Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal
gland, a small gland located in the brain. Very small amounts of melatonin are
also found in foods such as meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Some people take melatonin to treat
jet lag or sleep problems. Scientists are studying other possible benefits
of melatonin, such as for people with sleep disorders, those with winter
depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and people who work evenings,
nights, or alternate shifts.
Scientists believe that very small
doses of melatonin taken at certain times of the day help reset the body's
24-hour clock, or circadian rhythms. But its safety and effectiveness have not
been thoroughly tested. Although melatonin occurs naturally in our bodies,
taking large doses of it may cause undesirable side effects, such as sleep
disruption and daytime fatigue. Very large doses of melatonin may also inhibit
a woman's ovulation by disturbing hormone levels.
natural melatonin may help some people to fall asleep, but it's not clear
whether supplemental melatonin will help you fall asleep or remain sleeping
during the night. More studies of melatonin's effect on chronic insomnia are
needed. For more information, see the topic Insomnia.
November 27, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& David Messenger, MD
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