Having trouble falling or staying asleep is the worst! No matter how tired they are at the end of the day, some people just can't seem to get much-needed sleep. Whether you have trouble getting to sleep, or find yourself waking often throughout the night, you know that not getting a good's night sleep can negatively affect your physical and mental health.
Insomnia is a very real condition, and one that millions of people suffer from on a nightly basis. Some people end up turning to medications to help battle their sleep problems. There are plenty of over-the-counter drugs on the market, like Unisom. But for those who want to take a more "natural" approach, melatonin seems to be the go-to remedy to beat those insomnia blues.
The supplement is available in pill, gummy, or liquid form, and lots of people swear by its effectiveness at helping them fall and stay asleep. It's also a popular supplement for use in children, since we all know sleep problems and kiddos go hand-in-hand sometimes. But how safe is melatonin to use in the long term? Are there any risks involved? Some experts warn that melatonin may not be the safe sleep aid people assume it to be.
Melatonin is a naturally-occurring sleep hormone in the pineal gland, which the brain produces at night to help regulate sleep cycles. The melatonin you can buy in stores and online is a synthetic version of that same hormone, and it can definitely be effective at helping people fall or stay asleep. But according to Lauren Friedman, the health editor of Consumer Reports, meltonin is only effective in certain situations, like if you're jet-lagged, your sleep cycles are off because you work nights, or as you age.
In other words, it may not be as effective as advertised for insomnia that is caused by other conditions or factors. Additionally, melatonin is considered a supplement, so it's completely unregulated by federal agencies in charge of the regulation and testing of prescription and OTC drugs. There are few studies available that delve into the use of melatonin, both on a short-term and long-term basis.
Experts just don't know what the effects of taking it for longer than three months could be.
As with any medicine, drug, or supplement, it's best to discuss the use of melatonin with your doctor. If they feel it could help your temporary sleep problems, they can help you find a dose that would be most beneficial. This goes for giving it to your kids, too. Never administer a new drug or supplement to your kids without first discussing it with their pediatrician first. Melatonin can react adversely to some other drugs or medications. There are also side effects associated with the use of the supplement, like dizziness, nausea, and headaches.