Published on 17 December 2021
Sleep disturbances tend to be a major source of worry. Though a healthy sleep routine can often correct the problem, people often prefer to pop in pills as the first option. One of the pills that is used to treat chronic insomnia is melatonin. It is also used to treat jet lag, the temporary sleep disturbances following air travel across time zones. While the jet lag usually passes with adequate rest, travelling for business purposes requires alertness and may not always give the luxury of a break.
Melatonin – A Natural Rhythm Setter
Though melatonin is available as a pill, it is naturally present in the body. It is a hormone that is secreted by a small gland in the brain called the pineal gland. Melatonin controls the sleep-wake cycle – its secretion is less during the day due to which we are awake and alert, and increases at night, due to which we fall asleep. Melatonin is also present in food; its quantity varies with the type of food and even the produce.
Melatonin – The Pill
Melatonin is often used as a pill to set the sleep rhythm right in jet lag and insomnia. It may avoid some of the side effects associated with other sleep-inducing pills. However, a possible increase in daytime or morning sleepiness may be noted when used with other sleep medicines. The tablets should be taken at the same time each day on an empty stomach for the best effect.
Melatonin also has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. It appears to have a protective effect on the brain and could be useful in conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. However, it is not currently approved for these purposes.
The pill agomelatine is like melatonin but is primarily used to treat depression since it has an additional antidepressant effect.
Melatonin – Safety Concerns
The side effects of melatonin should be kept in mind, especially when it is taken over the counter. Melatonin could lower blood pressure or increase the blood glucose level and the risk of bleeding. Therefore, individuals with blood pressure problems, diabetes or bleeding disorders, or taking medications related to these illnesses, should be cautious about taking melatonin without a prescription.
Melatonin – An Avoidable Pill
Since melatonin is naturally secreted by the body, sleep disturbances could resolve if sleep hygiene techniques that promote the secretion of melatonin at night are adopted. For example, bright light reduces the secretion of melatonin. Therefore, using dim lights before bedtime could help to ensure the proper secretion of melatonin and a good night’s sleep.
Additional Reading: Tips to Sleep Better
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