Sleep and Melatonin
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a chemical hormone derived from the Pineal Gland in the brain.
This hormone is naturally stimulated by lack of light, or darkness. It is largely produced prior to falling asleep and during the middle of the night. The hormone production decreases as daytime approaches. Melatonin regulates the sleep cycle. Artificial light is one external factor that will interfere with the production of melatonin, making it very difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. There are numerous other internal factors that are much more difficult to regulate.
Problems Associated with Lack of Sleep
Lack of sleep can cause stress on the heart and immune system. People who don’t get the rest their bodies need are not able to fight off infections and viruses as well as those who have regular sleep cycles.
Without the necessary amount of rest many people also have a lack of patients and tolerance with those around them due to a lowered ability to regulate their emotions and moods.
Sleeplessness can also cause or contribute to depression and anxiety disorders.
When a person goes for long periods of time without the proper amount of sleep they can suffer from a wide range of health issues, challenges in their personal lives, and career performance.
Most Commonly Affected by a Lack of Melatonin:
- Those who suffer with Insomnia
- Night Shift or Swing Shift Workers
- Alzheimer's Patients
- People with ADHD
- People with Autism Spectrum Disorder
- People with Asperger's Syndrome
Insomnia can be the result of many different situations and circumstances. Some people experience insomnia when they are stressed, menopausal, anxious, depressed or experiencing a drastic life change.
Occasional insomnia is common and most people have experienced it at some point in their lives. Ongoing or chronic insomnia can be dangerous and crippling to a person’s life.
Night Shift or Swing Shift Workers
The natural sleep cycle is disrupted by a work schedule that requires a person to be awake during the night and sleep during the day. A persons natural production of melatonin will decrease dramatically and possibly cease altogether.
People who work these shifts may suffer the same ill affects as someone who has insomnia.
In some cases, Alzheimer’s disease will cause a confusion of day and night which drastically affects the patients sleep schedule.
This usually leads the person to succumb to a series of naps during the day and evening instead of a restful night sleep. Lack of quality sleep may have an adverse effect on the patient’s ability to focus and concentrate on tasks and people throughout the day.
This is equally hard on the patient and the care giver.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Approximately 50% of children and adults with ADHD have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or and getting peaceful rest.
This causes these people to be very groggy when they wake and sleepy during the day. Lack of sleep will contribute to emotional meltdowns, irritability, disruptive behavior and a severe lack of concentration.
- How to Detect Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of Autism that is defined by the person’s lack of social skills and communication difficulties. There are many people in the world who aren’t comfortable talking to strangers or speaking in front of a crowd but for peopl
Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome
Many people on the Autism Spectrum have extreme difficulty when it comes to getting the required amount of rest.
There is a noticeably higher concentration of sleep issues associated in people with Asperger’s Syndrome.
On average, 80% of people with Asperger’s Syndrome have serious problems with their sleep cycles. Some people have a difficult time falling asleep, some will awaken in the middle of the night, and others may have an extraordinarily hard time waking up and functioning in the morning. Unfortunately, many people suffer with all three of these issues.
There have been many theories projected in an attempt to find a cause but the results are universal. When children or adults with Autism don’t get the rest their bodies and brains require to function properly, their symptoms are exaggerated.
For example: if an exhausted child attends school it is almost impossible to focus, learn, control emotional outbursts or concentrate on recognizing social cues and boundaries.
Taking Melatonin Supplements
In many cases taking a Melatonin supplement can help tremendously.
Supplemental Melatonin does not cause a groggy or foggy feeling in the morning due to the fact that it is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body and not a synthetic sleep aid.
Like most supplements, it is recommended to start on a low dosage and increase as necessary.
Most children and adults find that 1 mg to 6 mg is sufficient. Start with 1 mg taken 30-45 minutes before bedtime for 4-5 days. Increase the dose by 1 mg until desired affect is reached.
Melatonin should only be taken prior to bedtime due to the fact that its sole purpose is to induce sleep.
- It is very important to consult a physician before beginning any new supplement or medication especially when giving them to children.
Possible Side Effects
The side effects of Melatonin supplements are minimal at best. Mild headaches were rarely reported.
It is important to be aware of any other ingredients being added to the supplement however. Melatonin is not regulated by FDA so it is up to the consumer to assure that the product is not being loaded with additives that may carry their own side effects.