Melatonin and the Sleep Cycle
Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in our brains. Its purpose is to regulate our sleep cycle, part of the
circadian rhythm. The normal brain begins to increase Melatonin production in the early evening, and that
production rises throughout the night and peaks around 2 a.m. It then declines as morning approaches. During the
day, our brain produces very little Melatonin. The brain is triggered to increase or decrease Melatonin production
by natural-light levels. This explains why we tend to feel exceedingly sleepy on dark, overcast days.
produce more Melatonin when we are younger, and the Melatonin it produces is more potent. As we age, that
production drops off and what we do have is less potent. This could explain why you were able to sleep in so well
when you were younger, but lost the ability as you got older. People over the age of 60 produce very low levels of
Melatonin, and the quantity and quality continues to deteriorate with age.
Melatonin production in the brain is thrown off. One of the causes for this can be traveling through more
than five time zones, which creates jet lag. Another cause can be shift work. Even though we are up, and maybe
even drinking coffee, our brain is still producing Melatonin. When our shift is over and we are ready for sleep,
our brain is not producing the Melatonin our body needs to help us fall asleep. Poor eyesight can also throw off
Melatonin levels in the brain. Blind people often have trouble with sleep cycles as their brain does not have the
visual cues to regulate Melatonin production.
There are ways to
combat natural problems with Melatonin production, and to match it to our needs. A Melatonin supplement is
available for those who struggle to sleep, either because of low Melatonin levels or abnormal sleep habits. The
supplement can be used in various dosages, and dosage will depend on the user. It is advisable to start with the
minimum dosage and increase it if necessary. What a friend takes and what you need could be quite different, and
could cause negative side effects for you.
It is often used
for short periods of time, either to help re-train the brain, or to make it through periods when you and your brain
are at odds about sleep, such as shift work. Prolonged usage could cause you to build up a tolerance to the
hormone, and you may have to increase dosage to obtain the desired effects. The most common recommended dosage is
between 1 and 5 mg per day. Prolonged use can also cause dependency for some, so it should be used with
experience negative side effects when using a Melatonin supplement. These can include headache, a heavy-headed or
groggy sensation, stomach problems, a hung-over feeling, or depression. Usually a decreased dosage can control side
effects, but if it doesn’t, stop taking it immediately. Tell your doctor if you are using Melatonin and inform them
of any side effects.