Focus On: Melatonin

What it is: Melatonin is a hormone made in a small gland in the brain called the pineal gland that helps regulate your sleep and wake cycles. The body naturally makes a small amount of melatonin, but levels seem to drop slowly with age. Levels begin to increase in mid-to-late evening and drop in the early hours of the morning.

[ Benefits ]

Melatonin, especially in supplement form, helps with jet lag and insomnia because of its ability to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. Menopause, benzodiazepine withdrawal, breast cancer, prostate cancer, ADHD, autism, and fibromyalgia are all conditions melatonin supplements can help with.

[ Natural Sources ]

Only small amounts of melatonin can be found naturally outside of the body. Sources are olive oil, tomatoes, grape skins, tart cherries, and walnuts.

[ Warnings ]

Supplements are typically safe in low doses for adults. Parents should talk to their healthcare provider before giving children supplements. Those who may become and are pregnant are advised to not take melatonin supplements as studies have shown that it can cause increased risk of developmental disorders. High doses can cause anxiety, irritability, sleepiness, low body temperatures, vivid dreams, morning grogginess, fatigue, and depression. Also, it is important to be aware that only man-made melatonin supplements should be taken. Ground-up cow pineal glands have been known to cause diseases.

[ Recommended Dosage ]

Taking melatonin at the wrong time of the day can reset your biological clock in an undesirable direction. Make sure to take supplements either an hour before bedtime or an hour before bedtime at your final destination (for jet lag).

Dosage for adults varies widely from one person to the other. A healthcare professional should be able to determine the proper dosage depending on your situation.

[ Melatonin Picks ]

Source Naturals Melatonin, $25, 120 tablets, sourcenaturals.com // Natrol Melatonin Fast Dissolve, $10, 90 tablets, natrol.com // Nature’s Bounty Super Strength Melatonin, $8, 60 softgels, naturesbounty.com // TwinLab Melatonin Caps, $10, 60 capsules, twinlab.com