Many doctors suggest that individuals with persistent problems falling asleep or encountering altered sleep schedules (jet lag) can benefit from the Circadin sustained-release melatonin supplement.
Although melatonin dietary supplements can be bought over-the-counter in the US, there can be problems with quality and dosage management in this form. A study reported by the National Library of Medicine revealed that ‘in commercially available melatonin supplements … the actual melatonin content varied from the labeled content by more than 10% in most of the supplements. Serotonin, a precursor of melatonin that was not included on product labels, was present in 26% of the supplements.’
Another study of commercial melatonin supplements, from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, reported that ‘Melatonin content was found to range from −83% to +478% of the labeled content. Additionally, the lot-to-lot variable within a particular product varied by as much as 465%.’
Many of the supplements also deliver unit dosages of 5 mg – 10 mg, which is far higher than most doctors recommend for treating sleep disorders by adjusting circadian rhythms.
Taken together, these studies indicate that OTC melatonin supplements could be an unreliable source of the product and should be approached with care.
Circadin can only be sold as a prescription medication in some countries. It is a form of melatonin that meets the pharmaceutical standards of many other countries, including the EU, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel. In those markets, it is a regulated drug and can only be dispensed by a pharmacy with a prescription. The prescribing doctor will specify the required dosage.
Too much of a good thing
In people with delayed sleep phase syndrome, melatonin can be taken to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. It can reset the body’s sleep-wake cycle for travelers suffering from jet lag, and may also help increase total sleep time. But the following facts should be considered:
- The pineal gland typically produces between 0.5 mg to 0.8 mg of melatonin each day in younger people, and it levels off at just 0.3 mg in adults up to age 50. After that, a slow but steady decline is expected.
- Dosages for OTC supplements can range from 3 mg and upwards – some may be as strong as 10 mg. This means that the minimum dose is ten times or even more than the average adult body naturally produces daily.
- Unless the dose is coming in a sustained-release form, the molecules should normally be flushed completely out of the body by the liver in less than 5-6 hours (its half-life is around 30-40 minutes), which minimizes any benefits from higher doses, and increases the strain on the liver.
In comparison, Circadin, a sustained-release melatonin supplement, delivers a 2 mg dose of melatonin in easy to swallow oral pill form. It is guaranteed to be pure and to contain the same strength and components in each tablet.
Uses of melatonin other than for sleep
There is current research that could lead to the wider use of Circadin to treat a number of different disorders. The following is just a short summary of these ongoing areas of exploration:
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) occurs each year around the same time, typically appearing in late fall or early winter. Some research indicates a connection with changes in the circadian rhythm brought on by seasonal light changes. In one small study, taking melatonin capsules daily was effective at reducing symptoms of SAD. More research is ongoing to investigate how melatonin may be prescribed for this disorder.
- Melatonin delivers high levels of antioxidants that a study has shown can help prevent cell damage in conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma. In that study, it was found that 3 mg of melatonin daily for up to two years helped to protect the retina and preserve vision.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- GERD is a condition in which the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus causes heartburn. Small studies have shown that melatonin can block the secretion of stomach acids and lower the levels of nitric oxide (NO). NO relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, which then allows acid to flow back into the esophagus.
Does melatonin help sleep?
US Department for Health and Human Services has reported that melatonin supplements may help with some sleep problems, such as jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, and some sleep disorders in children. Studies showed that, on average, melatonin helps people fall asleep a few minutes faster (it improves sleep onset latency), but doctors do not recommend it as a treatment for primary sleep disorders (insomnia) or to increase total sleep duration.
Does increasing the dose of melatonin help you sleep?
Although it has been established that melatonin can help people fall asleep faster, there is no evidence that it will affect the quality or length of sleep for people who take a supplement. The pineal gland normally produces less than 0.5 mg in one day, with output peaking a few hours before regular bedtime. Furthermore, the half-life of the substance is only 40-50 minutes. This means that taking a high dose has minimal benefit, and most doctors recommend a small sustained-release form like Circadin to deliver the required quantity at the right time.
What are the consequences of overusing melatonin?
Although melatonin has not been shown to be toxic even in fairly high overdoses, there are some possible adverse effects, especially if it is overused frequently. Some of the possible effects are:
- Becoming desensitized to the substance, which can create a drug dependence
- Worsening insomnia
- After-effects, such as drowsiness during the day, which can affect work performance
- Lowering body temperature in older people
If I were to take melatonin, would I have to sleep for 8 hours?
The main benefit of Circadin sustained-release melatonin supplement is to help people fall asleep a bit faster, but there are no indications that it will cause better, deeper or longer sleep. The most important influence it can have is shifting the body’s circadian clock, which is influenced by the fall of light at night. If melatonin is taken during the day, or early morning, the body can lose synchronization with the real clock, and people can feel drowsy or sleepy in the middle of the day.
Is melatonin safe to take for a long period of time?
Most doctors will agree that no significant damage can come from the long-term use of a quality melatonin supplement like Circadin, as long as it is taken in moderation and according to instructions. There is no harm in taking melatonin for longer than a year if it continues to provide benefits but always consult with a healthcare provider if any disruption to sleep patterns or other side effects are noticed.
What happens if you take melatonin in the daytime?
Melatonin’s primary function is to prepare the body for sleep. It is not a sedative. In the way we have evolved, melatonin levels should start to rise about two hours after it gets dark, which is around two hours before sleeping time. This makes taking a melatonin supplement during the day or long before bedtime, unnecessary and pointless since most of it will be removed from the blood by the liver.
What is the difference between taking melatonin and 5HTP?
5HTP is 5-Hydroxytryptophan (oxitriptan), a precursor and metabolic intermediate in serotonin biosynthesis. Serotonin is a hormone that increases the sense of well-being and relaxation during the daytime. Melatonin is triggered by falling light levels and prepares the brain for sleep.
What happens if you take melatonin with alcohol?
It’s generally recommended to not take melatonin at the same time as an alcoholic drink. They can both act as sedatives, which can increase the risk of accidents or over-sedation.