How to Take Melatonin: You May Be Doing It Wrong
Sleep can be fleeting – something that is so restful can cause a lot of unrest for some unfortunately. A recent study found that one in three people have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep in the last week (Schoemann, National Sleep Foundation, 2015). For these issues, especially occasional restless nights, sleep aids like melatonin can be a quick and effective to get those valuable z’s.
And yet, melatonin can and has gotten a bad wrap on occasion. In part because it’s natural and there’s occasionally a tendency to think natural means not-as-effective as harsh chemicals. Another part is that tired people are simply using it wrong. We wrote earlier last week about dosage and other important factors to think about when taking melatonin. But before you dismiss melatonin, make sure you’re giving it a chance. You may get the rest you’re looking for without the side effects of synthetic sleep aids or worse, the addiction to sleeping pills.
For one, taking a more melatonin will not help you sleep better. Effects of taking too much melatonin at once can lead to headaches, nausea and irritability to name a few. These effects will only work against you in your attempts to get to sleep!
Secondly, melatonin isn’t going to make you sleepy or drowsy immediately. Remember, melatonin is a natural hormone that helps regulate your circadian clock that controls sleep and wake cycles. It naturally rises when the sun goes down (or less available light) which tells your body that the end of the day is coming and it’s getting close to bedtime. So melatonin will help prepare your body for sleep and can help you start to wind down. What does that mean? Don’t take it right before you go to bed – it’s better to take a few hours before you want to sleep.
And, since melatonin works naturally with a darkening day, if you expose or continue to expose yourself to bright light or “blue light” (ie screens like TV, your phone or tablet), your body will think that the day is still going strong. Spending time on the computer or watching television before bed means you are working against your body’s natural queues to help you get to sleep. Even if you’re taking melatonin, your body won’t be fooled. So make sure to turn off screens a few hours before bedtime.
Melatonin has several effective uses, and is a great, natural source that can help you with sleep issues. But if you decide to take melatonin, make sure you take your sleep environment and nighttime process into account as well. If not, you may be working against any melatonin you may be taking. Good sleep can be hard to find sometimes, but practicing good sleep habits along with melatonin can help you get on the right track.
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