community this chemical has been crafted into a pill, which has encouraged deeper and longer lasting natural sleep. It's become so popular that it has graced the shelves of thousands of households in the US alone. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 1.3 million Americans, all adults, are taking melatonin on a regular basis as of February 2015. Children should not take melatonin unless instructed by a pediatrician.
This chemical is found to initiate sleep, but there have been studies to see what else it can do. With a wide variety of potential therapeutic effects, the medical community is testing melatonin on a regular basis. From potentially aiding insomniacs to helping with Ebola, this little chemical may pack quite a punch. Many people misuse it, though, and believe that it works naturally with your body on a large scale. It does work when used properly, but not enough people are asking the question, "how much melatonin can you take?" They're also not asking about how exactly melatonin works; they're just trusting that it does.
How does it work?
The pineal gland looks like a pinecone, and this is the gland that melatonin eventually comes from. Initially, we start with serotonin, but after a multitude of chemical reactions, it’s transformed into melatonin. That all happens in your body naturally. The presence of darkness starts it up and keeps it going, delivering melatonin to every inch of your body to encourage you to sleep. It’s not a complex chemical reaction, but it does take a little time to kick in once you settle into your dark bedroom to sleep.
The longer version is that the pineal gland gets a message from a variety of postganglionic fibers. That leads to the release of the noradrenaline or the sympathetic nerves of the heart, and it's connected cardiovascular system. This process activates an enzyme that encourages melatonin production. Melatonin isn't stored in the pineal gland at all; it's generated and spread to the body, only because of the presence of darkness. If you try to settle in during lighter hours, without trying to make it dark in your sleeping area, you’re not going to produce melatonin.
If you don't generate enough melatonin naturally, you can take the pill melatonin to encourage appropriate and healthy sleep cycles. You can overdose on melatonin, though, and that can lead to some unpleasant side effects. That leads to the question -- how much melatonin can you take?
How Much Melatonin Can You Take?
Since melatonin is a chemical your body naturally makes in response to darkness, it's difficult to make too much naturally, but you can take too much in tablet form. Overdoses don't usually put you in the hospital, though, unless you overdose on a nightly basis for a serious length of time. A melatonin overdose usually just upsets your sleep rhythm, but it can have other adverse effects. The melatonin each person needs to sleep well is very different per person. Each person is different, so an overdose level of melatonin for you, might be just enough to get your friend or partner to fall into a better night of sleep. If you're taking melatonin in the tablet form, you'll need to adjust the amount you take per night to see what amount is right for you.
A great safe starting dose if you're trying to use melatonin to sleep is between 0.2 and 5 milligrams. If you start higher, you risk upsetting your sleep cycle. You can gradually increase your dose to find the best dose for you if the 5mg dose doesn't work. It's wise to prepare to have a rough day or two if you go over the suggested dosage.
USES OF MELATONIN
Within the medical world, there are also a wide variety of studies going on to see what else melatonin can do. From research about melatonin and cancer care to work with Alzheimer's, there appears to be quite a bit of potential depending on the results of these studies. These studies are very small and only include a select amount of people. It also shows promise with ALS and elevated nighttime blood pressure issues. With such a wide variety of potential, it can be difficult to pin down what melatonin can and can't do. You should only use it as a sleep aid without further study. The long-standing question, though, is how much melatonin can you take safely? Is melatonin safe in the first place?
Is melatonin safe?
When you've answered the question how much melatonin can you take safely you're in the clear. Although you'll want to talk to your doctor to be sure, melatonin from 0.2 to 5mg is generally completely safe for the vast majority of people. Some people do experience some sensitivity when it comes to melatonin in the first place, but this is rare. When you go above the basic usage suggestions, you can start to have some problems. You can also creep above the dose that's right for you relatively easily; you'd just take another pill. For example, some people work best with 0.2mg of melatonin; if they take 5mg, they'll have taken a significant amount more than they need to get a good night's sleep. That can lead to a melatonin overdose, which isn't as scary as it sounds.
The symptoms of melatonin overdose usually aren't severe enough to warrant a hospital visit at all, though you may want to call the poison center hotline to be on the safe side. Ranging from headaches to joint pain, anxiety, and diarrhea, there are quite a few potential issues with taking too much melatonin. If you're not experiencing these symptoms, you can increase your dose of melatonin until it works for you. Considering the 0.2 to 5mg starting point is often not very effective, you may wish to gradually increase the dose. There are a wide variety of medications that interact with melatonin, such as birth control, rendering them less effective.
If you're taking melatonin to swap your sleep cycle for work, it's wise to figure out what dose of melatonin you should take beforehand; that way you don't lose sleep when you need to sleep. There are specific points in time when you should completely avoid melatonin. But when is that?
WHEN TO AVOID MELATONIN
You should avoid taking melatonin if you're already sleeping well on your own. Your body already makes enough melatonin for you to get a good night's sleep. Adding to that will add additional melatonin to your system and likely give you some side effects instead of a good night's sleep. You should always check with a doctor before taking melatonin; it is an addition to your diet, and you may not need it. There also may be a different medication that more properly addresses the issues you're having.
When taking other medications, you should also be careful; birth control is just one medication that can interact badly with melatonin. If you're taking other medicines such as blood thinners, melatonin can amplify them, potentially causing a person to bleed far too much when injured.
Is It Time To Sleep Comfortably?
How much melatonin can you take safely? When should you take it? Are you suffering from a sleep-related illness like thousands of others? Melatonin is a great addition to a diet when you’re having trouble sleeping.
Backed by sound science, many people find melatonin to be an extremely effective sleep aid. You may have found the key to your next good night's sleep.
Do you have a hard time sleeping? Have you taken melatonin in the past? Are you taking melatonin now? Leave a comment telling us whether or not melatonin worked for you. *
* ”The information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, treatment and diagnosis.”