Melatonin as a Dietary Supplement to Combat Insomnia


Insomnia is an increasingly common problem affecting millions of people everyday and, for many, the secret to overcoming their problem lies in finding a natural remedy. Dietary supplements are a key element of any natural cure and this article considers the use of one particular supplement – melatonin.

Melatonin is probably the most studied and best understood natural sleep remedy for insomnia, and can be particularly helpful if you suffer from initial, or sleep onset, insomnia – difficulty falling asleep.

A hormone that occurs naturally in the body, melatonin is secreted throughout our lives by a tiny pea-sized organ at the center of the brain called the pineal gland.  The release of melatonin is controlled by your body’s circadian rhythm – your internal 24 hour time-keeping system, or body clock, which plays an important role in controlling when you fall asleep and when you wake up.  Darkness stimulates the release of melatonin and light suppresses its activity.

Although the pineal gland is capable of producing melatonin through life, there is evidence to suggest that its production slows as we get older.  This may well be one explanation for the fact that younger people find it easier to fall asleep than older people and reinforces the view that melatonin can be especially useful as a sleeping aid for older people.

As well as occurring naturally in the body, melatonin is also available today in a synthesized form, available through health food and drug stores as a dietary supplement.  It can also be purchased as natural melatonin, made from the pineal glands of animals, although its purchase in this form is not recommended because of the small, but nonetheless significant, risk of virus transmission.

If you suffer from initial, or sleep onset, insomnia then you might like to consider taking melatonin about thirty minutes before going to bed.  The dosage will vary from person to person but melatonin is typically available in tablet form ranging from 1mg up to 3mg.

It is recommended that you start with a low dose and increase this only if necessary.  For many people a dose of 1mg is more than sufficient and you may well find that starting with just half a tablet, or 0.5mg, will do the trick.  You should also experiment with the time at which you take melatonin as, although the majority of people find that thirty minutes before bedtime is about right, you may find that taking it slightly earlier, perhaps an hour or even two hours before bedtime, will suit you better.

Melatonin can also prove extremely useful as an aid to countering the effects of jet lag.  For many long-haul air travelers taking a very low dose of melatonin at the start of their flight and a slightly higher dose when going to bed at their destination has been shown to reduce the effects of jet lag insomnia.

Melatonin can also be very helpful when it comes to weaning yourself off those long overused sleeping pills.  Although the benefits of discontinuing sleeping pills are considerable in the long-term, in the short-term giving up can add to your sleeping problems.  One way to help in this process is therefore to replace your sleeping pills with melatonin.

Although melatonin is widely used as a dietary supplement, and has been available over the counter for many years now, its use is not regulated by any statutory authority and so there is little information regarding its interaction with other medications.  If you do wish to use melatonin therefore and are currently taking any form of medication you should proceed with care and, if in any doubt, consult your doctor first.

Melatonin is nature’s own sleeping pill and helps many thousands of people to overcome the problems of insomnia every day.  Insomnia is a common problem, but it is also a condition that can be addressed with simple natural remedies, that include the use of dietary supplements such as melatonin.

By Donald Saunders –

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