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Sleep and Melatonin

Updated on January 29, 2013
Can't Sleep
Can't Sleep | Source

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.

childs bed
childs bed | Source

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

bed | Source


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.

Alzheimer Patients

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.

child napping
child napping | Source

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.

Have You Ever Had Trouble Sleeping?

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    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      I'm so glad you stopped by! The frustration and effects of not being able to get a good nights rest are seen in all areas of our lives. It is so important! I really hope this works for you. :)

    • profile image

      Annamie Cureteyz 4 years ago

      I honestly have not heard of Melatonin before. Good thing I had stumbled in your blog, I now have an idea that it is the responsible for our sleep and that it can be affected even with the littlest light around.

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you Billionaire4545! ;)

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you Melovy! Lack of sleep can affect so many different areas of peoples lives

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 5 years ago from UK

      Interesting information here - I had no idea that people with Asperger's or Autism have more trouble sleeping. Lack of sleep is not fun for anyone.

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Melatonin is a natural supplement so it is available in all vitamin and health stores. I have even noticed it in a few grocery store in the vitamin section. I really hope you get some rest :)

    • profile image

      iamaudraleigh 5 years ago

      I have ADD and agree that "Lack of sleep will contribute to emotional meltdowns, irritability, disruptive behavior and a severe lack of concentration"!!!

      Where can I find tablits of Melatonin?

      Great info for me!

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Dream on, I am the same way! I can sleep through anything. :) Unfortunately my son cannot which lead me to discover Melatonin and I'm glad it's out there. Thank you!

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 5 years ago

      I am one of the lucky ones I can sleep anywhere anytime.I work nights and that helped me sleep during the daylight hours.If I ever have trouble I know what to do thanks to a very informative hub.Rated up!!

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you TFScientist! You are absolutely right and I also recommend assuring all external measures are implemented before turning to Melatonin supplements. :)

    • TFScientist profile image

      Rhys Baker 5 years ago from Peterborough, UK

      Natural melatonin levels can be increased by ensuring that there is no light in your bedroom (red light can be an exception at low levels), ensuring the room is cool (it is a cooling body rather than a hot body that promotes sleep) and, obviously, not taking caffiene or alcohol less than 3 hours before sleep.

      A good hub that I enjoyed reading. Thanks for sharing

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Sleep disorders are so debilitating - people who are able to sleep well have no idea of the fatigue and stress caused by insomnia or other disorders. Thanks for this great hub - as always, you have terrific information to share! Voted up and up!

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Crushing them is a great idea, thanks for all your contributions! You rock! :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      My granddaughter takes this on occasion to help her sleep at night. It's much safer than those sleeping pills. Great write up on this topic and very interesting. Voted up.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Elderberry Arts, thanks for tat suggestion. I've heard that too that it disrupts sleep if you take too much. That's why I hardly use it and only when I really have trouble sleeping. I'll have to try what you said and crush them and take just a little bit. If a small amount works just as well, and there's no need to take more.

    • Elderberry Arts profile image

      Claire 5 years ago from Surrey, Uk

      Glenn, I break the pills and crush them to a powder to use and it works fine. I found using a whole 3mg pill didn't work for me and later read that taking too much can disrupt sleep/wake cycles further and keep you awake. I have seen liquid melatonin to buy online as well though it seemed to be mostly in the US.

      I know what you mean Roxanne, my older son barely slept from about 8 mths till he was two. I have no idea how we got through it. I read about melatonin online but my doctor wouldn't prescribe it and I didn't know I could buy it anyway (was over 10 years ago now) Now he still finds it hard to get to sleep sometimes, but normally reads and once he is asleep he sleeps long and well; nothing wakes him up lol

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I found your hub very informative. I have a bottle of Melatonin in my medicine cabinet. And I use it from time to time. But I only use it when I have trouble sleeping. When my mind is so active that I can't sleep. That happens to me many times.

      What I didn't know was that we should start with a low dosage. As you said, 1 mg, and then build up from there. My bottle has 3 mg melatonin in it. I wonder if I should break the pills in half since I only take it at random times anyway. Maybe I don't need to suddenly take a 3 mg pill when I'm not using it much anyway. I'll have to try that next time I need to use it to sleep. Thanks for the advice. Great information and I enjoyed reading. Voted up.

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Elderberry Arts, lack of sleep was one of the biggest battles I had with my son who has Asperger's. When he wouldn't sleep, I couldn't sleep and it made the following day that much harder for both of us. Melatonin had helped his developement dramatically and helped me stay some what sane. I can't imagine life without it.

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      You are one of the lucky ones, enjoy it! ;)

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Hi fpherj48! I havn't heard of that book but you can bet I will be checking it out today. I learn so much from you! Thank you for your wonderful and insightful comments. :)

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you Vellur! You are absolutely right, people are so different and the range of things that can affect someones sleep patterns is endless.

    • Elderberry Arts profile image

      Claire 5 years ago from Surrey, Uk

      Great hub. I have lots of sleep trouble and both my son have big problems with getting to sleep (all on the spectrum) I now take several very small doses of melatonin so to mimic the natural production as much as possible and have no trouble getting to sleep now though I do sometimes have issues with waking up during the night they are much less than they used to be.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      roxanne......hey old pal...long time no see. Great info here! Many years ago, during my child-raising years, working 2 jobs...was about the only time I encountered any sleep issues.

      I was aware of melatonin and gave it a try. Worked like a charm, which prompted me to do some research.

      FYI ...excellent book: The Melatonin Miracle, (Walter Pierpaoli, M.D. & William Regelson, M.D) After my research and discovering the NUMEROUS benefits to Melatonin, I have continued to take one 5mg. tablet every single night before bed. One will be amazed to read about this miracle supplement.

      I would like to add that there is one other temporary and slight side effect..which is vivid, bizarre dreams, that are normally harmless.

      Voted this UP++ and shared!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      You have provided valuable information in your hub. Lack of sleep can be due to many reasons. Melatonin plays an important part in the sleep cycle. Thanks for this informative and useful hub. Voted up.