Spring Ahead With Melatonin

By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Wellness

Did you remember to reset your clocks this past weekend? I know, the time changes twice a year and I should be used to it—but it still seems to take me a few days to adjust. Just because all the clocks in my house change, it doesn’t mean my inner clock changes too.

If this sounds familiar, you could be facing days or weeks of disrupted sleep. What’s worse, this sleep deprivation can carry over to your daytime activities and leave you dragging.

It’s no secret that getting a good night’s sleep is vital to your health. Poor sleep can lead to suppressed immunity, depression and a lack of mental clarity. If you don’t sleep well in general—or if re-setting your inner clock is robbing you of precious sleep—it’s time to do something. For me, that “something” is a dose of melatonin to help adjust my sleep patterns to the new time schedule.

Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain. What makes it special is that it helps control your sleep and wake cycles. Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid to late evening hours, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours.

Light affects how much melatonin your body produces. During the shorter days of the winter months, your body may produce melatonin either earlier or later in the day than usual. And artificial time changes—like the change we just went through—can throw these natural melatonin tirggers off balance. Fortunately, taking supplemental melatonin can put you back on track.

Melatonin is an extremely safe supplement, but don’t use it for more than a few weeks without talking to your doctor. Long-term use could cause your body to stop making this hormone. Certain medications like aspirin, NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and beta-blockers reduce melatonin levels. If you have problems sleeping and have been taking these medications over a period of time, there may be a connection between the two.

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The amount of melatonin you need to adjust your body’s inner clock can vary from one-half to three mg. Use the smallest amount needed to help you sleep and take it half an hour before bedtime. If you find melatonin helps you get to sleep but you don’t sleep through the night, try a timed-release product. It’s also important to know that taking melatonin with alcohol or sedatives, including herbs like valerian, will increase its sedative effect.

Normally, you can reset your internal clock within several days. But melatonin isn’t just helpful during daylight savings time. It can also help you cope with jet lag if you frequently travel across different time zones.
Because we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping, it makes sense to maximize that time. Melatonin supplements can help enhance the quantity and quality of your slumber. This will ensure that your body can replenish, restore and rejuvenate, even when time shifts. Remember, if you sleep well, you will be well.


References:

Goldberg, Burton. Alternative Medicine, Second Edition, Celestial Arts, 2002.

PDR for Nutritional Supplements, Medical Economics, Co, Inc, 2001.

Reiter RJ. Clinical aspects of melatonin. Saudi Medical Journal. 2008;29:1537-1547

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