Studies show that many adults do not get the sleep that they need each night. Insomnia has gone from medical terminology to a commonly recognized layman’s word. So many people have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep each night that we are constantly being bombarded by commercials and advertisements for prescription and over-the-counter sleeping pills.
Prescription sleep aids
These prescription sleep aids can have several unwanted or dangerous side effects. Additionally, they can become addictive, you can build a tolerance to them, and they can actually cause your insomnia to become worse. People generally report needing to take more and more prescription sleep aids over time.
We have seen a drastic increase in the number of people taking prescription sleep aids. People are having dangerous, disturbing and life-threatening side effects from drugs that we all thought were perfectly safe just a year ago. They build up a tolerance, become dependent, have withdrawal if they try to stop, and are looking for answers. They want to educate themselves on time-tested, natural sleep aids so that they can safely get the sleep that they need.
The most recognized, natural sleep aid is melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone naturally made by your body. It has been tested time and time again showing no serious side effects for short-term use (up to three months). Negative long-term side effects have not been reported but have not been tested much.
The synthesis and release of melatonin are stimulated by darkness. Our eyes have specialized light-sensitive receptors that we use to determine how light or dark our surroundings are. These receptors then signal a cluster of nerves in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN. The SCN sets our circadian rhythm, otherwise known as our biological clock, which regulates many body functions, including sleep. When the eyes tell the brain that day has turned into night, your pineal gland takes your serotonin and turns it into melatonin. This helps you to become more relaxed and helps to regulate your sleep cycle.
Window of time
The time of day we go to sleep can be as important as the amount of sleep we get. The body essentially provides us with a natural window of time in which to fall asleep, where melatonin levels are high and cortisol levels are low. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can seriously disrupt your sleep pattern. As the hours of the night pass, we produce less melatonin and more cortisol. If we ignore our body’s natural sleep signals and stay up too late, we may miss this window and disrupt our sleep cycle.
Staying up too late can also cause your body to produce more cortisol than normal. The resulting imbalance of melatonin to cortisol that this causes can affect your immunity, cause weight gain, bone loss, depression and even lets down your anti-cancer defenses.
Time of day
Typically, the body’s high-point of melatonin production occurs shortly after the body’s low point of cortisol production. However, as we age the production of melatonin decreases and shifts to later hours while the production of cortisol increases, and its peak hours occur earlier in the night. Taking melatonin sleep aid between a half-hour to an hour before bedtime helps you to offset this shift in the timing of cortisol production enabling you to keep your sleep cycle more regular.
Caffeine, tobacco and alcohol all quickly flush melatonin from the body, which can cause the cortisol/melatonin imbalance that interrupts sleep patterns and puts your health at risk. It is also believed that melatonin levels in the body may decrease with age due to pineal gland calcification and cause more severe problems as we age.
When the brain produces melatonin in the presence of darkness, it sends a signal to the body’s cells to repair themselves. When this does not regularly happen, a big variety of diseases can ensue.
Melatonin is commonly used to treat cancer patients. People with breast cancer tend to have low levels of melatonin. These low levels actually stimulate the growth of cancer cells, while higher levels inhibit the growth.
Additionally, melatonin stimulates cells that are needed for bone growth and is commonly used in treating osteoporosis.
It is used to treat anxiety, infertility issues in men and women, sleep problems associated with depression, fibromyalgia and heart disease.
Talk to your doctor before you take anything that could mask an underlying problem or interfere with current medications. If melatonin sleep aid is safe for you to take, it could greatly improve your sleep quality, immunity and decrease your chances of disease. Using vitamins and supplements that work naturally with your body can be a lot safer than depending on man-made chemical drugs if taken properly and under the supervision of your physician.