Melatonin is often touted as a safe and effective natural insomnia remedy. I have a few problems with that claim, though.
Melatonin is a hormone that's responsible for regulating our internal body clocks (also known as the circadian rhythm).
There are doubts over whether it can help those suffering from insomnia and there are no official recommended doses.
Add to this the fact that the FDA only considers melatonin supplements as 'relatively safe' over the short term and that melatonin is prescription-only in many countries and you start to learn the real story.
That being said, there are an increasing number of studies coming out that find melatonin is helpful when it comes to improving sleep in those over the age of 55 or those suffering from specific conditions (such as autism spectrum disorders in children).
One recent study found that those taking beta-blockers for high blood pressure may sleep better if they take melatonin supplements.
The study gave one group of hypertensive patients taking beta-blockers 2.5mg of melatonin every night for three weeks. Another group received a placebo.
Researchers found that those who took the melatonin supplements slept for 37 minutes longer and fell asleep 14 minutes faster compared to those who took the placebo.
Furthermore, those taking the melatonin saw improvements in sleep quality and sleep efficiency.
If you're tempted to try melatonin but aren't comfortable with taking supplements you can encourage your body's natural production of melatonin by making sure you get good exposure to natural light during the day and good exposure to absolute darkness at night.
Last updated: February 27, 2013