What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that our bodies produce naturally. It helps to regulate our body clock. When it gets dark outside as night time comes melatonin is released in to our brains to make us feel tired so that we can go to sleep. In the morning when the sun rises the melatonin level in our brains drops and so we are able to wake up.
Melatonin levels decrease as we get older. This is why older people usually get up early! Teenagers have high levels of melatonin and thus like their sleep ins!
If someone doesn’t have enough melatonin they can have trouble getting enough sleep. Aging is one cause of lowered melatonin levels. Stress and staying up late can also lead to lower melatonin. There are lots of medicines that can also decrease our melatonin levels.
Medicines that lower our melatonin levels
There are many medicines that can cause our melatonin levels to be lower than they should.
- H2 antagonists and PP Inhibitors used to suppress stomach acid production
- Antacids used to treat indigestion
- Some blood pressure medicines; beta blockers and calcium channel blockers
- Some antidepressants; SSRI’s and MAO Inhibitors
- Benzodiazpines used to treat insomnia and anxiety
Taking a melatonin supplement
Melatonin can be prescribed by your Doctor or purchased after consultation with your Pharmacist or Naturopath. Some people benefit from taking a three month course of melatonin. If you are taking a medication that can deplete melatonin levels you may need to take this ongoing.
Melatonin is also helpful for treating jet lag and for shift workers who need to sleep when it’s daylight.