David J. Zeiger, D.O.

Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the pineal gland at the base of your brain. It is produced in different levels throughout the day with peak release between 9 p.m.-12 a.m. and a decrease somewhere after 4 a.m. Melatonin levels will vary among gender, age and health conditions. Melatonin as purchased from health food stores and some pharmacies. Though it is chemically synthesized it is essentially the same molecule found in our bodies. Melatonin has been used in various clinical settings to treat insomnia, jet lag, and sleep/wake cycle problems often called “shift worker’s insomnia . Research over the past 10 years has also shown melatonin to have powerful antioxidant, antiviral and antitumor properties.


There are several causes of insomnia: restless leg syndrome (a constant involuntary jerking of the legs that interrupt the sleeper), sleep apnea syndrome, sudden increased stress or anxiety, drastic changes in sleep/work schedule or too much caffeine in the diet from coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolate. Remember that it is more important to determine the cause of the insomnia than simply treat the symptoms of insomnia.

Sleep Quality

It is not the amount of sleep but the quality of one’s sleep that counts. The quality of sleep can be determined by how rested one feels given the amount of sleep one gets. This can mean anywhere from 1 to 8 hours as sleep requirements vary from person to person. Melatonin is an effective sleep enhancer because it decreases “sleep latency time” (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep after laying down) and it does not disrupt normal sleep architecture; the duration of rapid eye movement (REM) to non-REM sleep cycles. REM sleep affects mental stability. REM deprivation causes disorientation, anxiety, irritably, poor memory and in some cases hallucination. Melatonin produces a natural sleep without the carry-over fatigue, poor concentration and impaired memory of prescription sleep medication.


• do not use melatonin if on cortisone or anti-depressants
• do not exceed 3 milligrams at nighttime
• do not use if you have severe allergies
• do not use if trying to conceive, pregnant or nursing

Availability and Alternative Approaches

For relief from mild to moderate insomnia, take the recommended dosage of 1-3 milligrams a half-hour before bedtime. The elderly need a much smaller dosage of 0.1 to 0.3 milligrams to significantly improve sleep quality. Melatonin is available at most health food stores and some pharmacies. It is always wise to consult with your physician before beginning any supplementation. NOTE: no matter what sleeping problems you are experiencing, you must never be on any sleep aid (i.e. medication, herbal remedy or nutritional preparation) for longer than two weeks. If your condition continues then consult a holistic health care physician who is familiar with sleep disorders for their evaluation and treatment.

Page modified on 5/15/2011

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