Not Getting Your Zs? Melatonin Can Help
WebMD News Archive
Lorraine A. Fitzpatrick, MD, a Mayo Clinic physician, tells WebMD that the
news is exciting, but cautions patients about proper doses. "Unfortunately,
if you went to the health food store, you might get 10 to 100 times the amount
used in this study," she says. "Frequently, we see people taking
melatonin and getting side effects or hangovers. They may think they're taking
the right dose, but they wake up groggy and not able to function. I encourage
all of my patients to talk to their doctors about all of the medications
they're taking. Interactions can occur with prescription medications that
change the affects of drugs."
Wurtman also offers warnings. "Although melatonin was labeled a dietary
supplement by the 1994 Dietary Supplement Act in America, it's really a
drug," he says. "It's important to let your physician know you're
taking it." While melatonin purchased from the pharmacy or health food
store is very safe, Wurtman says, higher doses can cause nightmares and
possibly can interact with prescription medications.
Wurtman notes that most older people with insomnia don't have trouble
falling asleep, because they're exhausted from not sleeping the night
"Their trouble is staying asleep," He says. For these people,
low doses of melatonin may be the answer. Wurtman suggests looking for pills
that contain the recommended dose of 0.3 mg. Many health food stores, he says,
carry pills with much larger doses, so the tablets may require splitting.
- The body naturally secretes melatonin at night, but as people age,
melatonin levels decrease and may cause interrupted sleep.
- Taking low doses of melatonin -- only 0.3 mg -- can help insomniacs sleep
through the night, according to a new study, but doses that are too high will
not work as well.
- Experts advise that people should consult with their physicians before
taking the supplement.