Sleep Disorders | November 14, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It’s important in regulating our bodies cycle of sleep and wakefulness. Melatonin can be helpful in treating sleep disorders, such as delayed sleep phase where it can take a longer amount of time to fall asleep. It may also provide some relief from insomnia and jet lag. Melatonin is available over the counter in a homeopathic form and stronger versions in Australia require a prescription from your doctor.
Levels of melatonin in the body naturally fluctuate within 24 hours. More is produced when there is darkness at night and less is secreted when there is bright light during the day. In the two hours before you go to sleep, melatonin levels start to rise making you feel sleepy—with the highest levels occurring between midnight and 8am. This is why melatonin is often referred to as ‘the hormone of darkness’ and plays a crucial role in setting our body clock.
Besides its function as a synchroniser of the biological clock, both animal and human studies have found melatonin to protect against radiation-induced cellular damage. Melatonin and its metabolites act as wide-spectrum antioxidants and protect organisms from oxidative stress.
The main reason people take melatonin is to help with insomnia and treating sleep disorders such as delayed sleep phase. If taken before bed it acts as a sedative—making you feel sleepy.
Another popular reason to take melatonin is to combat jetlag. It allows your body to reset your internal body clock to adjust to a different time zone.
Melatonin medications improve sleep duration, sleep onset latency, night-time awakenings and daytime alertness.
There is some information suggesting melatonin is effective in treating cancer, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and insomnia in children with ADHD and autism. However, more studies are needed to establish the drug’s efficacy and safety in these areas.
Homeopathic melatonin tablets or spray are available off the shelf, usually in the supplement section of a pharmacy or health food shop. They may also be prescribed and sold by a homeopath. Homeopathic strengths of melatonin supplements can vary but most are usually 6X. Homeopathic products vary significantly from those available on prescription.
The active ingredient is heavily diluted and energised which forms the basis of homeopathic principles—the more diluted, the more effective.
In a homeopathic product, the drug strength or potency appears directly after the name of the active ingredient. Unlike conventional medicines, which typically report drug potency in milligrams, homeopathic potency is indicated by a number followed by an X or C. The potency of a medicine, such as 6X or 30C, tells you how many times and by what ratio the base substance has been diluted.
Homeopathic products stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself and strengthen overall constitution. This makes a homeopathic version of melatonin incredibly safe to take, especially for children and people who want to avoid any side-effects. It does not require any prescription.
Unlike homeopathic melatonin, a crude dose of melatonin, usually measured in milligrams is only available in Australia via a prescription.
Daily doses can vary between .5mg – 20mg, with the most common preparation in Australia containing 2mg. High and low doses are similarly effective but faster sleep onset can be achieved with a higher dose.
Slow release tablets are available which release melatonin at a slower rate— much like naturally-occurring melatonin.
Having a melatonin product formulated by a compounding pharmacy still requires a prescription. Even though a commercial product is available on the Australian market the advantage of having the product compounded means melatonin can come in a variety of formulas and strengths.
The most common forms of melatonin are:
Capsules – These can come in a range of strength from 0.5mg to 10mg or more and may also be slow-release.
Liquid – This formula is taken orally, and the correct dosage is calculated according to the prescription.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is a division of the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, and is responsible for regulating medicines and medical devices. They administer the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), applying a risk management approach designed to ensure therapeutic goods supplied in Australia meet acceptable standards of quality, safety and efficacy. The TGA has decided to categorise melatonin as a schedule 4 medication after considering evidence that it could be misused as a long-term treatment for sleep disorders and discipline/behavioural problems in children. There is also the issue of drug interactions and the potential for underlying sleep disorders not being diagnosed or managed properly. Deciding to class melatonin as a prescription only medication has caused confusion among Australians as melatonin is available over the counter in the United States, Canada and Europe.
Melatonin is usually well tolerated and safe for short-term use. Unlike other sleep medications, melatonin isn’t addictive and doesn’t have a lessened effect over a long-period of time. Users of melatonin supplements don’t experience a hangover effect during the day if taken correctly.
The main adverse reaction is it can cause sleepiness and as such should not be taken before driving or operating machinery.
Other rare adverse reactions might include mild anxiety, short-lasting feelings of depression, irritability, reduced alertness, confusion, low blood pressure and abdominal cramps.
As melatonin is prescribed by your doctor, they will determine whether this medication is correct for you.
The above information is for general use only, for specific information relating to your individual situation please see your doctor.